Is the drive for “fit” killing a good hire?

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How many times have you heard the line – “Joe Bloggs has excellent skills, but we just don’t think he’ll fit our culture”. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for fit and creating a team that works well together but I’d like to challenge your assumption that you can determine “fit” after one short interview.

Is your eagerness to find a team member who you perceive will seamlessly fit into your culture blindsiding other great candidates who in the long run may be a better fit because of a range of factor such as skills, qualifications, behaviours, personality, values and fit? How much time do you actually spend assessing “fit” before offering someone a new job? Experience tells me – not enough.

Similarly, we see many a hiring manager excluding great candidates because of a range of different biases – “they can’t work here because they don’t have New Zealand experience” or “she won’t fit in here because we’re rough and ready blokes” or “he is too qualified and will get bored within two months”. Often biases like these come from previous experiences – however, proceed with caution – just because something happened once, it doesn’t mean that it will happen every single time. Assumptions like these can lead to a very slim candidate pool or a pool that doesn’t take into consideration all the skills and behaviours that you’re really looking for.

So how can you truly be sure that you are selecting a candidate who will be the perfect person and exact fit for your business? The fact is, there is no magic formula and there are no failsafe guarantees that what you see at the first exchange is what you will get 91 days (and onwards) after employment. But by taking a wider approach to data collection and validation of your “gut” feeling you are much more likely to create a positive, enduring match.   Recruitment is a bit like dating – you need to get to know your candidate to figure out whether you actually want a long-term relationship.

Like dating, finding a new person for your team takes time and it is definitely a two-way process. Would you want to be stuck in a relationship with someone who you didn’t take time to get to know first? So here are some top tips for “dating” your prospective hire:

1 Meet them, interview them, meet them again – only you can decide how many times you need to meet someone before you understand how they tick. But remember, many first timers are nervous at the initial interview and you might need a couple of “coffee dates” to get to know your candidate. Often we hear “we’re desperate for someone and they seem to fit our team so I’m going to make an offer”. Desperation can lead to mistakes!

2 Ask other people in your team to meet your preferred candidate; take them on a tour around your business, take them out for lunch, meet on neutral ground, catch up for breakfast. Now you might think – why would I bother doing this if I didn’t feel the magic when we first met? My response to this – why wouldn’t you? If you’re spending anywhere between $50k and $100k on salary (or more!) per annum for your new hire you want to make sure that investment is going to be worth it.

3 Don’t just rely on interviews to see whether your candidate will “fit” your team. Consider using ability testing, personality assessments, emotional intelligence testing, values and ethics testing – the list goes on. These tools are all designed to help you verify your thinking and can add more data to your decision-making process.

4 Be careful of your own internal biases – these can disguise really good candidates. For example, if you drive a blue car and only want to hire people who drive blue cars – your talent pool may be pretty small and you might miss that perfect gem. There are plenty of great people out there who drive red cars.

So perhaps some simple tips and ideas that might widen and freshen our thinking on fit.  Fit isn’t just about the fact that someone is “nice” and will get on with your team. It can be a fit of skills; a fit of values; fit of ethics and so on. These qualities in individuals may take time to come to the surface. Don’t discount fit after just a one-hour interview.

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About Author

Senga Allen

Human Resource specialist and managing director, Everest Group Ltd Waikato HR Specialists www.everestgroup.co.nz

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