3 Steps to Start Hiring Diamonds in the Rough

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Businesses today need to prioritize finding the best candidates for every job. Instead, they get in their own way by screening out candidates that could be their next all-stars. Here’s how they can change their hiring practices to identify diamonds in the rough.

Among business leaders, it’s a common refrain that employees are a business’s most valuable asset. This notion makes a great deal of sense because employees are the ones that make the business work (or not work, if you’ve hired the wrong people), provide the public face of the business, and drive the innovation necessary to grow. With that in mind, there should be a tremendous incentive for businesses to do everything they can to hire people that are going to stand out from the crowd.

Oddly enough, though, that’s not always the case.

Instead, plenty of businesses handle their hiring like it’s some kind of employee assembly line. They use rigid pre-screening criteria to eliminate candidates that may otherwise be a good fit. They prioritize things like educational background and work history continuity over all else. And they create interview processes designed to weed out those who can’t handle pressure. In other words, they’re looking for employees who don’t stand out – who fit into a preset notion of a prototypical “perfect employee”.

What they should be doing, though, is looking for employees who bring more than a sparkling resume to the table. They should be tailoring their hiring practices to identify the diamonds in the rough that can take their business to the next level. Here are three simple hiring changes that can make that a reality.

Don’t Ignore Cover Letters

Job seekers everywhere have been taught how important an outstanding cover letter can be, and go to great lengths to learn how to craft them. What they don’t know is that surveys have indicated that as many as 90% of hiring managers don’t even bother to read them. For businesses, this is a wasted opportunity.

A candidate’s cover letter can reveal a great deal about the person behind the resume, and in many cases can serve as a useful way to spot a non-traditional candidate that would be perfect for a particular job opening. Within a cover letter, the business can discover how effective the candidate is at communicating, making a compelling business case, and even how well they might be able to influence others in the organization – in short, how effective a leader they could become. With so much to learn from them, paying careful individualized attention to cover letters is step one in finding the perfect hire.

Increase Qualification Flexibility

In many cases, businesses pass over exceptional candidates because they don’t have the predetermined educational or work history requirements nailed down for a given position. This is one of the biggest – and most easily remedied – flaws in hiring practices that prevent businesses from identifying candidates that could be their next all-star. Most do it because they view such qualifications as an easy measurement of ability. Using that criteria, however, the average software company today would pass over Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Paul Allen if they applied for a job.

If you think about it, though, there’s reason to believe that businesses would be better off looking for passion over education. For example, if a candidate has a wealth of real-world work in a field but lacks the educational bona fides to go along with it, that shouldn’t automatically disqualify them. That’s because it’s an indication that they can learn what they need to know on the fly, driven by their passion for the work. Some of today’s most innovative and successful companies seem to be embracing this hiring logic, and it’s already serving them quite well.

Eliminate Formal Interviews

The last and most important change that businesses should make to their hiring practices is to do away with formalized interviews. This means no more lengthy, pre-set question and answer sessions designed to trip up potential hires. All those tend to accomplish is to identify the candidate that has shown up pre-prepared with the right answers. It also tends to ratchet up the pressure on candidates, potentially making an otherwise perfect candidate freeze up – or worse, start lying to try and provide the answer they think the interviewer wants to hear.

In their place, businesses should opt for a process that resembles an audition. It should place the candidate in a work environment similar to the one they’d be joining, and ask them to demonstrate their skills. Seeing how a potential new hire works is far more valuable than seeing how adept they are at answering questions and charming an interviewer. And in the end, what the company needs is an employee that performs well, not one who talks a big game.

A Rare Commodity

By making these three changes to their hiring practices, a business stands a much better chance of hiring candidates that will exceed their expectations. If employees really are a business’s most valuable asset, then this is also the surest way to make sure every new hire is a worthy addition to the organization. And since outstanding candidates don’t come along every day, no business can afford to miss a single one – so the time to start hiring with an eye toward finding their next diamond in the rough is right now.

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