No Perfect Candidate

A few months ago, I interviewed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for a joint project they were doing with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. If offered this position, it was going to be a significant reduction in salary for me, about fifty thousand dollars per year, but I was willing and motivated to take the position because of the mission. This project was a big data initiative to identify veterans at risk for suicide and prevent tragedy before it strikes. Given the mission statement and the environment, I felt that this opportunity was a near perfect fit for me. It was almost like I had written the job description for myself.

The position was a Linux Systems Engineering job requiring Ansible, scripting (shell/python), and experience with big data. This is right in my wheelhouse. I am, after all, Linux O’Beardly. For those of you not aware, I have been a Unix/Linux Administrator for over 20 years, have become a fairly experienced Ansible engineer, and spent three years working at a big data company called Infochimps building big data platforms for Fortune 500 companies. Being that this was a project to help prevent veteran suicide, who better than a US Marine trained at the Marine Corps Computer Science School to take this job? A perfect fit, right?

Well, apparently, this wasn’t the case. I was explicitly not offered the position. The reasoning I received was due to the fact I had spent my last few years in tech startups, the hiring manager felt I probably wouldn’t be a “good fit” in the “rigid government environment.” I guess all of those years in the Marines didn’t teach me any discipline and a “rigid government environment” was more than this Marine can handle. I attended that interview around October of 2018 and the position was still available as of the last week of January 2019. 

I want to explicit about the fact that I’m not writing this for sympathy or retribution. I neither want or need such things. I interview, on average, for six jobs a month and I might get offered two of them. Not being offered a job rarely has any real impact on me, and at a professional level, not being offered this specific role was much of the same. However, at a personal level, this rejection hurt me deeply. I had finally found a way to give back to my brothers and sisters in a way that could effect real change. This would be a vehicle to reciprocate to my fellow military veterans and the Marine Corps the extraordinary life I have built in the civilian world due to the magnificent training I received while serving, but I digress.

The purpose of this writing is in the title, and that is the fact that there is no perfect candidate. Human resources personnel and hiring managers scour resumes, interview candidates, and mill over their possibilities. Often, more often than it should, the “right candidate” is not found in this process. I often read stories on LinkedIn of hiring managers or HR personnel interviewing dozens, possibly hundreds, of candidates and never finding the “right one.”

If you are a hiring manager or an HR professional, remember, there is no such thing as the “perfect candidate.” Find a candidate with the right character and, at minimum, a minority of the required skills and hire that person. If more skills are required, they can be taught. If more experience is needed, it can be given. If you’re not hiring due to intuition or personal feelings, and it’s a recurring theme, it may be time for some serious introspection. The issue may be internal to your being. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of “good enough,” because perfect is never coming along.




This series of events had almost escaped my thoughts, but today, I was on LinkedIn and saw a post from Phillip Bucher that reminded me of my experience and I felt that I should share it with the world. Below is a screenshot of Phillip’s post. You can find him on LinkedIn.

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