As an HR consultant, I hear it all the time. Employers are on the search for their dream candidate. This elusive individual will possess all the skills they want, the perfect personality, an interest in staying with them for the long term, and modest compensation expectations.
So what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t employers be looking to find the best match for their professional needs?
Jobs are like relationships
I’m not a relationship counselor; but I can say with confidence that the transition from seeking Prince or Princess Charming, who has no flaws and whose sole goal in life is to make us happy, to delving into a relationship with a multi – faceted, challenging and exciting individual who has diverse goals and interests, is the essential step towards long lasting relationships.
The professional world is no different. If we seek out employees whose sole goal in life is to use their assets to make us happy, we are setting ourselves up for certain disappointment. No one has one single goal in life, and everyone is seeking personal fulfillment and success alongside making a meaningful contribution to others. We are all complex, and that is what makes us all so interesting and valuable.
In many professional situations, this type of approach is glaringly lacking. Often the company or organizational culture reflects a focus only on the needs of the business, with little or no patience for other areas of life or personality in the employees; they are expected to manage their interests and personal lives to offer as little as possible disruption to getting the job done.
But what if we viewed the larger character, interests and needs of employees as assets as opposed to detractors? Respecting, understanding and caring about employees as complex and many faceted individuals can actually increase their professional successes in the long term. Such an approach fosters mutual respect, a higher level of collaboration and engagement among professional teams, and can positively impact relationships across the board.
So what would be a better way to approach finding the right employee? The first step would probably be to view the person you are considering as a whole, complex individual, to try and understand her as such, and within that context, to decide if working together would be mutually fulfilling for you both.
Look for interests, motivations and character traits
Most job interviews focus on skills and experience, and with good reason; if the candidate does not have the tools to do the job, you certainly don’t want to hire them. However the process of getting to know the candidate should not stop there. Use the interview process to honestly attempt to understand what motivates the other person, what their most salient personality traits are, and what interests them the most. Displaying real interest in the person behind the candidate will help you gauge if this relationship can succeed in the long term.
If you discover mutual interests, as well as complimentary differences that would come into play in your work together, that is a good indicator that this professional relationship could last. If on the other hand, you find that you have very little in common in the way of goals and motivations, and your differences are not likely to contribute to your professional collaboration, it may not be the right fit.
An interview process is quite short, especially when compared to the time and effort we generally associate with developing personal relationships. In the professional world, relationships generally ripen and grow on the job. But asking yourself if you find the person across the desk interesting, and whether you feel the beginnings of respect and warmth towards them, will tell you if this connection is likely to be a fulfilling one.
Is the quest for the dream candidate doomed to failure? Definitely not. The dream candidate is out there, and awaiting the opportunity to work with you. But you will only find them if you are able to appreciate them as individuals with a rich inner life and goals that go beyond what they can offer you. A professional relationship based on an appreciation of your employees’ uniqueness and complexity is indeed a dream come true.