Hiring the right candidate is important when considering that making a quality hire can prevent you and your company from losing time and money spent hiring and training the wrong candidate.  In fact, a survey conducted by CareerBuilder reported that out of 6,000 hiring professionals in the US, twenty-seven percent said that even one bad hire can cost them upwards of $50,000.  One way to avoid making a costly hiring mistake is to make a list of criteria, beyond the job description, that the candidate must possess in order to be seriously considered for the position.  This list of criteria should be non-negotiable and sticking to it will help you hire the best candidate, saving you time and money in the long run.

Determining your non-negotiables:

After you have sifted through the pile of applicants and have chosen a group of candidates based on their education and work experience, it is time to make a checklist of the skills, experiences, and attributes that you are looking for in the interview.  Use the following steps to narrow down the qualities that are non-negotiable when hiring for a position in your company.

  1. Determine the essential functions of the position you are hiring for.
  • Once you have determined the essential functions of the position, you will be able to decide what skills a candidate needs to excel.
  1. Decide what inherent qualities the candidate needs to succeed in your company.
  • Loyalty, respect, commitment and ambition are examples of inherent qualities that a candidate may need in order to succeed in your company and in the position you are hiring for.  These inherent qualities can’t be taught but are often needed to be a successful team member, making them non-negotiables in the hiring process.
  1. Reflect on your company’s mission statement and core values.
  • Reflect on and decide which attributes a candidate should have that align with your company’s mission statement and core values.  These will be non-negotiables because a candidate who lacks those important qualities will not be a good fit for your company.
  1. Consider employees, past and present, while deciding what skills and competencies are needed to be successful in the company and position.
  • Consider the attributes that other employees have demonstrated in the past that led to their success.  Also think about the qualities that past employees lacked that would have helped them in their position.

How to find out if a candidate fulfills the non-negotiables on your list:

Once you feel confident knowing what qualities you are looking for in a candidate, it is time to find out if they meet your criteria by asking them open ended questions related to the non-negotiables on your list.  For example, if excelling in customer service (based on your company’s values) is non-negotiable, ask the candidate for examples of times when they were able to turn a customer’s bad experience into a positive experience.  Not only will their response tell you if they have indeed dealt with difficult situations but it will also tell you how they are able to handle those experiences.  Another non-negotiable on your list might be that you expect a candidate be ambitious in their career and grow their position.  In this case, ask what their long term goals are in order to learn how they would turn this position into an opportunity to further their career.


There will be times when a candidate appears to be a perfect fit, but is lacking a critical skill or trait that you are looking for.  While it may be tempting to hire them anyways, it is important to look back at your list and reflect on what made that attribute a non-negotiable.  Chances are that if you put that skill on the list as a non-negotiable, it is something that the candidate would struggle without should you hire them.  Sticking to your list will help you avoid hiring someone who isn’t the right fit for the company or the position.