Should You Always be Looking for the “Perfect” Candidate?

Perfect CandidateI’m sure many of you have read the recently published Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, The Employer’s Creed, by David Brooks. If you haven’t, you should. It’s a great read on a topic that I’m passionate about – hiring.

I’ve always known I was “powerful,” but hadn’t given a lot of thought to the fact that, according to Brooks, “I am helping to shape the future landscape of culture and the moral ecology of our era.” Yikes, that’s big.

After reading the article, I paused and wondered, was I doing my part? Is Ketchum doing its part? I pondered…

The truth is: Ketchum’s come a long way in its hiring practices.

Each position we fill is an opportunity to evolve our business and rethink the needs of our organization. Sometimes it means we hire the same role, sometimes it means we look for new skills sets. We often have to remind ourselves that the perfect candidate might not look perfect on paper, or they might not have the exact experience we are seeking, or the degree we expected. They might have justified gaps on their resumes, or maybe they have worked in a different industry.

There are no guarantees in hiring. Sometime we make mistakes. But, defaulting to hiring the “standard” type, a high GPA, elite school, X number of internships, doesn’t make hiring any less risky. In fact, it could be more costly, as you are all but guaranteeing your organization will stay the same.

If we continue to broaden our definition of the “perfect” candidate we might just end up with an extraordinary employee who has passion that drives them to deliver exceptional results, or real life experiences that help foster their creativity, or the willingness to take risks that could lead to developing a new idea. Most importantly, we might hire honest, real humans, with a sense of humor that you’d “want to have a drink with,” and get the benefit of working side-by-side with day in and day out.

I’ve been at Ketchum longer than I anticipated. At times I wonder why, but the truth is, I know the answer — It’s the people. I get to work with phenomenal colleagues who inspire me, challenge me, encourage me and support me. I’m lucky.

These are the types of people we thrive to hire.

My colleague, Jon Higgins, a Senior Partner and our CEO of International here at Ketchum, said it best, “when you work at Ketchum, you get to bring your whole self to work every day.”

Do we at Ketchum need to continuously challenge ourselves and make sure we aren’t falling into the old trap of trying to hire the perfect candidate, or even worse, someone in our exact image? Yes, we do. At the same time, I am proud to say that every day we are getting better at hiring people who bring both a diversity of thought and backgrounds, and every day we focus on making the bold choice to hire people who make us better AND bring amazing results for our clients.

About Michele Lanza

In her current role as Partner/SVP, Global Talent Acquisition at Ketchum, Michele manages the recruiting function for the agency, helping to bring top talent into the organization. She worked at Ketchum from 1996-2003, working her way up to become the VP/HR Manager for Ketchum West. Michele then boomeranged back to Ketchum in 2008, after spending four years working as an executive recruiter at one of the top search firms in the Bay Area, specializing in public relations and marketing. Michele has over 15 years of human resources experience, with an emphasis in staffing. Prior to her tenure at Ketchum, Michele worked for Film Realite, a commercial production company and for the YMCA. Follow her on Twitter here: @MicheleL