Stop trying to hire a unicorn: How to create the best employees


While every hiring manager’s job is to recruit the best candidate possible, his or her dream is to hire this perfect (pretty much non-existent) person to fill a specific role at their organization. After looking at what skills the team needs, they go forth in search of this mystical unicorn: someone who writes clean code, builds networks, designs amazing layouts and is a security guru and data whiz. Oh, and they probably known 10 languages (not just programming ones), stay informed on ALL technology updates, get along with everyone great and work seven days a week.

But looking for these imaginary employees is a misguided effort. And chasing the pipe dream–of finding not only a jack, but a master of all trades–it can end up financially handicapping your company. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that turnover costs of hiring someone who isn't a company culture fit amounts to a loss of 50-60 percent of that person's annual salary.

Hiring managers who waste time looking for the perfect candidate are missing out on amazing future employees because of a perceived skills gap. From our experience, great employees are made, not found. Here are five tips to help you mold your employees into exactly what your company needs.

Fix your job postings

Unrealistic expectations often start with the job description. A list of qualifications a mile long can scare off perfectly capable candidates, leaving hiring managers frustrated with the volume or quality of applicants they receive. 

This problem has a simple fix: if you can pare down job descriptions to the key skills your team needs to succeed, the right candidates will roll in. Though it may take more work upfront, you’ll soon realize what you are looking for in a new hire – a great culture fit first, with the potential to grow into the skills they need with proper training

Look for concrete cultural values

The first thing you should look for in a candidate is whether they’ll embrace your organization’s culture. If you haven’t established company values yet, now is the time to do so. Look to your leaders and best employees to find the qualities they share to build out your values. Once you have your values, tie them to actions. 

Communicate those values to everyone involved in the hiring process and craft interview questions–like these– that shed light on the candidate's alignment to those values. If an applicant isn’t open to improving, has the wrong personality for the job or is difficult to work with, their hard skills won’t matter.

Hire for potential and flexibility

Ask for concrete examples of a time in a candidate’s career when they didn't have the answers to a problem, and how they solved it. People with a growth mindset will show that they are capable of taking initiative and working hard.

Seemingly every week, a new technology emerges that suddenly becomes critical to your company’s success—and a new learning mindset needs to be in place. If you have hired someone agile who is willing to adapt and change the way they have done things before, they will have a better chance of succeeding. If they are flexible, that’s an indicator they are teachable. This is especially important if they don’t come prepackaged with all the technical skills you want.

Identify which skills to train 

Try to nail down what you want your new hire to be able to do right when they walk in the door. Which skills will they need to make an impact immediately? If you need another graphic designer more than anything, hire a designer with a great portfolio, even if they don’t know the difference between HTML and CSS. They can learn beginner code when it’s necessary for them to do so. 

When the time comes to fill gaps in their skills, you have numerous options. Have them shadow one of their veteran coworkers, find a mentor, attend a bootcamp or turn to online learning. If they have the potential to be great, give them the opportunity to be. 

Build a culture of learning

Keeping your team on top of their game doesn't stop at the interview table—show your employees you care about their professional development by making continual learning a priority. If you show your employees you care about their professional development, you’ll build a culture where your employees want to learn how to do something instead of finding someone to do it for them.

Find your unicorn

You know how fast and how easy it is for skills to depreciate, so stop looking at what great candidates don't have and start looking at what they do. For companies looking to fill technical positions, hire people that are committed to your company culture, and then invest in their professional development. You can then cultivate the unicorn you were looking for all along.

Get the guide: You don't need to hire a unicorn: How to train the perfect employee



Pluralsight is the technology skills platform. We enable individuals and teams to grow their skills, accelerate their careers and create the future.