The Perfect Match

The Perfect Match

It seems that many organizations have developed excessively lengthy interview processes as they seek the nonexistent “perfect match.” It would be best for all involved if these organizations revisited their hiring processes and made them more realistic.

The Perfect Match

This newsletter is addressed to those of you who are involved with hiring people for your organization. It is a plea for you to step back and take a serious look at your recruiting and interviewing processes.

Let me begin by telling you what inspired me to write about this topic. Recently, a friend of mine regaled me with stories about the horrors of her job hunting experience. She is looking for a senior position in a non-profit and has endured an inordinate number of interviews. (By the way, if you are looking for someone to fill a senior position in International Development, call me. My friend is wonderful.) One organization has been talking to her for three months and has interviewed her a total of seven times. Another has interviewed her over dinner one night, followed by six hours of interviews the following day, plus several other interviews on different days.

To me, this is overkill. What are they looking for? “The perfect match?” That person simply does not exist. Everyone has his or her strengths and weaknesses, so it is time for them to stop fooling themselves that if they interview her obsessively, they can ensure that she will be perfect.

If your hiring process is similar, here are some reasons why you should change it now:

First, in addition to the fact that there is no such thing as the perfect match, this process is an incredible waste of time for your organization. Think of the amount of staff time that has gone into meeting the candidate. And I assume that you are talking to multiple candidates, which means that you and your staff are spread even thinner.

Second, this is unfair to the job seeker. “Luckily” for my friend, her prior organization disbanded, so she has the time to go on interview after interview after interview with your organization. But most senior people who you would want to hire are already in very senior positions in other organizations. This means that they are very busy people who are probably having a tough time juggling their existing work, without having to sneak out to your workplace all the time. How many dental appointments can one person claim to have?

Third, a lengthy process like this can cause you to lose candidates who could be very good (notice, I did not say “perfect”) fits. Do you think that you are the only organization with which they are interviewing? Of course you are not. This means that they are probably going through simultaneous interview processes. Which means they are really swamped. If you require this type of time commitment from someone who does not even work for you yet, you may not get a shot at the really busy candidates – who are in all likelihood the type of people you want.

Fourth, dragging people along unnecessarily hurts your reputation. Many industries are relatively small, particularly as you get near the top in terms of seniority. Those senior people are often friends and colleagues and they talk to one another.

You do not want to be known as an organization that is cavalier with people’s time and indecisive about your needs.

Why do organizations do this?

I don’t actually know, but I have some theories. The first is, of course, the one I discussed above – that organizations have the misguided idea that they can find the perfect candidate if they look hard and long enough.

Another is that organizations do not spend enough time thinking about what they need prior to posting the job announcement. Instead, each time they interview someone they learn something new and change their requirements. In one of her interviews, my friend asked the interviewer what the organization was looking for in terms of skills, vision, etc. The interviewer replied, “We don’t know. We are still trying to figure this out.” Really?!? Do not use the interview process to “Beta Test” the position and decide what you want. Instead, do your homework up front. Get all your decision makers together; talk to everyone who is going to be involved; and review your strategic plan. If you are about to go through a reorganization or other significant changes, hold off until you’ve settled down. Interviews should not be used as a data gathering method!

Finally, I have seen job descriptions that are a giant mash of every potential positive characteristic and skill. The result is that the organization seeks someone who is a combination of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, General Patton, and Mr. Rogers. That person does not exist! If that is what you need, then you need to hire four different people. To be precise, you need to hire Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, General Patton, and Mr. Rogers, but you can’t because they have all passed away.

To summarize: Do your work before you start interviewing. Make sure your job description is realistic. Accept that there is no such thing as perfection. And treat your candidates fairly and respectfully.



In addition to management consulting, conflict resolution, and executive coaching, I offer tailored programs on a variety of related topics, including how to delegate, communicate more effectively, deal with difficult people, manage conflict in the workplace, manage up, facilitate meetings, manage your career, and network.

Please let me know if there are other topics in which you are interested. If I don’t already have a program on that topic, I am happy to develop one that meets your needs