Can I be a wild-card?

A few days ago a candidate approached me about a role we were blind advertising. It was a senior role in the retail PR world. He had a strong CV in lots of ways – some retail experience in his dim and distant past, but most recently a range of roles in companies entirely unrelated to retail and only vaguely related to PR.

After reviewing his CV I (with regret) responded, letting him know that I didn’t feel his experience was quite as appropriate as some of the other candidates and that I would not be considering him for the role. His response was similar to many I receive: “Can’t I be your ‘wildcard’ candidate? I know sometimes companies like a wildcard. Someone who might be slightly different to the norm.”

The answer, sadly, is no. Most of the time, that is. There may have been a time when clients openly welcomed candidates whose background widely diverted from their stated preferences, however if there was, I don’t remember it. The effect of Autumn 2008 is still being felt acutely within the recruitment world. When we lost that dependable old uncle that was Woolworths and latest funky incarnation of the relative whipper snapper that was Our Price / Virgin, Zavvi, went AWOL, and even Tesco (the enormously profitable Tesco) found it necessary to make a significant middle management cuts to improve profitability, those clients who still had vacancies realised that is was distinctly a buyers’ market.

Must have U.K. marketing experience? No problem at all. You want someone with hot drinks experience? Here you go. Someone with luxury skincare background? Certainly, sir. Theatrical film release product management skills? No problem. Green eyes, freckles and a Phil Oakley fringe? We’ll see what we can do…

But even before late 2008 I had never once been approached by a client saying “Can you just find me someone ‘different’… You know, it doesn’t really matter whether they’ve done a job like this, understand this industry or can speak fluent English… Just a breath of fresh air will do. Find me a bit of a wildcard…”

That said, I do wish we could push the boundaries more. We meet candidates and fall in love with them, we know they’re great, and so what if they haven’t specifically worked for your competitor, TRUST US! We know what we are doing.

And with some clients you can do it. The clients you have built relationships with over a number or years where hopefully the HR contact has not moved on or moved up. But they can only be pushed so far. We will occasionally throw a joker into the mix, but a joker that at least belongs in the same pack.

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