Hold Your Nose and Hire? Please Don’t!

The current market for qualified candidates to fill your open jobs is pretty “tight” right now, speaking in recruiter terms. In Massachusetts, we have a 4.2% unemployment rate. There are many, many open positions, at all levels and in all kinds of companies – from technology to retail. When this kind of situation exists, there’s a temptation to give in to the pressure (either self-inflicted or from above) to hire someone you ordinarily would not hire if you had more choices. I caution you against acting on this pressure and offer three good strategies to help you find a choice you’ll be happy about.


I have just returned from my annual summer Maine vacation where, by deliberate design, I am, for the most part, “off the grid.” I don’t have a television in my little deck house and there’s no high-speed internet. I go to the Town Hall or the Town Library to get connected (which I do frequently). While my Wall Street Journal and New York Times arrive electronically, they are perused infrequently. All of this has meant a delightfully, refreshingly and totally welcomed “Mainely Politics Free Zone” for me.

You can find many polls by news organizations in this election year about people’s attitudes, the candidates and the issues. But the one fact that rings true in all of these polls is that the majority of Americans (in some cases as high as 68%) are not happy with the choice of candidate. They are frustrated and wondering how, as a country, we got to the point of having two candidates we are not truly enthusiastic about. (The phrase “hold my nose and vote” was used in the few political discussions I did allow myself in Maine.)

Whether or not you feel like using that clothespin when you enter the voting booth, there is no changing the election date-November 8, 2016. The votes will be counted and the die will be cast. I bet a majority of Americans would like to see that date slip a bit and see if they could get a few more good candidates “in the loop.” But, we can’t.

Thankfully, unlike a presidential election, hiring managers do have the ability to extend their deadline date until they find a candidate to be enthusiastic about. I applaud hiring managers who have a deadline date. I applaud them for setting a goal for making a hire and having a new employee come on board. It’s one of the five components for completing a successful hire (see 5 Deadly Sins of Hiring). But, what do you do if you have not found a qualified candidate you are really enthusiastic about? Simple – you continue your search efforts until you find someone who generates enthusiasm-someone who is qualified for the job and who you look forward to working with.


People want to be with people they like, whether it’s in the office, on the ski slopes, or having dinner. And because work is such a large part of our lives, it’s doubly important to have people on your team who you genuinely like-because you will be spending lots of time with them. You have your own values (hard work, family, health, aesthetic-whatever they are) and finding potential employees who “click” with you and those values is always best.

Here are three ways you can start to test the “like-ability” factor in your candidate . . . .

  • Before the Interview: Use Google to find out all you can about your candidate. You’d be surprised what you can find (the good, the bad and the ugly!). Check out their LinkedIn profile to see if they have any entries that are not on the resume. Maybe they are active in their alumni association, a church, or a charitable organization. Is their photo a professional one, or is it one with their kids? Little things like that are indicators of what is important to them.
  • In the Interview: While there are many things you cannot ask in an interview (see the PS below), you can get a good sense of the person and how well they would fit on your team by having a comfortable conversation at the beginning of the process. Asking “soft” questions, like how they like living in their town, or why they chose the university that they attended, or whether they have any volunteer activities, is a great way to ease into the interview while gaining a real understanding of the person.
  • References: Asking good questions during this important part of the process can help you discern the “like-ability” of your potential new employee. Always do the references yourself and don’t hand off this opportunity to your HR professional unless you absolutely have to. If you’d like a copy of the Reference Interview Questions that I use, just click here. I’ve gotten tremendous insights into people using these.

I’m back in the “real” world now and I must admit to having lots of enthusiasm for returning to my recruiting life. But I think I’ll leave my TV off for a bit in an effort to recreate my “Mainely Politics Free Zone.” I’m SO much happier there!

P.S. While I’ve written before about what you can’t ask in an interview, that was a while ago. I’ll be updating that information that very soon. In the meantime, Google it and be sure to be “state specific” as laws differ from state to state. And, get ready Massachusetts employers, with the recent passage of a new Equal Pay Law (that I applaud) which will take effect in July 2017, you will NOT be able to ask about a candidate’s prior earnings. I’ll write about that later as well.

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