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Why You Shouldn't Overlook Desperate Job Candidates

You look to hire candidates who want to work at your company because that's what they want to do, not just because it pays the bills. But is that such a bad thing?
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Kathryn recently went on a job interview and felt like she nailed it. In fact, the hiring manager started talking about start dates, so she was shocked when she spoke to the recruiter the following morning and found out that company had decided she wasn't a "good fit." Kathryn pushed the recruiter for additional feedback, which the recruiter reluctantly shared. Her problem? She seemed too desperate for the job.

Desperation is a big turn off for many employers. This, of course, has some logic behind it. Desperate people will take any job they are offered and employers don't like that. They want someone who wants this job, because otherwise, the employee is likely to leave when something better comes along.

So, avoiding the desperate means you have less of a chance of hiring someone who isn't a good fit. But, let's be honest here, have you ever been desperate?

I have been. It took me a while to land a job after finishing graduate school, because let's face it, how many job openings do you see that say, "Help Wanted: Political Scientist. Must be able to discuss Nietzsche and do regression analysis." Yep, that was me. So, was I pretty desperate by the time I finally landed a job? Yes. Am I grateful that the hiring manager didn't say, "Gee, I can see that she's been out of school for five months. She must be living off credit cards and noodle ramen. Let's not hire her." Yes.

For some reason, it's okay for businesses to not be perfect, but not job candidates. Businesses underpay, misrepresent how flexible their schedules really are, and often have bad managers. Yet, if a job candidate comes across as someone who desperately wants to get back to work (or wants to change jobs), we reject them. Which leaves candidates who are currently unemployed (or are in bad jobs) in the weird position of having to pretend that they are fabulously wealthy and just want to get a job to get them out of the house for a bit.

Isn't that ridiculous? People need money and we want them to get that through working. So, before you reject someone because they want any job, consider if the job you are offering is perfect. Could you possibly be underpaying? If so, then you should be thrilled that you've found someone who is worth more than you can pay, even if it's for a short time. Is your staff overworked? If so, you should be doing a happy dance that you've found someone who is willing to put up with your crazy demands. Do you have developmental opportunities? If not, you should be glad that you've found someone that wants to move forward with their career, but is willing to work for you for a time.

Additionally, keep in mind that most people are not great at job interviews and those that are great at interviewing aren't necessarily the best at working. Someone who projects desperation may have the exact skills you need in the job. Don't discount them because of a bad interview.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people don't stay at jobs for 20 years any more. Your perfect candidate isn't likely to stay that much longer than the person who took the job out of desperation.

Your first priority should be hiring someone who can do a fabulous job, and sometimes that person is desperate for a job. Don't reject on that basis alone.

One Potentially Humorous Way to Weed Out Job Applicants

Jennifer Walzer, CEO of Backup My Info!, offers a strategic hiring tactic you probably haven't used before.

Last updated: Jul 2, 2014

SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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