There Is No Perfect Candidate: Reimagining the Interview Process

Hiring and Growth

This story will sound familiar:

A company has an open position that needed to be filled yesterday. The interview process begins and involves several members of the company. The process requires interviewing several candidates. Each interview will take many hours to conduct.

The interviewers become frustrated and disengaged from the process because they are interviewing instead of doing their tasks. Eventually, a candidate is hired. A couple months into the job, you realize that the person is not a good fit. The person is let go, and the process starts all over again.

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While hunting for the “perfect candidate” may seem like the right mindset, this approach to interviewing is fundamentally flawed for several reasons:

  • It’s extremely costly and time-consuming
  • The outcome is unpredictable
  • Decisions skew to how well a candidate interviews
  • Unconscious biases play a big role
  • It places a lot of hope on the person, which may lead to unrealistic expectations of what they can do

A Time-Tested Method

Consider this story instead:

A person starts in the mailroom, or as an apprentice. They are hard-working and continue to learn the business while furthering their skills. The person works their way up through the company.

Through this process, the company can learn a lot about the person that is very difficult to gather from interviews alone:

  • Work ethic
  • Perseverance
  • Ambition
  • Communication and collaboration style
  • Ability to learn and grow

This approach even works for major corporations. These corporations have entry-level positions and enough employees to have training programs. In fact, Walmart highlights that 75% of their store management teams started as associates, and McDonald’s takes pride in the fact that “nearly 90% of all Company-owned restaurant positions above entry level were filled by promoting in 2016”.

Stop Looking For The Mythical 'Perfect' Candidate

Instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate, understand what the basic requirements are, and look for fit and potential to grow.

“Fit” means understanding and believing in the philosophy of the company. “Potential” means the ability to learn and grow across several dimensions, including people skills, project management, and technical skills.

This approach has many benefits:

  • Hire faster
  • Focus on knowledge and skills to do near-term tasks
  • Employees can coach new skills need for future tasks
  • Evaluate the potential for long-term fit
  • Articulate possible career paths
  • Clear criteria for interviewers to train, collect and evaluate against which minimizes bias

In fact, executive search adviser Claudio Fernández-Aráoz says that after 30 years tracking executives and following their performance, “I now consider potential to be the most important predictor of success at all levels, from junior management to the C-suite and the board.” According to Fernández-Aráoz we’ve transitioned to a new era of talent spotting, where it’s not simply a question of whether new hires have the right skills, but also whether they have the potential to learn new ones.

How Do I Implement This At My Company?

While looking for fit and potential sounds great, implementing this approach to hiring is another story. So what can you do to change the way you interview?

1. Determine what knowledge and skills are “must haves” for a position, and what are “nice to haves”.

2. From that list of skills and knowledge, what does a candidate need in the first 3 months? What will the candidate need later on? What are possible career paths for the position?

3. Determine what the training capabilities are of the company. Are there others in the company that can train people on those skills? Are there other methods (courses/classes/consultants) available?

4. Take the list of skills and knowledge absolutely required in the first 3 months and include skills that would be difficult to train. Review with all the interviewers what to look for in candidates.

5. Create a posting that aligns with the required knowledge and skills.

6. Interview the candidates and evaluate them based on the same criteria

7. Hire!

By adopting this process instead of focusing your efforts on finding the “perfect” candidate, you can better evaluate the fit and potential of a prospective hire.

Create A Learning Culture

Implementing a learning culture during the interviewing process can also be used more broadly to become a fundamental part of how a company functions. Employees will learn and grow which will have them more engaged in their positions.

Giving your employees opportunities to learn and grow will increase their productivity, reduce employee turnover and facilitate innovation.


It’s clear that a company’s approach to interviewing can have long-term effects on employees and the overall function of the company. As a result, redirecting money, time, and effort towards a more practical way to hire new employees—instead of a frustrating process that relies on a lot of luck with no continuing upside—can have impressive results.

Written by Amit Jain, Co-Founder & CEO at Reflectivity

Reflectivity provides training for individuals and companies in people skills. Our training enables individuals at any skill level to improve themselves, understand their fellow team members and help their team succeed.