We have all heard the stories about people that just plain don’t fit in a company, and the inevitable question always asked is, “How did that person get hired here in the first place?”
By far the most common reason I hear when I go into a client company to try and help turn an employee’s performance around, is that “they just don’t fit here”, and not being a fit is quite often the reason for employment terminations. It is easier to train someone to be technically competent than it is to try and change behavior or personality of someone!
As an HR consultant with plenty of recruiting expertise and experience, I have found that companies’ don’t spend nearly enough time or effort in the recruitment process, and this is where I usually come in. Just think how different a company would look in terms of employee and overall company performance if the proper time and attention was expended in the recruitment process.
Frankly, recruitment is a skill that very few managers have, and it is ironically one of the skills that can really set a manager apart from others. Surrounding yourself with competent people that culturally fit makes the manager’s job a lot easier. When I was in corporate life, when I decided to leave an organization, I always had an internal groomed replacement for myself, because I had recruitment skills to hire the right “fit” for the job.
So, exactly what is the key to getting the right fit??? It all starts with knowing in detail what you are looking for, not just in terms of technical skills but also in terms of behavioral fit. By this I mean, does the person behave in a way which matches how the organization wants and maybe already has people behaving? As an example, if the behavioral competencies are not a fit, the person may be capable of doing the job, but at the expense of perhaps not being at the team player level required. To extend this example, let’s suppose in this case the person’s behavior is one of always putting their own job priorities first when asked for help on something else. At some point, coworkers will stop asking the person to pitch in and help. Sometimes this gets raised to the manager, but often it does not for fear of reprisal or not wanting to rock the boat so to speak.
When the team player requirement is not there and goes unchecked, the result often is in employees working around a person, and in some cases deciding to leave to go to an employer where people work together better. On recent recruitment assignments at all levels, more often I am hearing job candidates talking about making sure they find the “right environment” for themselves, and when I press what they really mean by this, many times, they go on to explain examples of previous employers where a certain person did not fit with their own values or did not fit in the company to the point of them deciding to leave. This is truer when managers don’t fit, because employees are often at a loss in terms of getting a manager to change their behavior, so they leave.
Other examples of fit are the values set of a person in terms of honesty, trustworthiness, conscientiousness or seemingly small but important things like punctuality and attendance. A skilled recruiter will probe into behaviors which can reveal how a person will behave. As an example, a client of mine has a 15 minute morning huddle at the 8:30 starting time with her team to plan the day and to see that certain priorities are being given the proper attention. These huddles also serve the purpose of team building. So, in the interview process when I looked for someone to join that team, I was interested to find out about punctuality, whether or not the candidate was a morning person, and also in what was the most productive part of their day.
In one case, I heard in the interview that the person was a self-confessed “night hawk” and had a starting time of 9:30 at the current job. This was cause for me to probe a bit further. In this specific case, when I went further and asked about being a “nighthawk” in a reference check, the manager explained that the candidate was very competent indeed but had a history of not being able to be to work on time, so they agreed to a later starting time to retain the employee. The history of lateness went on for over two years until they changed the starting time.
The simple premise behind behavioral interviewing is that “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior”. So, in this case with inflexible starting times, and the 8:30 huddle every day, I decided not to pursue even though the candidate fit in every other respect. With all due respect to the candidate, they said they were trying to change some things like getting to bed earlier because they planned to join a fitness club and go there before work in the morning.
My life experience tells me that this type of change is not always that easy to do, and I did not want my client to be the ‘experiment’. It was just too important that the candidate be there for the 8:30 huddles each day, and if they weren’t, they simply would not be a fit. There is much more about fit which can be said, my point is, do what you can to find out about fit in the interview process vs., hiring the person based on good technical skills, only to find out later that they “don’t fit”.