Problem or No Problem: Candidate Issues to Reconsider

With a tight job market, many employers are finding it more and more difficult to hire top talent. There are fewer job applicants for the average vacancy. There’s a greater likelihood that the ideal candidate will have multiple offers to choose from.

interviewOne way to increase the number of potential candidates is to review the initial selection process and see where perhaps applicants are being dismissed prematurely. In job markets of years past, where unemployment was higher and there were ample numbers of applicants for every vacancy, employers could be ultra-selective and could afford to screen people out for things that were only “less than ideal.” Now, employers may need to rethink this idea of preemptively ruling out candidates for things that may not actually have any impact on their ability to do the job well.

Here are some issues that employers may have previously used to screen out candidates but that perhaps may not be deal breakers in a tight job market:

  • Having a history of staying in jobs only a short time. While clearly most employers would prefer if an employee were to stay long-term, it’s entirely possible that a job candidate simply hasn’t found the role he or she is happy with yet. Or it could be that previous employers did not offer the benefits or career progression this applicant is looking for. Either way, this may be something that employers no longer have the luxury of dismissing out of hand.
  • Not having the exact degree you normally look for. This is a big trap. Many employers create a set of ideal qualifications but then present those “ideals” as “nonnegotiables.” Even if the majority of successful candidates you’ve hired in the past have had a specific degree, take a critical look to assess whether that degree—or any degree—is truly required to have the skills to do the work. Could the required skills be trained? Of course, there are some roles where a specific degree, certificate, or license is absolutely a must; this is not about those positions.

Note: This is also a potential discrimination issue. If candidates in a protected class are disproportionately excluded from the entire process because they don’t have that qualification and the qualification isn’t truly necessary, it may appear to be discriminatory or have a negative impact. This is yet another reason to reevaluate whether that degree is truly required.

  • Not having the exact number of years of experience you normally look for or experience in the exact department or industry. Be wary of dismissing candidates out of hand if they don’t yet have the ideal number of years of experience—especially for skills that can be taught. The reasons are similar to the point above about requiring specific degrees.

It’s also possible that the individual has the right experience, but in the organizations he or she has worked for previously, the job was in a different department—so he or she doesn’t have x years of experience in the exact department you’re hiring for but could still easily do the work.

  • Having a negative experience (such as being fired) with a previous employer. Obviously, this one is dependent upon the exact circumstances. Being terminated from the last role for significant disciplinary reasons would give any employer pause. But simply being let go due to downsizing or other similar situations does not necessarily mean that candidate is not a good performer. Be careful with blanket dismissals of applicants who have previously been involuntarily terminated.
  • Having a criminal history. Again, this should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but the simple fact of having previously been convicted of something does not have to be a deal breaker from moment one. (For more potential benefits of hiring people with a previous criminal history, check out

What has your organization done to expand the hiring pool? Have you considered loosening up some previously strict requirements for applicants to be considered for an interview?