Discovery Candidacy

“Endurance is patience concentrated.”
— Thomas Carlyle

The last six years at Brick House have revealed many important milestones and learnings. One of the greatest things I’ve take away thus far, is that people and candidates are a mixture of what you want and some of what you don’t necessarily want—and that’s the reality of life, human interaction and recruiting. I’ve become more accustomed to seeing and appreciating the good in people and talking through, and often resolving the “issues” I see at first blush. I used to think that the critical skill for recruiting was just that; to have a judicious eye that could accurately sort out candidates that didn’t fit the remit. Now, I feel and see my own growth in just the opposite which encourages inclusively seeing the pieces that do fit, working through the issues that seem out of line and teasing out the relevancies that aren’t obvious. The search solutions I am most proud of aren’t the obvious slam dunks, but more the discovered gems that when we dug deep and got beyond some initial obstacles against the remit, we found great relevancies in a candidate and then helped clients discover and appreciate the same in their own dialogues.

The reality to which I’m referring is that there is no perfect candidate because there are no perfect people. However, there are those that fit our expectations closer or quicker. The trick, and where the growth has been for me, is in flexing how the expectations might allow other possibilities and investigating more patiently into how people really do fit. I call this “discovery candidacy.”

The best piece of discovery candidacy that I’ve gained, is the idea to see the person, which entails looking past specific job specs and category experience. Circumstantial experience is too often overlooked and undervalued but I’ve gained an immense appreciation and perhaps, predilection to see the whole person. The company from where the candidate may come or the type of product they’ve worked on will certainly impact their success, but who they are as a person and their value system is the greatest accelerator.

I’ve also learned to acknowledge that most everyone can make mistakes along the way in their career. The key is how transparently they deal with them and the evidence of growth following. I think it is important to gain a perspective from candidates on motivations or reasons for career changes, which allows us to understand more about them.

We use Position Briefs and find them to be crucial tools to the idea of discovery candidacy because they help the candidates understand the company’s vision and culture. With this tool in their hand, we ask them to absorb the brief, do some further research on their own and then we ask them to provide the relevancies that they feel they possess. Of course, we ask plenty of our own questions to discover pertinent experience and background, but often only candidates can reveal the hidden pieces.

Another important aspect of discovery candidacy is to push on with candidates with demonstrable interest even when you aren’t convinced they are “the one.” Too often, we see companies hold too close to the vest and they do not show enough earnest energy and interest because they think that should only be reserved for when they have “the one” in hand. The problem is that “the one” slips away early from searches sometimes before they are possibly fully recognized when they don’t sense mutual energy and interest. The net is that all good candidates need the same attentiveness and appreciative interest until it’s determined that they aren’t the selected candidate. We try to advise not to save the company’s “good stuff” for the early leaders.

We also push to see enough bracketed views of candidates in order to fully appreciate them because interviews shouldn’t be the only part of the process where we are evaluating them. I’ve often held importance to seeing how candidates respond to the little things that pop up during a search and these reactions often tell us more than anything a resume or portfolio could because they reveal the true representation of the person. I’ve often likened this to the idea of taking someone to dinner to see how they respond to the people and surroundings at the restaurant. How do they treat people when they think no one is watching? Several times I have felt great about a candidate at the beginning of a search and as the process continued saw character flaws that made me question who they really are; certainly the opposite has happened with people that I initially didn’t feel strongly for but by the time an offer came, I held the highest regard for them because of how they handled themselves. We have learned the importance of allowing our view of a candidate to ebb and flow a bit if they aren’t initially a fit against the remit.

One point for clarity on discovering candidates: we aren’t wasting time with unqualified candidates and wouldn’t want you to do so either. The central aspect here is patience for allowing these relationships and appreciation to develop over time in order to effectively and successfully identify the right people for the right position and company. Discovery candidacy is something we have grown into and have learned to appreciate. It can have significant impact on recruiting. It’s not magic, but it is an approach that can create growth in all of us.

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