Recruitment Funnel

“I’m suggesting that you widen the top of your recruiting funnel”

Are you still chasing your “purple squirrel” – that one candidate who meets every requirement and qualification listed in your job ad? I hate to break it to you, but like a purple squirrel, the perfect candidate doesn’t exist… well, at least in the way you have envisioned.

That’s not to say there aren’t highly skilled and experienced applicants out there, aptly qualified for your role. However, holding out for the picture-perfect hire isn’t bringing you any closer to winning the talent war, especially in a labor market where open positions outnumber people to fill them. Not only might you overlook a great potential employee, but you’ll also incur costs for every day a position remains vacant.

I’m not suggesting rushing your hiring decision or tossing prerequisites out the window. Rather, I’m suggesting that you widen the top of your recruiting funnel just enough to increase your chances of finding the right talent in a timely, cost-effective manner. The first step involves shifting your focus from hiring solely based on qualifications to hiring for attributes.

Qualifications vs. Attributes

“There aren’t enough qualified applicants in my talent pool. Everyone who applies for my job is underqualified!” Sound familiar? Without a doubt, finding qualified talent is one of today’s top recruiting challenges, but are hiring professionals being overly picky?

If your job ad contains all “must-haves” – nonnegotiable skillsets, certifications, years of experience, and more – you’re in trouble. Instead of automatically disqualifying anyone who doesn’t meet every single one of your prerequisites, stop for a moment and think about attributes. Which qualities and characteristics does your candidate have that would make them an excellent fit for the role? Perhaps the applicant has transferable skills that lend themselves well to the position, filling in gaps.

A few months ago, we were hiring a client relationship manager. While our job ad specified that the ideal candidate should have five years of experience in sales or account management, we ended up hiring a former school principal. Although she had no direct sales experience, her attributes lined up perfectly with what we were looking for in this role: exceptional relationship building and communication skills, outstanding attention to detail, and a strong work ethic (to name a few).

While our hire was not necessarily our “ideal candidate” on paper, we recognized the characteristics and transferable skills that would make her our ideal employee. Everything else – the day-to-day workflows, tools, and technologies – can be taught quickly when you have the right person with the right attributes aboard.

What about overqualification?

Given the battle for qualified talent, rejecting overqualified talent seems counterintuitive. Yet overqualification has become a common reason for eliminating applicants from talent pools, especially as older adults delay retirement and experienced individuals return to work after a career hiatus.

GEM Recruiting AI

While some employers argue that a seasoned employee comes at a higher price point, claim that an older worker wouldn’t mesh well with their “hip” young, startup-like culture, or worry that the employee will work for a few years then retire, let me ask you this: what’s the cost of not filling that open position?

If you are hesitant to hire an “overqualified” candidate, consider how you can leverage their experience to help younger employees grow and learn. Or, if they’ve been out of the workforce for a while, train or “reskill” them (have you heard of “returnships?”). In such situations, gauge their appetite for learning. If they have a desire to continually learn and improve, then you may have found a home run of a hire. In short, don’t let overqualification prevent you from hiring the best possible candidate.

Rethink Culture Fit

My final suggestion for widening your recruiting funnel entails hiring for culture fit. Even the most experienced, qualified candidate can be the wrong hire if they don’t blend well with your company’s culture and align with your values. But too often, employers equate hiring for culture fit as hiring people who are just like everyone else. For example, I’ve heard employers say, “We all have such bubbly personalities here, this candidate will fit right in!” That’s not hiring for culture fit.

For a thriving workplace, you need individuals with different personalities and points of view; a workforce that acts, thinks, and talks alike don’t make for a strong company culture, nor does it help with innovation and growth. Yes, you should still hire for culture fit (you want your new employee to be happy and avoid costly turnover), but rethink what you mean by “culture fit” before you disqualify an otherwise viable candidate from your pool.

Widen Your Funnel

If you’re struggling to find qualified talent, it’s an opportune time to experiment with a wider recruiting funnel. Take a step back and define what you mean by “qualified” – is there room for you to loosen your requirements and focus on candidate attributes? Do applicants in your talent pool have transferable skills that make up for any shortcomings? Also, rethink your sentiments about overqualified applicants and reconsider how you hire for culture fit.

If you’re concerned about making your funnel too wide (no hiring manager has time to sift through hundreds and hundreds of irrelevant applicants), consider quality over quantity approach to talent acquisition. For example, leverage referrals from current employees or try an industry-focused job board (and, if the candidate doesn’t have the precise skillset you seek, their knowledge of a specific industry is a “plus”).

Even if your purple squirrel doesn’t exist, your next great hire is out there somewhere. You just need to best position yourself to find them – before your competitor does.



Jason Hayes is VP of Employer Sales and Customer Success at iHire, a career-oriented platform that connects candidates and employers across 56 industry-focused communities. Since 2006, he has progressed through numerous positions at iHire and kept his finger on the pulse of market changes and trends affecting job seekers as well as hiring professionals. Hayes is instrumental in building and sustaining iHire’s own workplace culture of excellence, innovation, and growth, and serves as a trusted resource for his team as well as iHire’s clients for finding the right talent in this competitive market.