EVEN the best-crafted job description may not capture every person who could thrive in a position. How do you make sure you do not miss candidates who bring additional talents, interests and unusual experiences?

1. Thoroughly read the information you have. Start with the covering letter and CV. Look for the skills and strengths that the person exhibits. A savvy applicant will summarise and highlight the things that truly make him effective.

2. Use behavioural interviewing techniques. Ask the candidate to describe a situation in which she effectively used the skills and strengths that your organisation needs.

3. Look and listen for self-awareness. When anyone takes a new job and a challenging situation arises, he has to know his skills well enough to put them into gear right away. He must also understand the capabilities that he does not have in order to ask for help as quickly as possible. You want to know that he is making a reasonable pitch for his unusual combination of skills and experience, and that he is not overpromising.

4. Contact references. They can identify the tenacity, integrity, curiosity, willingness to learn, people skills and adaptability that may be as important as the candidate’s qualifications. In written references, look for examples of how the applicant has developed and used her strengths.

5. Focus on willingness to learn. This may be the most important characteristic. The candidate who meets all the job requirements but is set in his ways will have less to contribute than the person who admits what he does not know, but has a track record of acquiring new skills. Ask him what it is about the position that makes him excited about learning, and what he knows he must learn.

(Adapted from "How to assess a job candidate who doesn’t fit the mould" at HBR.org.)

© The New York Times 2016