Last week, I had my yearly physical. I expected to get a clean bill of health and my flu shot. I did not expect to also have a thought-provoking exchange with my General Practitioner. When I first arrived, the Medical Assistant (MA), Mindy*, recorded my height, weight, and results of my vision test. She was very personable and told me the doctor would see me shortly. Dr. Bean* entered the room a few minutes later and went over some things with me, then stepped back out of the room for a minute. I heard some chatter on the other side of the door, but I didn’t much of it until Dr. Bean energetically re-entered the room. She said, “I just received some wonderful news, I could cry!”

“Oh, what’s going on?” I asked. I half expected her to say that a cure to COVID-19 had miraculously materialized and would be administered to everyone immediately. Unfortunately, that was not the case, but what came out of her mouth did leave an impression on me. She said that her MA, Mindy, had literally just announced a moment ago that she wanted to go to school to become a Registered Nurse (RN) and would continue working at the medical practice while going to school. Both happy and confused, I just said “Wow, what great news!”

Dr. Bean went on to explain that she prefers to hire an RN vs. an MA, but the past few years, the practice has struggled with turnover that put a strain on the longtime employees. She took a chance on hiring Mindy the MA and it has worked out: Mindy is eager to learn and will do anything that is asked of her.

Qualified Candidates Don’t All Look the Same

Dr. Bean then continued on with my yearly checkup, but her outburst of excitement really got me thinking. This is not the first time I have heard someone say they hired an individual who did not have either the desired degree or experience level, yet they were blown away by the professionalism and work ethic that the “under-qualified” individual brought to the office. In my few years in the workforce, something I have witnessed countless times is managers who want to hire someone with a Master’s degree in Engineering and 10 years of experience for an administrative position. I have not challenged this as I do not have the authority to do so, but I have often thought, Why not hire someone who maybe is not as qualified as you envisioned for the position, but has a good attitude and the right soft skills as opposed to some who is overqualified and will likely leave as soon as they find a better opportunity?

From my view, I hope is that managers will shift from relentlessly chasing after candidates who are good on paper to opening their minds to others who are valuable in ways that are different than an education level or certification. Of course, for highly technical work, experience, education, and certifications can play a critical role. However, finding the right candidate with a learning mindset might translate to less turnover in the long run.


*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.

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Christina Lambert is a native Washingtonian who has been a DoD Contractor since 2015. Prior to joining the DoD contracting world, she was a tour guide at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing where she delighted in showing visitors a live production line printing real paper money! Christina’s hobbies include taking cruises, playing with her neighbor’s cats, and volunteering for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.