Tag Archives: Recession

The Elusive “Perfect Fit” Employee

mid section view of a man holding his resume

In the midst of our recession, lots of nonprofit jobs have been shed, which puts lots of qualified people on the street competing for a small number of jobs. That has created a buyers’ market for nonprofit employers, and I’m hearing dismaying stories from job seekers that organizations love their qualifications but are holding out for the holy grail: the “perfect fit” employee.

Just recently I got an email from a nonprofit that concedes they’ve met a number of strong candidates, but is still holding out for the perfect fit. They went on to ask would I now give additional thought to their search, to come up with even stronger candidates I may know, as if I held the very best people in reserve when my suggestions were solicited a month ago. “Yeah, in the last 30 days I’ve met three people who are better than all the people I’ve met in my 13 years working around nonprofits.”

Actually, now that I know how particular you’re being, I regret subjecting my initial referrals to your unwinnable contest, and I certainly will not put anyone else through it. You want a second round of candidates, even better qualified than the strong candidates you’ve already seen? Bite the bullet and hire a recruiter. That referral I’d be happy to make.

Better still, stop. Hire one of the strong candidates.

The job I’m looking at has 15 bulleted qualifications and an equal number of sub-requirements. A few are boilerplate, like “team player”, “highly organized” and “effective communicator.” I can’t imagine there are more than a handful of people who meet all these 30 requirements, and how many of those are in transition? How many of those in transition will see this posting? And accept the salary, benefits and location? Give it up. You won’t find the perfect fit.

Businesspeople in a meeting

To go a bit further, and echo advice I’ve given clients, don’t look for a professional fundraiser who has “established relationships within the philanthropic community.” That’s a euphemism for “has a Rolodex” and is appropriate only to a board member search. A professional fundraiser isn’t going to leverage for your benefit relationships she’s made through employment in other nonprofits. That’s unethical and unseemly. When she leaves your employ, would you like her to do that for her next employer?

To those looking for the perfect fit, I say, “Stop.” Your expectations are unreasonable. Hire the best strong candidate you’ve met and let them grow and mature into the position and learn what they don’t already know. Stop looking for the “perfect fit.” Perfection doesn’t exist.