Second Best: Why It's a Good Idea to Hire People with Weaknesses

Business.com / Hiring / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

No one wants to hire the “least bad” out of an uninspiring bunch of applicants, but is it ever a good idea to hire people with weaknesses?

As a reading enthusiast, avid writer, and content manager, it's not surprising that I’m a bit of stickler when it comes to grammar.

It's not that the willful interchange of the present perfect and simple past particularly annoys me.

I can even handle people who raise their intonation at the end of every sentence like a California teenager.

What I can't tolerate, though, what particularly irritates me, is sloppy wording, typos, triple exclamation marks (!!!), double spaces, and use of abbreviations when people are applying for a job.

I'm not real crazy about the absence of the question mark in subject lines, or misuse of the comma in daily correspondence either; if I want to be chatted at in the style of a text message, I’ll add you to my WhatsApp or Snap Chat; not ask you for a formal cover letter and resume.

Related Article:Recruiting the Best Talent: Tips and Tricks for Finding "The One"

The Hard Thing About Hiring

Anyone who works in HR or owns a small business will know that hiring the right person is far from easy. Hiring, in fact, is darn right hard. With so much weeding of talent going on, you end up wondering if a horticulturist may be better adapted to this painful task. According to a 2015 survey by Manpower, that's because businesses across the world are being faced with a "crippling talent shortage".

But many people are quick to dismiss that statement as folly. Forbes contributor, Liz Ryan, for example, states that the real reason that talent shortages are declared is not in fact due of a lack of people looking for work, but rather that employers claim they can’t find people with the right skills and the background for the position at the price they’d like to pay.

After sifting through a lackluster pile of prospective applications for a writing position at our firm, I started to question these ideas. Was the real problem a lack of talent, or our inability to pay higher salaries? And if the problem was the latter, what should small businesses with limited budgets do to attract and retain the right employees?

Lowering Expectations

Before you rise up to emphatically declare that you have no intention of lowering your expectations when it comes to hiring the right employee; let me assure you, you're not alone. No one wants to be in the position of hiring the “least bad” out of an uninspiring bunch of applicants. So perhaps "lowering expectations" is not the answer, but here's some food for thought:

Should you hire people with noticeable weaknesses? 

I guess the answer to that is, it depends on what the weaknesses are and if they happen to be overshadowed by their strengths. You'll also need to assess the candidates’ weaknesses in terms of the job requirements and decide what's a deal breaker for you and what isn't.

As a language services provider, our company offers translation services online. We work with medical clients, attorneys, biotech professionals and multinational corporations. The very nature of the services that our company provides means that accuracy in our work is vital. An error in translating a contract, interpreting a patient's diagnosis, or localizing an advertising campaign could be extremely costly and potentially hazardous.

Therefore, we're not going to hire a proofreader who can't catch mistakes or a translator whose grammar is just so-so. Similarity, if your company was looking to hire a programming wizard and you're faced with a candidate who doesn’t know what PHP is or an SEO expert who thinks that penguins and pandas are simply wild mammals, then you're probably not going to be able to get past this. But could there be any situations where hiring people with weaknesses is a good idea?

Related Article:Super Sneaky Recruiting Tips You've Never Considered

Their Strengths Are Stronger Than Their Weaknesses

The next time you're sifting through a pile of resumes, try thinking about hiring people for their strengths and not their weaknesses. While that sounds fairly obvious, what I mean here is try the following exercise. Scan through their resume, cover letter, email, or whatever, and highlight the strengths first instead of discarding them for their weaknesses.

It's hard when you have a pile of prospective applicants in front of you, as we tend to notice the glaring mistakes first and cast them to one side. But when I forced myself to go back through the applicants and list their strengths and only their strengths, the pile began to grow. Giving people brownie points for their strengths instead of punishing them for their weaknesses puts things in a whole new light.

Everyone Has to Start Somewhere

With close to two million college graduates every year in the U.S. alone, try to remember that you were young and inexperienced at some point. Everyone has to start somewhere and while it still grates like nails on a chalkboard to me that a college graduate is incapable of crafting a decent letter of presentation; that is a training seminar I could easily hold.

Going back to the scale of the weakness; if they can't spell their own names and have no linguistic ability, then no amount of training will mold them into the right candidate for our job. But if they're a quick learner, enthusiastic, passionate and intelligent, there might just be a base to work from.

Diversity is The Life Blood of Any Company

You may be the best writer in your company or the most experienced in marketing and relationship management. You may make the most sales out of anyone on your team, or have built your company from the ground up, but despite your many talents, remember, you can't do everything.

Related Article: Keep Your Crew: Creative Ways to Attract and Retain Top Talent

Diversity is the blood that flows through the veins of any flourishing company. And different people bring different opinions and viewpoints that can strengthen and move your business forward. If you're still figuring out how to send a Tweet, have no idea how Instagram or Disqus work, and can't abide emojis, then why not pass the social media torch to someone else? You can always teach them how to correctly insert a comma later on.

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