You will never find a candidate who is a 100% fit!


Does a 100% fit candidate even exist or are we searching for the purple squirrel? Darn, I hate the analogy of the purple squirrel so much!

My issue with a candidate “fitting” the role is a constant struggle I have with hiring managers. Employers would put in place assessments and tests to gauge candidates’ ability to perform a job, and that’s perfectly fine. At the end of the day, they do need to hire someone that they’re confident of to be able to deliver.

The question is, “Do we really know what we are looking for in a candidate?”

  • Are we measuring the right things?
  • For the things that we are measuring, does it really matter?

We all know that passing the hiring assessment or the interview is not guarantee of performance, and sometimes a rejected candidate could turn out to be a diamond in the rough. And, one of the most famous story in recent time is about Alibaba Founder Jack Ma’s amazing account of how he’s being rejected for the 30 jobs he applied to before starting Alibaba.

What is wrong with the way we do interviews? Is there a fundamental flaw in the system? And, is there such thing as a 100% fit?

There’ll never be a 100% fit!

Let’s face it. Finding a 100% fit is impossible. There’s just no way to tell if a candidate is going to be a perfect fit for the role. Even if this candidate feels like a 100% fit, there’s no guarantee of performance.

Employers not knowing what they’re looking for

This is not in a negative way. Hiring managers usually have an idea of what they’re looking for, but what exactly are they’re looking for?

With most hiring managers, you would find a rather clear picture of what an ideal candidate would look like. However, you will also find that there is a fair bit of flexibility and also a willingness to want to understand what other skill sets the slate of candidates can bring to the team. This is interesting as you would had thought that employers would have pretty much a fix set of requirements for what they’re hiring for, but in actual fact, there is usually a fair amount of tweaking to the roles as the search progresses. This could result in a very different hire from the original requirements.

So, what are we assessing for?

All of us assesses a candidate for a combination of different things with a variety of different techniques. A common approach many us use is to identify a set of “must haves” and assess the candidates against this set of 3 to 5 items. Combined with an idea of of what the role is about, a little bit of gut feel and a lot of assumptions, we derive a hiring decision. As much as we like to feel that there is a lot of consideration and science behind how we hire, a large part of it is very subjective.

And, what is the problem?

The problem with today’s recruitment process is that we try to over complicate it too much. There used to be a model where craftsmen would identify young talents they felt is right for the trade, give them an apprenticeship and eventually they would learn the trade and strike out on their own. While we can argue that all this is impractical in today’s modern age, which I agree by the way. The point in this analogy is that hiring is often based on an assessment of potential, and success comes with the naturing of the talent that’s been brought in to do the job.

The issues we have today in our recruitment process is that we try to assess and measure too many things in a candidate which increases the amount of resources that is required to make a hire. This drives up the rejection rate and increases the time to hire translating to a higher hiring cost and increased opportunity cost of not having the person on the job earlier.

The recommendation?

I would like ask all the recruiters and hiring managers that’s reading this to try a different approach.

Look at the assessment of a candidate from a different angle. Instead of trying to hire for the perfect fit, try to look at it from the angle of assessing for acceptable risk.

What does mean?

All new hires will come with risks. Regardless how successful the candidates had been in their last jobs, that performance came as a result of the conditions and environment at that point in time when they were on that job. With that in mind, consider the following steps:

  • Build a slate of candidates that can do the job based on a clear and concise set of criteria.
  • Instead of assessing the candidates for how well they can do the job (as that was a given – they needed to be able to do the job to get on the list), assess these candidates for the likelihood to fail in the job!
  • Remove the ones that are “high risks”. However, remember that all is are relative to the candidates you have on the slate, so if you find yourself removing everyone from the list, you should re-evaluate the role and how you’ve built the slate.
  • You can use additional rounds of interviews to get this slate to the top 2 or 3 candidates
  • Evaluate this finalist slate of candidates and, and look at what is needed to mitigate the risks of them failing in the job
  • Assess the resources that is needed to be to be put in place and build that into your new hire on-boarding plan

With this, you would have a good hire that can do the job, an idea of what could go wrong, and more importantly a plan on how to mitigate this.

