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Employment Strategy Corner: How to avoid a major hiring pitfall


Phil Kemper

Phil Kemper

In this issue, we talk about how you can avoid the pitfall of a prolonged search by having more confidence in your choice – especially when your choice is the first candidate you interview.


Hiring authorities fall into two groups: There are those who, when they see what they want, act on it immediately. You know, the ones who buy a car in one afternoon, the first house they see or marry their high school sweetheart.

And there are those who see what they want, but want to see what else is out there. Why do I tell you this? Read on.

Recently, we were called to conduct a search for a good Senior Executive Producer for a major Meetings and Events Production House. I met with the V.P. General Manager for two hours while we defined very thoroughly what he needed and what the qualifications of the ideal candidate would be. I met with others involved so I would have a clear idea from the people who were on the team, and how they would interact with the new hire. We were all set – every aspect of the position was clarified.

Then, the worst thing that could have happened did. We found the ideal candidate too fast. She looked great on paper, had all the agreed upon qualifications, and when we sent her in for an interview, she aced it! They brought her in for a second interview and all agreed she was a terrific fit.

But, there was a problem. They hadn’t seen any other candidates and they felt they had to see more before they made a final choice, and an offer. I asked the General Manager how many other candidates he would like to see while I quietly explained to our #1 candidate that we had to go through the process, while she remained their first choice. Can you guess what happened?

While we extended the search for an additional four weeks to get three more candidates interviewed (remember, we’re juggling five schedules here) our #1 took another job. The General Manager was sick with the thought he had “lost” his candidate. Could this have been avoided? I think so.

There is a always a potential cost to you in extending the process while you see more candidates, even in a market that has a glut of candidates like this one. Remember: The good ones don’t last long.

So what can be done to make you feel more comfortable with your decision to hire the ideal candidate, even if they are the first?

Clearly define the position and the ideal candidate
Needless to say, it goes a long way towards increasing your comfort when you know exactly what you are looking for. Then, when they show up, whether they’re the first or tenth, you’ll know it. Remember the Supreme Court Justice who couldn’t define pornography but said, “I’ll know it when I see it.” Well, if that’s your hiring philosophy, you’re in big trouble!

Spell out what you need – everything – and then go searching for your candidate
Even though the market is depressed, good people don’t stay unemployed long.
Yes, there are a lot of good people who are looking right now, but what does that have to do with your position and your company? There still may be only a handful of people who qualify for your job. Get out of the “cat-bird seat” mentality and hire in a timely way. Believe it or not, there are other companies hiring too!

Have a time frame and stick to it
Don’t behave as if you have “all the time in the world.” Hiring is like any other project you have in your company. It has a beginning, middle and end. Set a time frame for your hiring. In this market, depending on complexity of position, skills needed, etc. somewhere between 3 to 6 weeks.

In the end, while there is a benefit to exploring the candidate “field,” there is also the risk that your #1 candidate will find another dream job, and depart. The moral: When you see the ideal candidate, hire him/her no matter if he is in #1 interview position or #5.

See you here next month for our article: “Does your sales candidate really know how to prospect?”

Philip Kemper is Founder/President of Kemper Associates, a 34-year-old Chicago-based national executive search firm, specializing in Permanent and Contract staffing for Trade Shows and Exhibits, Staging and Equipment Rental, Business Meetings and Events Production, Video, Training and Incentives and more .His more complete bio is on LinkedIn at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/philip-kemper/2/795/308/ . You may view Kemper Associates’ web site at: www.Kemperassociates.net , and contact Phil with questions or comments, and employment needs at: Kemperassoc@hotmail.com, or his private phone line: (312) 944-6551.



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