If you haven't recently, try spending a few minutes reading a few postings on one of the job web sites (CareerBuilder, Monster, Workopolis, etc). The typical full time job posting details the job's functions and qualifications for candidates. It may also give a bit of background about the company and its leadership position in its industry, its challenging atmosphere, and that it's a great place to work with terrific benefits.

Those applying provide all information electronically, usually a combination of a resume and some additional information use for screening applicants to select the few that meet those qualifications for further review. Screening is often an exercise in keyword searches, and the results will only be those candidates whose input included all of the words (the highest "buzzword bingo" scores). And there's the problem. All of this is done without evaluating the person as a whole. There is no room for someone whose career path doesn't fit the perceived norm. For example, is a PMP designation required for your routine projects? Have project managers with the PMP performed better in your environment than those without it? Of course, some roles may require a designation (e.g. CISSP) to meet industry standards, but are you using certifications as a way to reduce the number of resumes you need to read?

In the past year or so, with a tight economy and hiring freezes, there were few jobs to hire for and hundreds of job seekers for every opening. In a buyer's market, people with experience and qualifications far exceeding the job's needs could be found. A great deal while it lasts, but false economy. That person will move on as soon as the economy loosens up, maybe for better pay, but certainly for challenges commensurate with their abilities. It may be that the person who "fit" the needs of the job didn't make it through the keyword screening: she didn't have a PMP, he had 10 years experience but only two of those in your industry instead of the 3 years total specified, had a college certificate instead of a university degree.

But you understood this when you wrote the job requirements to be more flexible, with mandatory and desirable components. Did you tell your next level screening processor, the human recruiter, that your desirables weren't an absolute list either? If not, everything becomes mandatory and the only candidates you see will exactly match those requirements, whether that's what you want or need. Fully meeting every specification is great if you're buying hardware, but people aren't neatly packaged.

Are those skills/experience/certifications really what's needed for the job and for an employee that you can keep and grow on the job? Do you want all of your staff to have similar experience such that new ideas or ways of doing things aren't being considered? Did the previous person in that role have those qualifications? What things made them successful? What were the areas where they could have been stronger? Or if it didn't work out, what were the reasons?

No one has the luxury of a long training cycle. We're looking to hire someone who can contribute on day one. Of course, that's not realistic. Technical skills aside, every organisation has policies, procedures, and folkways that have to be learned by anyone joining in order for them to become effective. Where in your screening process are you looking at determining whether a candidate will be able to "get up to speed" both technically and more importantly, as part of your team, quickly? What are the attributes needed for a person to thrive within your organization's unique culture? And how important is direct industry experience versus looking more broadly to gain fresh insights from other similar industries (transaction processing in financial services versus education or healthcare)?

With the economy showing signs of turning around, your hiring practices may need to follow.