Ask the Headhunter: Employers, stop trying to hire a superhero

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Businessman opening shirt to reveal superhero costume

All of the job candidates are qualified and fit, but the managers say they want to find the “ideal” match. What do you do? Suggest a creative alternative that gets the job done while that VP is looking for the perfect hire.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Overly narrow job descriptions and overly choosy managers are killing companies, and their boards of directors don’t even know it. Talent shortage, my buttocks. Poor management, more likely. (See “Talent Shortage, Or Poor Management?”)

A former client who is looking for a new job thought he’d found the right gig in the right company. He called to tell me that, after several interviews, the recruiter handling the search told him he was one of three finalists. So, here’s what happened, in his own words:

I got ahold of the recruiter yesterday. She told me the VP and his managers decided not to hire any of the three finalists. They’re going to “start all over again.”

During the interviews, they mentioned that they made a bad hire last year who was then let go. I asked the recruiter if they were being overly cautious because of that experience. She said that was it partly, but the bigger reason was that they had not found the “ideal” candidate. She also said she believed that all three of us were a fit and qualified for the job.

I guess they are waiting for Clark Kent to show up.

No, I think the more likely problem is that the managers doing the hiring are dopes who can’t manage their business. Sorry, but that’s not intended as hyperbole. I see this again and again. All the candidates were qualified and fit. But the managers seem ill-suited to manage a new hire.

It might be the economy that makes managers so risk-averse. Such aversion often clouds business thinking. Their companies are going to go broke while they hesitate to hire good people.

  • What’s it going to cost the company to leave this position un-filled and the job un-done for several more months?
  • What’s it going to cost when one (or all three) of those “fit and qualified” candidates join the company’s competition — and work against this employer?
  • Note to managers: These are the questions your board of directors asks. You need to start thinking like the board does, or you may be looking for a job next.

The suggestion I offered to this job seeker: Go back to the company and express your understanding and good wishes. You might as well be polite. But then demonstrate your clear-headed business thinking.

  • Propose to help them get the job done while they continue their search for Clark Kent.
  • Offer them a short-term consulting proposal based on what you learned in the interviews.
  • Outline a plan for how you can help them, but do not give them the whole enchilada so they can go do this on their own.
  • Give them just enough to show you can help ease the pain and get the job done.

Since you haven’t been able to land the job, but they clearly see you are qualified, and they are clearly hesitant to make a full-time hire, your new challenge is to get a consulting gig out of this, if you’re interested. You might not be their new hire, but you can still be their immediate solution. (See “Stand Out: How to be the profitable hire.”)

If you get in, you are likely to get hired later because you’ll be the insider. You might as well get paid while you wait it out.

You might think this approach isn’t for everyone, or for every job. However, I think it can be. Keep in mind that the purpose of every job is to get work done. If the work isn’t getting done, the employer is losing money and time. There’s more than one way to get the work done — and for you to get paid.

The point of this column: It’s up to you to suggest a creative alternative that gets the job done while that VP is looking for the perfect hire.

(Uh, Clark Kent is a fictional character. Any resemblance to an actual perfect candidate is fantasy and reveals goofy, blurred management vision.)

Dear Readers: Are employers looking too hard for “Clark Kent” when good job candidates are ready to do the job? Have you been rejected for not being “perfect,” while a job goes undone? We can get angry about this trend — or we can talk about how to help managers get the job done while they “figure it out.” What are your ideas?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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