With the health of the economy safely on the upswing, more job seekers are on the market than the past few years. With stacks of resumes to pore through, many recruiters are looking for the "perfect" candidate.  What does the "perfect" candidate mean?  To some companies, this is a laundry list of skills.  To others, it may be attitude. Is there something that all of these candidates have in common? Certainly.  Let's discuss the essential elements of every "perfect" candidate:

Essential Elements of the "Perfect" Candidate

My grandmother used to say there is no such thing as "perfect."  I think if she were to read at some of the recent job posts, she'd scoff at their eagerness to find this standard.  While one company's "perfect" may be another company's rejected candidate, there are common traits that the most sought after candidates possess.  If you're interviewing a candidate with the following attributes and an excellent skill set, you should probably get that offer letter ready:

  • Accountability.  There are too many people in this world who don't take accountability for their actions.  Nobody wants to be working on a team with the guy who makes excuses for everything. That's why accountability is so important. Candidates who own their failures as much as their successes are important to an organization. Candidates who have accountability tend to work hard because they care about the quality of their work. Often, they don't want to let themselves down, let alone the rest of the team. This is an essential element of the "perfect" candidate that should be high on a recruiter's list.
  • Positive Mental Attitude.  I try to approach new things with a positive mental attitude.  There are so many unknowns in life that if you expect the worst, you may find yourself in the middle of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Attitude is important to company culture. Think of how many times a Debbie Downer joined the team and the company culturetook a dive. That doesn't mean people can't have off days.  But if every single thing always sucks, so will your team's morale after a while.
  • Commitment to Learning.  The best candidates are often the most eager to adopt new approaches, learn new technologies, and embrace change. As industries continue to change and innovate, teams are strengthened with a committed learner on the team. Often, companies may not find the laundry list of skills they want in a new employee.  But if they've found themselves someone willing to learn new skills, then they've got someone who can grow in their position.
  • Synergist. Today's work environment demands that people are able to get along well on teams. If your organization is team focused, it's important that your "perfect" candidate be a synergist.  Synergists are team builders.  These are the people who are able to interact with diverse individuals and succeed. If your recruiters are already evaluating candidates for attitude, take it a step further and evaluate their synergist qualities.
  • Hands On. In many companies, there simply is no room for someone who won't dig in and get hands on. Small companies particularly require employees that are able to not only explain how to do things in theory, but show others the process. Candidates who are hands on often add immense value to a position where agency, synergism, and accountability are required. 

Whether your company is looking for an engineer or a salesman, the qualities inherent to the "perfect" candidate can be boiled down to these essential traits. Try communicating these desired qualities during the hiring process to attract better candidates and enhance your quality of hire.

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Comment by Katrina Kibben on October 23, 2015 at 11:15am

I think you're spot on with this list. However, determining if someone actually has these things tends to be a little more difficult. What questions should someone ask to identify these features in a candidate?

Comment by Catherine Hess on October 23, 2015 at 11:19am

Katrina, you always ask the best questions...right before my coffee! :)

I'm fond of scenario based questions where you ask a candidate how they handled a crisis type of moment, how it was fixed, and what the fallout/ lesson learned was.  I'm also fond of giving real work scenarios about the position you're offering.  For example, if you know your work environment has some big personalities that may be a bit overwhelming, I'd ask how this person would see themselves getting along with those types. I think the more you can drill down without being too cheesy, it allows your hiring manager to get to know the candidate.

Comment by Katrina Kibben on October 23, 2015 at 2:11pm

Ha! They're great posts so I have to ask!

Part 2 of that - and I bet you know what I'm going to say - is training the hiring managers that they need to get to the answers for these questions. On the hiring side of things, I've gone into so many interviews with a blank slate because no one told me what I was trying to figure out and I hated it. Ya know, back before I was reading and writing all of these best practice blog posts. :-) 

Comment by Catherine Hess on October 23, 2015 at 2:37pm

I think that there needs to be education of hiring managers in order to achieve the best results.  I remember interviewing as a candidate and thinking to myself that people didn't really get a sense of who I was or my capabilities because they only asked the same few questions. 

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