What Happens When the “Just Right” Candidate Isn’t Available?

What Happens When the “Just Right” Candidate Isn’t Available?

by Sara Bennett | February 8, 2021


Do You Have the Time and Resources to hire a Fixer Upper?

You’ve got a job to fill.  An employee to hire.  You’ve spent days (maybe even weeks) looking high and low for a candidate with the right set of skills, experience, and personal qualities to meet your preferred candidate profile, but you’re coming up short.

So what’s next?  The obvious answer might be to hire someone who is closest to meeting the full set of  requirements but that isn’t always the smartest tactic.  The solution often requires a closer look at all options.

If you’re a recruiter, you know exactly what Im talking about.  As the demands of today’s jobs get more and more complex, requiring unusual combinations of technical, relationship, communication, and business talents, recruiters need to look for new strategies.  What hiring requirements can you give up?  What requirements need to be adjusted?  What kind of a “fixer upper strategy”  can be developed in your organization?

The answer isn’t always easy.  Leaving a critical role unfilled, waiting for that just right candidate, can handicap your business.  Hiring a candidate who is too far off the mark, too much of a fixer upper, can cost your business time and resources!

As the number of “just right” candidates shrinks, many employers have smartly shifted their focus to hiring easier to find candidates who have the “right bones”,  but need a little help with skills and experience – the classic fixer upper.

When you can’t find or candidates with all the attributes you think you need,  here’s some questions you can start asking yourself….

What parts of the job can be trained?   

In every job there are components of the work that are easier to be trained than others.  People in call center roles, for example,  can be trained to use proprietary software, to navigate certain processes or procedures, or even to provide customers with certain product descriptions.   One of the first things to do when staffing for a call center get rid of those hiring requirements that could expand your pool of potential candidates and make a commitment to develop those skills internally.

What components of the job are super important, and not easy to train?

In the same call center example, you may decide that empathy is a talent you can’t train but might want to make sure is present in every employee.  Or you may need your agents to patient, resilient, warm, etc – any number of qualities you want to find in the candidates you hire because you don’t have the time or the resources to do a personality transplant.

The factors employers consider most important to performance, but not trainable are almost always important soft skills.  Career Builder periodically publishes a list of the top five “soft skills” employers look for when hiring – in many cases attributes employers consider as important to job success as are the hard skills that are so hard to find…..


  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Dependability
  • Positive Attitude
  • Self Motivated
  • Team Oriented


What hiring requirements can you modify or do without?

When the perfect candidates are in short supply, there are two categories of hiring requirements that we always suggest our clients think about carefully…..

Years of Experience.

One of the first things I learned about the job to employee matching process is how unimportant the “years of experience” requirement is to placement success.  While its easy for a busy hiring manager to request an employee with “5 years experience doing _____________” the truth is that the 5 years of experience request is actually a short cut for a much more complicated set of real work requirements.  And its those real work requirements that need to be explored in order to arrive at important candidate requirements.

For example, if a hiring manager asks us to find an employee with  5 years experience as an admin assist”, my job is to drill down on the unique set of competencies the hiring manager really needs.   For one AA job, the real requirement needs to include experience managing the meeting and travel calendars of 5 or more busy executives.  For another AA just it means experience preparing charts and graphs from complex data.  For still another AA role, , it may mean experience administrating supplier contracts and ensuring contract compliance, etc.

IOW, any experience requirement needs to be specific and relevant to the actual work performed.

Think about it this way – if your mission is to find a candidate with “5 years of administrative experience” you could  uncover  a candidate with 5 years growing new skills, gaining knowledge and expertise in specific areas of administrative work content,  or you might uncover a candidate whose experience looks more like one  year of not so complicated work, repeated five times.  Which type of candidate does the job you are trying to fill require?

Educational Requirements…

…are another category of candidate requirements that don’t always correlate neatly with on the job performance.  If educational requirements are set too high, candidates are often excluded from jobs they could skillfully perform. While it may be expeditious, for a company like Microsoft and Amazon to restrict their candidate pools to candidates with college or advanced college degrees, there is an opportunity for small to medium sized companies to tap into a very talented group of employees without college degrees.

Taking a Chance on a Fixer Upper Can Produce Big Pay Offs….

Hiring a fixer upper – a high potential candidate but without all the skills or experience on a preferred candidate checklist – can produce a significant pay off for employers willing to invest in the employee’s development.  Employers who uncover special niches of candidates who need more training than the norm, but with transferable skills and talents, can exploit opportunities to grow their businesses using talent overlooked by their competitors.  One of the fastest growing companies in the staffing industry developed a strategy of hiring new college grads coming off athletic scholarships.  While this was a niched workforce requiring substantial investments to get them up to speed as recruiters, it was a high potential/low experience staffing/training strategy that delivered big pay offs for this employer down the road.

The Temp to Hire Approach to Fixer Uppers!

One of the ways employers can hedge their bets when thinking about hiring an employee who doesn’t have all the qualities on the list of a “preferred candidate”, is to audition the employee before hiring them direct.  In this scenario, the employer doesn’t incur all the costs it takes to hire the employee directly, but uses a third party staffing company like PACE to hire the employee on their behalf, assigned to work in a temporary role as a way to audition for a permanent role.

The temp to hire audition has a number of advantages for both employers and employees…

  • There is no hiring decision until both parties know the “fit is right”. The employer gets a chance to determine if their fixer upper is in fact fixable.  The employee gets to decide if the job is the right fit for their personal goals.  The “fixing” often happens (or doesn’t) during the audition period.
  • The employer avoids the high costs of hiring the employee direct…..and takes advantage of third party employer relationship.
  • The employee gets a first hand look at the skill sets they need to acquire to achieve their career goals. The auditioning period, even if it ends without being hired, enhances their resume and helps them develop the right skills.
  • The employer gets the benefit of having someone in place while taking their time to make a careful hiring decision.



PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 40 years.

A 4-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire employees,  contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, email us or visit our website.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]





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