Kathryn Kendall

Up Close and Personnel

Recruitment Choices: Why It Never Pays To Settle For Second Best

I’ve blogged before about my frustrations with recruitment. Recruitment, at times, can seem like something of a dark art. You post a job advert which elicits a huge response and end up finding your perfect candidate. You post the same advert just one month later, get merely a handful of responses and are left with the Hobson’s choice of recruiting a seriously sub-standard candidate, or recruiting no one at all.

This year, the recruitment market appears to be tougher than I’ve known it at almost any other point during my career. The war for talent is being fought fiercer and tougher than ever, and the limited talent out there in the market can take their pick of roles. For whatever reason, people seem to be choosing to sit tight this year and take fewer risks when it comes to considering career moves. The net result is that stand out candidates are currently few and far between.

Benefex, like a number of organisations out there, continues to enjoy rapid growth. We have a number of live vacancies currently and are eager to expand our teams. When good candidates are in short supply, the temptation, therefore, is to consider settling for second best.

The temptation to settle for second best

It is easily done. You’ve been recruiting for a role for a period of time. Perhaps you have already seen your dream candidate slip through your fingertips, lured to another organisation by promises of the earth. You have a choice. You can either start the whole recruitment process again… or you can go back to your second choice of candidate.

Now, it would be incorrect to say that this is always the wrong thing to do. I have actually had candidates who were initially second choice for a role turn out to be substantially better fits than I believe the original candidate would have been. Second choice doesn’t always mean that it’s the wrong choice. But… it is all about understanding the reasons as to why they were your second choice. Were they second in line because the first choice candidate was just stand out… or were they second in line because you actually have some fairly major niggles over their ability to succeed in the role?

Ignoring the warning signs

We have all done it. We have all ignored those niggles and thought, hoped, prayed that it would work out okay. Perhaps we’ve blamed them on interview nerves, or personal bias, or them just having a bit of an off day. But, the cold and hard fact is that we feel those concerns that something is not quite right for a reason. They are the warning signs, the signs that actually, this is unlikely to be a recruitment choice which is going to work out. And where we ignore them, we do so at our peril.

The thing is, where we choose to take on our second choice candidate, despite those niggles, it’s actually not fair on either us or on the candidate. We have a duty to the individuals we already employ, to the team that person is going to go and work within. Where we bring on someone who we know, in our heart of hearts, is not up to standard, we do that team a disservice.

And for the candidate themselves, we do them a disservice also. Making the decision to move roles is one of the biggest changes we make during our career. If the organisation we are being interviewed at feels we are not quite right for the role, yet recruits us anyway, it gets the employment relationship off to a rocky start from the outset by dint of the fact that they have chosen not to be entirely honest with us.

A responsibility not to compromise

Trying to find the perfect candidate in a stagnant recruitment market can be incredibly frustrating. But, in the long term, recruiting a candidate who is second best and who, in your heart of hearts, you know will never deliver what is needed, will lead to even more frustration. Your gut feeling is there for a reason. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t… and you have a responsibility both to the candidate and to your organisation not to compromise, and only recruit into your business those with the ability to really deliver something amazing.


Why I Don’t Believe Job Descriptions Are Worth The Paper They’re Written On


“It’s Not Fair!” – And Why It Needs To Be


  1. Ali Lanning

    Agree that recruitment is tough right now, market conditions heavily weighted in favour of job hunters (although I actually that makes for a healthier long-term employment space – another post perhaps!).

    I’m sure you’ve covered this before, but I see it as a broken recruitment process rather than a broken market. Interviews are often convoluted for no real reason, and the false interview conditions mean you have to be almost psychic as a recruiter to know who should be your first, second, third choice. I’ve been proved wrong many times, just lucky enough that my good choices were really good choices I think.

    There’s just got to be a better way of building great teams, whether it sits in recommendation-based solutions or something else. I’m personally even starting to lean away from needs-based recruitment as a thought process, and looking more towards a continual ‘great fit’ journey of matching employer and employee.

    • Kathryn Kendall

      Hi Ali,

      Totally agree, I think the fundamental process of recruitment is in many ways deeply flawed and presents an artificial environment within which both sides are expected to make a decision without a true sense of each other. Definitely agree also that moving away from needs-based recruitment provides a far better chance to get things right, and my approach is very much to continually look out for great people who will benefit from and be able to contribute to our culture – regardless of whether they fit into exactly the box we’re looking to fill at that precise moment in time.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment 🙂

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