As recruiters and hiring managers, we all need to accept the fact that every hire comes with risks. When we change the way we look at a hiring decision from trying to “buy the result” to “building the structure”, we would naturally look at ways that the new hire can succeed and flourish in the new environment.

This way, you would had made a quality hire that could last longer. If all fails, remember the probation period was put there for a reason. 🙂

Would love to hear what you think about this topic. Share your thoughts and comments below! Happy hiring!

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric is also the Advisor for Workbond and currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.

The joy of startup hiring


I’d thought of doing an article to talk about the my very own start up, The Talent Shark. In the last few weeks of getting everything setup, from company registration, licenses, office space and such, I guess before we know it, we’re up and running. Looking back on the last few weeks, it’s been an interesting experience. There wasn’t a moment to relax, but all the efforts, totally worth it!

The one thing that I’ve came to realize is that with every startup, the anxiety of the founder(s) in trying to get everything right, the turning into Uncle Scrooge, and the unstoppable determination of doing a doing a little bit more, comes together in a magical concoction of emotions. I call that the “Startup high”!

Having been in startups myself as an employee, and now embarking on this exciting journey as employee #1 with The Talent Shark, I realized that there’s an enormous amount of support Startup Companies required and is often underserved.

One such area is in the space of hiring. Of course, you can go to a regular recruitment firm, or hire your own team to do it. Having spoken with quite a number of startups in the last couple months, I realized that that’s not often the smartest thing to do. In fact, that is the scariest thing to do as you’re going to either spending a lot of money with the agencies or locking in a huge chunk of capex in hiring your own in-house team.

It was interesting. From those conversations came deals that allowed me to structure a solution that best fit the startup clients. There are many things that every startup has in common:

  • The need to hire for that few key positions
  • Fluctuating hiring needs across the different months/ quarters
  • Feeling the need to “hire” every role at the get go
  • Lack of internal expertise to navigate the HR/ Hiring space
  • Trying to keep cost down to the absolute lowest possible

While there are similarities, no two startups are the same. Everyone I talked to were at a different stage in their journey with different sets of assumptions. Every conversation opened my mind to countless possibilities and working with all these startups just gets your heart racing. The passion from the founders and their relentless drive to make it work is just infectious. It’s like spending time with young people, I felt years younger already!

For example, in one of the projects that we’ve just kicked off, we were working with a company of 2 staff, looking to ramp up across different countries. To kick it off, we looked at the business plan and derived the hiring plan aligned to their business projection. For a small project fee, we’ve not only able to provide in house counsel to the founders and also the muscle to deliver on the hiring. The savings they’ve derived from this engagement is tremendous.

We’ve also had the opportunity to consult with another company in a completely different stage in their startup lifecycle. They’ve in fact done tremendously well in getting their business off the ground and were looking to scale. However, they’ve reached a point where putting more resources into the team doesn’t directly equate to an even output. This is because, the nature of their business had taken on new complexity and this required a relook at their coverage model, evaluating the load and capacity in which the talent acquisition team is managing. In this project, we work closely with the team in mapping out their process and evaluating their hiring plan in the upcoming quarter. It’s just like when you visit the doctor, you get plugged into a machine that takes readings all over your body to paint a complete picture of your health. Here, we look at how much time, effort is taken at each stage of the process. Do keep in mind that different companies have different baseline, so it’s important not to take that “industry norm” and apply it lock stock barrel to the process.

Having that complete process map allows us to work with the management team in making the right changes and investing into the right areas to get that efficiency.

While we all would agree that it’s all about bringing in the right talent into the company, I think there’s a deeper level of engagement and a more process-oriented approach in making that startup hiring process more planful and less painful.

With this, I’m going to end today’s article here. I wanted to give a shout out to all those brave folks out there that’s taken the plunge in starting up your new venture! Do share with me your journey to date. I’m sure there’s a lot of learning I can take away from your stories.

Have a fantastic weekend.

Eric Wong

Eric Wong is the Managing Consultant from The Talent Shark and the CHRO forIntel Wise. His experience spans across the various human resource functions such as HR Information Systems, Business Partnering and Talent Management. Eric currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS). Connect with him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter @ErickyWong.