The New Definition of a Qualified Candidate

The New Definition of a Qualified Candidate

As controversial as it may be to say it, the reality is that employers have now redefined what it means to be a “qualified candidate.” Historically, that term described a person who met the stated requirements for a job. Today, it means an individual who meets those requirements AND is able to prove that they will excel when doing so.

This new approach is an extension of an old strategy. It mimics the way organizations have always hired their most senior employees. Employers view such individuals and CEOs, in particular, as high impact talent. They need them in order to succeed, and they’re willing to pay to get them.

Since 1976, CEO compensation—not including their benefits and pension—has increased by a breathtaking 223 percent. Today, the leaders of America’s largest companies take home an average of $8 million a year, after adjusting for inflation. And, that figure is going up as the recovery from the recession takes shape, and businesses prepare for growth and the rise in profits it typically generates.

How do companies justify such lofty compensation? What rationale do they offer given that the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported exactly the opposite trend for the rest of the workforce? How can corporate Boards of Directors pimp the worth of CEOs while depressing the wages of their organizations’ non-management workers by 10 percent during the same period?

The explanation can be reduced to a single word: talent. Companies believe that the talent CEOs bring to work each day is both critical to the organization’s success and in critically short supply. They are, in essence, all stars. And, the only way to recruit and retain such individuals is to pay them handsomely. While their tenure on-the-job is no longer guaranteed or even expected to last very long, those who meet or exceed their performance goals will be very well compensated.

In effect, survival of the fittest has been replaced by a new law: “prosperity of the talented.” And today, this neo-Darwinian dictate is no longer limited to those at the most senior levels. It is now percolating down into the middle and even junior ranks of many organizations. Indeed, talent is now viewed as the critical energy source—the clean power—of the 21st Century corporation. Without it, employers cannot move forward. And, those who have the most of it will speed by everyone else in the global marketplace.

Thanks for reading,

Note: The above post was drawn in part from my new book, The Career Activist Republic. To read more, get the book at, in many bookstores and on


  1. Hi Peter,
    You are right on the money with this post. So many people live in fear and they become paralyzed with taking action. I would love to see more people reinvesting in themselves for the new job market, so they can become self-sustaining and not rely on the corporate giants to pave their way. Isn’t that the point of being a Career Activist? We take control of our destiny and when we do, the feeling is like nothing we can imagine.

  2. Hi Mindy-

    You’ve put your finger on the essence of Career Activism. It’s good, old-fashioned American self-reliance.


  3. Fiгst of all Ι want to say gгeat blog!
    I had a quісk question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Thank you!