I had two situations this week that reminded me that it's usually not the absolutely best technically qualified person that gets the job. Rather, it's the one that seems to be the lowest risk.
One of the situations, as a recruiter, a placement I made to one of my client companies. The other one is more personal. I hired someone to work for me in my firm. In both cases, they were not particularly close matches to the job in experience or knowledge. However, they are both excellent matches in terms of qualities that will make them successful in their respective roles.
Ultimately, as an employer, I want to hire the person that appears to have the least risk of failure. A baseline amount of experience and knowledge are certainly important, however, it's usually other characteristics that ultimately determine if a person will be successful or not. Here's what I mean…
Initiative! The placement I made this week was a Project Manager / Business Analyst to one of my client companies. I had them interview 2 candidates that had the required skills for the role. One of them was actually a much closer match as far as specific systems experience and a background with the same kinds of projects as my client. The other, however, clearly demonstrated initiative far above and beyond expectations.
Both candidates were given the same information about the company and the job at hand. The one with less applicable experience, however, did extensive further research. He came up with scenarios he'd likely face in the role that were specific to that company and presented ideas. He discovered issues they had related to the position that they were not aware of, and he offered well thought out solutions. He had downloaded a free trial version of one of their tools that he hadn't used before, and demonstrated what he'd learned about it so far.
It became clear to the company very quickly that whatever knowledge or experience this candidate lacked, he would learn very quickly. Beyond that, however, by showing that kind of initiative it was clear that he would accomplish far more in the long run than any 'average' employee that might even have more experience. The less qualified candidate (on paper) got the job!
Quickness! That word has so many aspects to it and so many applications when being considered for a job. The person I hired this week is making a dramatic career change and doesn't have related industry skills or knowledge. However, he got the job first and foremost because he was quick!
He was quick on the uptake. As we discussed the position, the industry, and the technical aspects of the job, he was able to grasp it quickly and accurately. He would ask great relevant questions, and be able to articulate the concept back to me in his own words. He just 'got it'!
He was quick to articulate ideas effectively. As we spoke, I was impressed with how he could communicate a new idea well, even as he was still processing it in his own mind. He could carry on a highly effective conversation even as he was still learning.
He was quick to get to the point. He doesn't ramble aimlessly as he's communicating an idea or answering a question. He grasped what was most important, and answered concisely.
He was quick to keep moving forward. He had a sense of urgency and enthusiasm. He would move the conversation toward a goal, and had his objective clearly in mind. He wanted the position and kept moving in that direction.
Willingness to do what it takes. In both cases, they clearly demonstrated that they were willing to put in the time and extra effort to do what ever was necessary to be successful in their respective roles. They didn't just say it, they showed it through their preparation and pointed questions. They weren't looking for a company to lay out everything they need on a silver platter, they showed they were willing to go after what ever they would need to succeed themselves.
In both cases, they will have a great deal to learn initially. On the surface, it may seem that an employer would view them as a higher risk than someone that comes in with all the necessary knowledge. However, in both cases, the candidates that were hired were perceived as the 'safer' bet because of the other characteristics. Someone that shows initiative beyond the norm, demonstrates the ability to learn and digest concepts quickly, or clearly has the willingness to do what ever it takes to achieve their objectives, is easily seen as a safer choice for long term success.
So… what makes you the safer choice?
If you're relying on your technical skills and experience to be your primary asset in your job search, you may find that your search may take quite a while. If, however, you are able to clearly demonstrate that you have other characteristics that will drive you to success regardless of some experience you may lack, you will very likely be presented greater opportunities!