All too often, I hear employers say that they are looking to hire the “right fit.” Not surprising as this leads to greater client satisfaction and profitability. The right fit, however, is specific to each organization and is defined by the unique culture: what the organization needs to accomplish, the history of past performers, work place dynamics and values, the problems that one is trying to solve and the goals or objectives to attain with a replacement. With so much to be considered and perhaps, prospects in hand, how does one avoid making a wrong hire, which can be costly? One approach is to define all the requirements for experience, skills, education, leadership style, performance, personality and not hire until you find the right fit. Yet, how often have all of these requirements seemingly been met and expectations fall short for both the employer and the employee? What are the pitfalls to avoid?
While a resume may provide information about a candidate’s experience, education and skills, it offers very little about the candidate himself and how he or she would perform in an organization’s unique environment. Casting a small net to avoid the rigors of interviewing by narrowly defining requirements could rule out candidates with attributes and qualifications, which would have far greater impact than their competitors; it could lead to missed opportunities. Even if you were to cast a wide net, interview many qualified people, why might the search not lead to a hire or the “winner” not work out? There are essential questions to ask and critical facts to confront, among them the following: Can you attract the right candidate? How much weight is being given to the personality versus the character? How do you know that a candidate is aligned with the culture and core values? Is there reason to suspect the existence of some hidden aspect of the candidate’s history or character that might affect his performance? Are you looking for someone who looks or talks like you as the criteria for “personality fit”, or the “gut feeling” that convinces you a candidate will be perfect for the position? Do you have a proven interview practice that allows you to stay in control, to evoke interest with the candidate you are seeking, to extract authentic answers to powerful questions, to interpret what interviewees say or don’t say and to avoid getting “snowed” by the candidate and remain objective?
The challenge for most hiring managers, decision makers, or search consultants is to determine what the “right fit” looks like, sounds like, and acts like. So, how should one’s search be structured? Begin with an understanding of the culture and look at your “A” players. What characteristics help them achieve high results? What skills do they use to build effective relationships? What sets them apart from the C” players? If you can identify their traits and characteristics, you’ll have started to discover what the performance will look like. If you want to go to the next level in your organization or satellite office, success may depend on the willingness to change business models or transform the consciousness within. Therefore, when looking for the right fit avoid searching for similar functional experience and mindset. Albert Einstein understood this when he said “the problems we face cannot be solved with the same mind we were at when we created them.”
Once the vision of the right fit has been created, the interview becomes the platform to gain insights into the level of motivation, the ability to overcome obstacles and manage challenges, the degree to which one is flexible, how much one talks about themselves and whether they include their team building skills as well, their perception of self and how they are perceived by others, the ability to communicate ideas and vision, the resources available and how they were utilized and the character. While this is a sampling of knowledge to gain, the more one knows about the performance and person and how it aligns with the organization’s true north, the greater likelihood a decision will emerge with ease.
Jim Collins, author of the bestseller “Good to Great” searched for timeless principles evident in great companies and their leaders. When it came to hiring the right people, he identified characteristics to look for in the personality. These included ambition for the company, not the self, modesty, humility- the type that comes with the person who embodies power, yet never waivers to abuse it or others, a passion for their work, self- motivation and discipline. All too often, bravado and larger than life personalities are mistaken for confidence and leadership, but when challenges arise, they may blame others and cannot see themselves as the source of what they have created. It is critical to discern the individual who has developed character, maturity and the capability of foregoing their egoistic needs for the benefit of the organization, as they are the ones who possess the potential to evolve, build, create and contribute.
Karen Sadowski, President
KMS Associates, Inc.