Having a conversation with a friend, PA, whose business is in the creative branding arena, and he was complaining about the variable quality of people who have answered their job advertisements. Well, of course they are!

What do you expect?  Just sticking an ad on the internet is a simple invitation for every fruitcake out there to apply for the job.

The real problem is that the sheer number of applicants might mean that the truly qualified candidates get crowded out; their application overlooked in the deluge of respondents.

PA’s main complaint was that ‘they aren’t fit for purpose’. The people with vestigial skills who present themselves as being proficient and knowledgeable, trying to give the impression of having full command in an area of expertise and really knowing what they are doing.

We’re all familiar with ineptitude and it comes in many forms: the candidate who thinks he can do anything even though he has no direct experience; the taxi driver who only wants to go to certain parts of town; the chef who insists on preparing a dish the way he likes it, and only that way; the outdoor shooting range the size of a tennis court in a residential area where they use guns that are designed to shoot for hundreds of metres.  What’s the point?

None of them are fit for purpose – and none of them produces a truly worthwhile outcome.

In my friend’s case, there’s a tangible effect on his company and its business.

They are so absorbed sorting through the applicants, trying to find the handful of truly suitable people, that they have become distracted from other tasks – and business took a hit as a result.

Standards of deliverables dropped here and there (not something they really want to admit) and it was difficult to maintain focus.

One tip I haven’t shared with him (but I really should) is that it’s always easier to reject candidates than accept one.  Simply draw up a list of the top five qualities/skills required for the job then reject anyone who doesn’t have at least four of them.

That reduces the number of applicants worth considering.  Successful recruitment gets a lot easier doing just that one thing.

A clear focus on whether someone really is ‘fit for purpose’ helps to cut through the distractions (and terror) of a large number of candidates who have to be assessed, and then rejected or accepted.

As usual, let me know if you have any particular topic you would like to see covered here.

Gary Woollacott is an executive search consultant who works for Horton International in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.  He can be reached at +84 8 3910 7682 or via woollacott@hortoninternational.com