The Dimensions of a Qualified Candidate, Part 1:

If I were to ask you, “What is a qualified candidate?” what would your answer be? If you are like most people I coach, you’d say something along the lines of, “someone who has the right experience,” or “someone with the right background.” You might follow up by telling me that a qualified candidate has to fit your “culture,” a characteristic that’s difficult to assess during an interview- what it really means is, “Do I like you?” (and perhaps, to a lesser degree, “Do you like me?”)

Most hiring managers (and recruiters) believe that, if they can find the right background and experience in a candidate, they are 90 percent of the way home.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

So, if experience, background and a modest culture-fit assessment aren’t sufficient, what are the criteria for a “qualified candidate?” I like to talk with my clients about it in terms of four dimensions. Understanding how these four characteristics impact your hiring strategy will make you more effective at getting the people you want to join your company by making you more effective when it comes to the recruiting process. Here’s how I define the quintessential characteristics of a qualified candidate.

Dimension 1: The “right” background/experience.

The right background or experience should be considered the “traditional dimension” of what it means to be qualified, and it’s pretty straightforward. You want a candidate with a particular set of experiences that comes from a company or industry that plays in the same sandbox as yours. You determine what amount of experience is sufficient to be successful in the role. You might identify some of those experiences as critical to succeeding in the role.

 Dimension 2: The Money Match.

As reported by, there is a movement around the country to ban “the money question.” The goal is to fight gender-based wage discrimination. I get it, and I applaud the effort, but a ban is the wrong way to approach this issue; it risks wasting everyone’s time. Companies have budgets for positions. People have requirements for their standard of living. Most people view talking about money as deep water. It isn’t.

Here is some truth: not everyone is paid the same, because not everyone is worth the same pay. Different experiences, different accomplishments, and the subjective long-term view of someone’s value to an organization all go into calculating how much someone should be paid. It has nothing to do with wearing a suit or pumps. It has to do with what the candidate has done, what she’s achieved, and how relevant her previous work will be to this specific job (as well as her potential for more and greater responsibility going forward).

Dimension 3: Willingness to leave their current employer.

You might assume that your candidate sent a resume, is taking your call, or is even sitting across the desk from you because she is ready to leave her current job. Don’t be naive. Your assumption is fine; not determining if it’s accurate is foolish. You need to explore the reasons why someone would leave, what they don’t have and determine if you can provide what is missing currently. See Dimension 4.

Dimension 4: A good reason to leave.

Is the candidate’s reason or motivation to make a change and leave his current company compelling, AND can your company provide what he’s looking for?

A few examples of good reasons to leave might include feeling that he can’t grow or learn in his current environment; suffering through four bosses in the past year; grappling with three territory changes in the last 15 months; or being recently acquired and having his capabilities be wasted within the new company.

Now you know what to look for in a qualified candidate, but do you know how to get the information you need? In Part 2, I’ll provides four strategies that will move your hiring process to the next level. Look for Part 2 tomorrow!

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