December 7, 2009

Readers’ Forum: Ability or credentials?

Filed under: For Managers, Hiring

Discussion: December 8, 2009 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

The Q&A column in this week’s newsletter asks whether employers are too hell-bent on hiring only “the perfect candidate,” when ability and talent might be the more efficient path to getting a job done. How long will a manager wait until perfection arrives?

Do employers really want only someone who has already done the exact job? Am I nuts, or is there something wrong here? Do credentials matter more than ability to ride a learning curve and come up to speed?

(Oops! Maybe ability is harder to assess than credentials, eh?)

How can you get an employer to hire you, if you haven’t already done the exact job?

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58 Comments on “Readers’ Forum: Ability or credentials?”
By Chris Walker
December 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm

“I’ll take the 10,000 hours of cardiac surgery experience with a great track record of success”

Somebody had to be the first patient.

And sure, there are jobs that absolutely have minimum requirements (an M.D perhaps), but many, perhaps most, don’t work that way. “I’m sorry Mr. Glenn, but your credentials as an astronaut don’t count for much here in the real world of politics.”

“…an actual case providing rock solid rationale for hiring on ability vs. credentials”

It’s not an either/or question.

By Nick Corcodilos
December 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

@Chris Walker: **the key is to remember that it is the candidate’s job, not the hiring manager’s, to demonstrate how both their ablity and experience will contribute to the bottom line.**

Amen! I think sometimes we blame the manager doing the interviewing, when the failure might be the candidate’s. While the manager, as the buyer, is making the decision, it’s partly up to the candidate to define “the product.”

@Alan Geller: You offer a good reminder. When a headhunter is involved, the headhunter has an obligation to focus on his client’s demands. Though an argument can be made that part of what the hh is paid for is to guide the client…

By Nick Corcodilos
December 18, 2009 at 3:38 pm

@Ray: **My employer trusted my intelligence and commitment and gave me the tools and freedom to do the job.**

Maybe you’ve just defined the REAL “perfect candidate”… ;-)

I’ll offer a couple of general comments. I don’t think any employer really knows exactly what they need. Every company likes to say, “We want out of the box thinking!” Then they formulate an exact definition of who they want. That means they miss the out of the box candidate who might bring a new worldview that takes the company to new heights. So, what does that mean? Should you not define your needs? No, but maybe it suggests companies should define their needs, then go find very smart, capable people — and use the meeting experience to learn something new about how they might fill the position and manage their business.

Related to this…

@Alan: While I understand your points completely, too often the employer is unwilling to learn something new from the candidate. I think that’s a huge mistake.

My other point is that precious few companies can claim to be doing very well as a result of whom they hired to run the organization. Management failures are commonplace. Does that mean that the profile used to hire the CEO, good as they thought it was, was not so good? What I’m saying is, I don’t think there is anything sacred about a company’s definition of what it thinks it wants. And part of a good headhunter’s job is to … here it comes … use his or her gut to bring great talent into the room TO BE ASSESSED and LEARNED FROM… not just judged vis a vis the job description.

We could go on forever. If we could figure this one out, we’d all get rich…! Great ideas here. Please don’t stop!

(If someone would like to pose a related question/topic for another blog thread, I’d love to hear it and would consider it to start a new dialogue…)

By Alan Geller
December 18, 2009 at 3:38 pm

@Nick Corcodilos: Agreed. The headhunter has to acknowledge the client’s mental model and then lead from there if there’s a good reason to do so.

By Alan Geller
December 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm

“The Man With The Money”

Bruce Lee, the first Chinese American superstar had obstacles and limitations that he faced, however he accepted and worked on them and ultimately went on to succeed. Here’s what he said in an interview priot to making it big:

Have people come up in the industry and said ‘well, we don’t know how the audience are going to take a non-American'”? asked a Canadian tv interviewer. Lee responds “Well, such question has been raised, in fact, it is being discussed. That is why “The Warrior” is probably not going to be on.” Lee adds, “They think that business wise it is a risk. I don’t blame them. If the situation were reversed, and an American star were to come to Hong Kong, and I was the man with the money, I would have my own concerns as to whether the acceptance would be there.”

Despite being at odds with “the man with the money” Lee went to Asia where he was more readily accepted and after making it big there the break in America came.

I think that there’s a lesson in here somewhere.

By Rigfatingemia
January 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I would just like to take some time too thank the posters for doing what you do and making the community what it is im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.

By Ray Saunders
February 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm

The finest surgeon in the world performed his first surgery sometime. Aside from that, 99% of the jobs out there don’t require years of experience. If the hedge fund manager were as smart and talented as his customers think, he wouldn’t be spending 40 hours a week giving advice – he’d already be retired.

I’ve seen many people with all the credentials – on paper, by job titles – who were disasters as employees. I suspect 90% of the managers out there wouldn’t recognize competence because they themselves got where they are simply because the more talented people left, so they were promoted for longevity.

I hire without paying much attention to credentials because I know there are damn few jobs that can’t be learned. I hire based on intelligence, integrity and attitude. I have NEVER made a bad hire using those criteria.
And if a manager can’t judge those three qualities, he/she shouldn’t be managing.

By Stumped
June 7, 2010 at 4:26 am

These laundry list ads are absolutely hilarious. Now they routinely request senior level skill sets for junior level positions! Or someone took several unrelated job descriptions, threw it in a blender, then posted it as one position. Its truly bizarre how as jobs become ever more fluid, hiring criteria become ever more rigid.

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