Finding qualified candidates for many positions has gotten a bit easier. But paradoxically, finding candidates who “wow” the hiring manager has actually gotten harder. Much harder.
Why? One reason is that manager expectations rise in a downturn – and this is just how it should be. Because it takes a higher caliber employee to get the same business results now – you simply must raise the bar on hiring expectations or your company performance will inevitably decline. And for people who do not accept this business imperative, that is exactly what makes hiring in this job market so frustrating.
I’ve already talked about the importance of effective recruiting, of hiring people who learn from failure, and recruiting people who thrive in a downturn, and what attracts top performers. In fact, I was pleased to see Liz Ryan make many of these points when she wrote that “employers are bemoaning the shortage of qualified applicants” in a recent article in Businessweek called “Yes, There is Still a War for Talent.”
A perfect example of “wow” being the new normal is a mid-level search we are working on right now for a new client. The client tried to make this hire on their own, turning to us only after their process did not turn up any wow candidates. We recruited about twice as many potential candidates as they did (tripling the candidate pool), and while the client freely admits that several of the people we set up for interviews are great – perfectly qualified to fill the job – nobody is a “wow” yet. Usually we can get to “wow” on the first slate of candidates, but in this case we didn’t, so we’ll redouble our efforts and recruit more people. I don’t think this client is being unreasonable, they are not unclear about their performance expectations, they are not trying to “steal” someone for less than they are worth, they just want to be wowed. And in that, they are completely justified. “WOW” is simply the new normal.