Though companies are often willing to dangle real money in front of people at the top of their game, exceptional compensation doesn’t solve every recruiting problem. If you’ve put together a kitchen sink of a job description, or allowed the vision of an empty position to evolve so it requires a superhero more than an employee, you’re not going to find anyone to fill it, no matter how much you offer.
That’s not only a problem for the manager who’s trying to strengthen his department — it’s an issue for you, too. Dan Walter, a compensation consultant, calls candidates for these positions “unicorns” because (a) they attempt to merge the traits of different animals into one and (b) they don’t exist. The danger of trying to find one, he says, is the fact you’ll never locate anyone who can meet the job’s requirements .
As compensation professionals, we tend to see most problems as something that can be fixed with pay. We often assume that if we just sweeten the pot, the right person will come running. We raise compensation levels and work harder with recruiters. We get special approval for pay packages that stretch or break our compensation philosophy or structure. All of this effort is made in an attempt to do the undoable.
From the recruiting perspective, there’s another danger: How many good people — professionals who can bring a lot to the table — are you missing out on? Not only might you skip them as you review their credentials, you may lose them even as they read the job description and decide to skip you. People who are smart about their work and their business know an impossible job description when they see it, and if they’re in demand they can afford to pass on positions that present challenges that can’t be met, even if they pretend to offer exceptional rewards.