Your team has an open position, and you are responsible for filling that position with the right candidate. Like all hiring managers you receive a flood of resumes from interested candidates after you advertise the position on Idealist, Philanthropy.com, or one of the other nonprofit job sites.
Of course, about half of the applicants aren’t qualified for the position and are easy to remove from consideration. Examples of dead weight candidates who are easy to eliminate include:
Even after eliminating candidates the dead weight candidates, you will likely still have a dozen or more candidates who appear qualified. Occasionally, however, none of these candidates will impress you. They seem “okay” but not a perfect fit for the position or the organization.
You now face the age-old question: do you hire the “best candidate” who is not a perfect fit or leave the position open?
As a supervisor, I’ve been in this position multiple times and can attribute my biggest failures and successes as a manager to my decision at this point.
When it comes time to make this decision, there is a lot of pressure to settle for the candidate that seems sufficient but not stellar. A few of these pressure points include:
It’s human nature to take action that makes our pain go away, so the easy “solution” is to hire the candidate who is sufficient but not a good fit. This solution is only easier for the short term, however, and the decision actually causes us more pain in the future. Here’s how:
I have learned the hard way that it is better to leave a position unfilled and continue looking for the right candidate. Of course, I often need to double my recruitment efforts to find good candidates for the position the second time. This may include:
While the position remains unfilled, you and your team will feel pressure from the pain points outlined earlier in this post. There are a few ways to decrease the short-term pain, though many of them require long-term planning:
Leaving a position vacant can be a tough call, and you will feel pressure to fill the position quickly. It’s always better, however, to say “We can’t take the next step in this initiative/program/organization until we fill the position responsible for its achievement.”
When you feel the pressure from direct reports, subordinates, and supervisors, repeat this mantra “Our long-term success depends on finding the right candidate for this position.” Trust me, you will always regret attempting to move the initiative or program forward with the wrong candidate.
As an aside, I think the philosophy “an empty seat is better than a bad hire” also applies to the Board of Directors. Don’t fill a board seat just because “we have a vacancy and this person is better than the others we’ve interviewed.”