The Perfect Album, Employee, and Other Anomalies


Figure 1: Percent of Hires with Desired Skills

Figure 1: Percent of Hires with Desired Skills

For those of us that love music, a favorite album distinguishes itself by the number of loved songs beyond the one or two songs that become radio or video singles. If you think back, which albums did you play repeatedly in their entirety? Which albums define certain phases of your life? Think about those albums that you knew the next song before it played.

The albums that we consider truly exceptional stay with us since they provide a rare level of completeness, even perfection. Growing up, I remember that I would assume that an album contained songs just like the one or two that I heard and loved from the radio. After saving money for the purchase, my logic would be that if a band that could produce such an incredible single, it must possess many more just waiting on the album. Only after purchasing the album, I would realize that many times the good songs cohabitated with “filler” songs. On those rare occasions that that album proved me wrong, I was delighted.

When we hire, we face a dilemma similar to buying an album when all we have heard is a single or two. Candidates come to interviews with their best “singles” ready to go and make their “song” as close to our tastes as possible. As a result, we tend to “get our hopes up” regarding the candidate and all of their “songs” and assume that the candidate offers the complete package. Later, after the person joins our team, we realize that the “album” mixes great songs with some less desirable.

As an example, a 2014 survey by HCS found that among 400 responding organizations in a variety of industries only two and a half percent of hired candidates possessed all of the skills and traits desired by the employer (see Figure 1). In other words, not every song was a hit. Moreover, although all respondents utilized a formal hiring process, five percent indicated that the hired candidate possessed none of the desired traits and skills. The most frequent result falls at around 60 percent of the desired characteristics with 30 and 40 percent being close seconds. Assuming that the average organization in 2014 brought in candidates with between 30 and 60 percent of skills and traits desired, what does this mean for us as human resource professionals?


  • The economic downturn did not flood the market with highly qualified people to the extent one might suppose.
  • Temporary to permanent or flexible hiring methods should rise as well as other non-traditional employment arrangements.
  • Investment in training and development should grow as new resources enter an organization.
  • As the market improves, our talent management strategy will become a larger factor in strategic differentiation.



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