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When you should decline the perfect candidate


Perfect candidate

Advocating for your perfect candidate against your boss’s advice is a Career Limiting Move

When hiring the perfect candidate is career suicide

I have heard the words, “perfect candidate” several times in the past few weeks. Colleagues (outside of the company I work with) feel they have found the perfect candidate. After hearing similar stories, I concluded that these colleagues were committing a CLM, AKA – Career Limiting Move. In most cases, the hiring manager was relatively new to hiring. The qualifications that made the “perfect hire” were a combination of the below:

The hiring manager:

  • and the candidate had personal chemistry and felt like they would work well together.
  • had a prior work history and knew the candidate would bring a lot to the table.
  • thought the candidate was not just qualified, they were overqualified.

It’s a commitment to make a hire

Below are just a few steps to finding the perfect candidate. Moving forward, I am going to refer to the hiring manager as “you”. You are the hiring manager. I want you in this mindset, so you avoid this CLM.  

As the hiring manager, you:

  1. Work with the recruiter to figure out a job description.
  2. Work with the recruiter and your boss to figure out a salary band.
  3. Wait for the specific day your analytics show it is the best day of the week/month to post a job on the various boards.
  4. Check the Applicant Tracking System to see “Did any candidates apply yet? Is the job post working?”
  5. Sort eligible resumes to narrow them down to “Quals” or qualified candidates.
  6. We may email five Quals, of which only three respond. (insert heartache here)
  7. Schedule phone screen with three of the five candidates. . .
  8. Schedule interviews with one of two candidates who made it through the phone screen.
  9. You conduct in-personal / video interviews.
  10. Your team conducts interviews.
  11. You present the candidate to the hiring manager’s boss.

Emotional Connection

The result of the above process is an “emotional” connection to our candidate. We have invested so much time and energy, we are “invested” in the final candidate. No one sees the perfect fit like a hiring manager selling a desired candidate to their boss. 

The above are just a few of the steps to finding a final candidate. There are more actions behind each step. I absolutely understand how a hiring manager can get “emotionally attached” to their candidate. There were 100 resumes, and we whittled the selection down to one last candidate.  No hiring manager wants to lose “the one”.

But your manager or you’re your manager’s boss, doesn’t care for the candidate. Your boss utters the dreaded words, “NO HIRE.” Your manager saw something that we missed, or they just aren’t seeing what we observed.

Eight times out of ten, you and your boss have a conversation and see our boss was right. Their experience found something we missed, and we started to look at the next candidate.  

Frustrated vs. PISSED

One time out of ten, we, as hiring managers don’t entirely agree with our boss, but we see the boss’s point and know what to look for in the next candidate.

In the last candidate out of 10, there is a complete miss in what both parties are seeing or missing in the candidate. Your boss is frustrated with us as the hiring manager. (They may not say they are pissed, but trust me, they don’t want to fight this battle with you) We, as the hiring manager who found a perfect candidate, are PISSED.  All this time, all this effort, and we have the PERRRFEECTTT candidate!

This is when you should drop your candidate, count your losses, and move on.  Here are just a few of the consequences. I am NOT saying these are fair. In most cases, they are not fair. The reality is that after seeing hiring managers hire a candidate their boss didn’t appreciate, the same themes emerge:

No boss wants to argue with their direct report

Remember, they are “the boss”.  We report to them. They will have a rational discussion, but it is human nature to avoid an argument. 

In some cases, it is easier to let you, the hiring manager, make a bad hire than it is to have a hard conversation. Some managers don’t have the managerial courage or patience to try and explain/debate/argue with a direct report. The more at stake, the more intense the conversation will be. If we have a reputation for being stubborn, they may not even start the conversation.  

When you make a bad hire, you:

  • look bad in the eyes of your managers.
  • have the heartache of working with your badly hired employee.
  • hear the rest of the team complain about your hire.
  • go through steps 1-11+ all over again to find a replacement.

Silent Probation

The candidate doesn’t know they are on unwritten probation with your boss. Every time the candidate underperforms, your boss adds another strike against the candidate, and a strike against you the hiring manager. Your boss may or may not say anything about the little misses your hire makes. They probably won’t say anything for a while. But trust me, the steam is building.

Your candidate is literally on “silent probation.” Even if you convince your boss to “agree” with you, this isn’t fair to the candidate. Your boss “agreed” that it was OK to hire the candidate, but in reality, they don’t agree. The boss has a preconceived attitude that this candidate will fail.

Your new hire will not receive the support from your boss that other new hires receive. Where other candidates hear a sincere “good morning” from your boss, your new hire will not. Where other folks on your team are receiving opportunities and kudos for a job well done, your employee will not. There will be a negative bias. 

Your boss has the memory of an elephant

You are not winning any favors with your boss when you go against them. You didn’t recognize your boss’s experience or wisdom. Even if you are right, and your boss is wrong, your boss is the one that determines your salary adjustment, the projects you receive, and your review. These situations won’t be forgotten.

Remember, hiring, onboarding, and training a new hire is one of the costliest things a company can do. Hiring the wrong person will cost money, delay projects, and weaken credibility.

Now think about the conversation your boss will have with their boss.  Trust me, they are not going to be supportive. They will turn this loss into a win (for them)

Boss’s Boss: I interviewed that last candidate and I don’t think they can be successful in the role.

Your Boss: Yes, I agree. I am not a big fan either. You shouldn’t have interviewed them. But “Doesn’t Listen” Dan feels this is a great hire, and we aren’t seeing it. Sometimes, the best lessons learned are the hard ones. I recommended we continue the search, but Dan disagrees.  I believe this will be a great learning lesson for Dan. It’s not really fair to the candidate, but the candidate isn’t employed now, so we aren’t taking them out of a job. . .

Boss’s Boss: Well, for Dan’s sake, I hope we are both wrong, but my money is that we will do another search in 3 months.

Next time you find the perfect candidate and your boss doesn’t agree, have the conversation but don’t make the candidate the hill you die over. 

See you at the after-party


Look for future posts: How to ensure you get your candidate and how to manage the wrong hire up out.



nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with the result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone good at something. “He has a nasty forkball.”

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