Chasing the Unicorn: The Search for the “Perfect” Candidate

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Straight Answers to Real Questions

Question: I am the Vice President, Human Resources in a $100mm high tech, TSX listed, manufacturing firm in Markham. Our CFO has asked my assistance in recruiting someone for a newly created Director of Finance role. She’s given me a lengthy laundry list of attributes and qualifications for the type of person she looking for and I’m starting to get concerned that I may be looking for the mythical unicorn.

For example, not only is she looking for someone with public company reporting experience, she wants a minimum of three years’ experience with public reporting. And she wants someone who’s done a soup to nuts ERP implementation. And someone with significant M&A experience. And experience in high tech manufacturing. I’ve tapped into my network, posted the position online and my team has been running LinkedIn searches but we’re getting nowhere. What do I do?


Answer: It’s usually a very good sign that it will be a successful search when I talk to a client who has a very clear idea of the type of person they would like for their role and is specific about the key criteria they’re looking for.

However, these clients understand that the candidates I’ll recruit for them will have those criteria in different measures. One candidate may have tons of the specific industry experience asked for, and have some of the M&A experience the client was looking for but not a lot of it. Another candidate may have a wealth of M&A experience but may have only had two years working in the client’s particular industry.

The client accepts that the candidates they interview will not necessarily meet all of their criteria perfectly. But in most cases, as long as the client’s key criteria are present in some material way on the person’s resume, if they have the right personality profile they will be considered viable candidates.

However, every now and then, I’ll talk to a prospective client who rolls like your CFO and insists on the exact measure of experience the candidates must have with each criterion. In which case I advise them that if they  want me to restrict my search to candidates that perfectly match all of their key criteria without compromise the search won’t yield much of a short list. In fact, it may not yield any viable candidates at all. As much as we all want to find the “perfect candidate”, there is inevitably some give and take  involved in every hiring situation.

My advice to you is to let your CFO know that if she isn’t willing to accept some compromise in this search, she may find that she’ll still be looking for her “perfect candidate” this time next year.

If you think you may be in the market for top financial talent in the next few months, call me direct or email me, for a no obligation consultation.

(416) 567-7782 [email protected]

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