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Hiring for Fit: Does it Really Matter?

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Well, when you need a new pair of shoes, how do you choose the pair to wear?

They say if the shoe fits wear it, but they also say that the shoes make the man and that these boots are made for walkin,’ so it seems like the right shoe really depends on your needs.

If you need to squash a creepy bug in your office and wanted to buy some new shoes to do it, for some reason, then grabbing any pair in the store will meet your needs. You could run in, grab the first pair within reach, and complete your time sensitive project with ease.

But, if you have a more complex need for your next pair of shoes, like looking spiffy in a job interview, then you would probably take your time, exploring options in the store, or even shopping around at other stores. You’d evaluate different footwear candidates for various degrees of fit in multiple areas, including comfort, style and price.

The people you hire aren’t shoes, but every job has specific demands of the person who does it and the fit has to be right in many categories. Also like shoes, a bad fit with your job is going to rub the wrong, way every single day.

Fit has little to do with on-the job competency, but it has everything to do with sustained on-the job performance and employee retention. It doesn’t matter how much you pay someone to do something or how well they can do it: if their job rubs them the wrong way, the only thing on their mind is finding a job that’s a better fit for them.

Some rhetorical questions:

  • If you were great at a job, but it had nothing to do with your career goals, would it feel like a good gig or a waste of time?
  • If you were great at a job, but shared no values with your co-workers or employer, would it feel like a good fit?
  • If you were great at a job, but were suffering from daily, work-induced panic attacks, would your 5 year plan include your current employer?

Fit is fundamental, the icing on the cake that should really, really, go with the flavor of the cake itself. Every company is comprised of different people, and different people have different ways of getting things done. If you hire someone who works in a different way, one that is incompatible with the way that you operate or runs counter to your company culture, then that hire isn’t going to work out. You should always determine which of your candidates is the most skilled, but failing to account for the importance of fit will always come back to bite you.

Even if everything is “right” about the job (salary, flexibility, company, etc.) it can still be wrong for the person you hire simply because it’s the “wrong” sort of job for them. It doesn’t matter why the fit is wrong for them. Before long, the stress and annoyance of doing a job that’s a bad fit, will “motivate” them to find a job that is a better match for them.

Hiring for Fit: It Really Matters

It’s important to consider fit when you hire because, even if you get everything else right, a bad fit between the hire and the position guarantees that the hire won’t work out in the role. Not in the long-term, at least.

You should select candidates based on who has done the most impressive work in the past, but you should always remember that, at the end of the day, everyone has to be able to enjoy their job and work together. A bad fit may be able to do some great work for your company, but the miss-match will have them moving on before long, leaving you with the same need you had in the first place: finding someone who is the right fit for the job.

The right person for the job fits the bill (skill requirements, experience requirements,) but they also fit the profile (soft skill requirements, personality, motivations, ethics, etc.). The right person for the job is right for more than one reason, and will both be able to do the work and be able to enjoy the work as well.

Hiring for fit matters on a fundamental level. Being highly competent at a job is one thing, but being a good fit for that job is another. If your top performers don’t feel the fit with your company, then you can’t count on them very far into the future. After you’ve determined which candidates are a great match for the work required by a position, you should always take some time to determine which of these skilled candidates is actually the best fit for the job and the company.

Determining where and how a hire needs to fit in with your job and your company can be a little tricky, so we created a simple set of questions to help you hire for fit.

In your candidate search, answering these questions will help you to make a hire who is a great fit in multiple areas.

  • Do they Fit the Bill? (skill/experience requirements)
  • Do they Fit the Profile? (motivations/career goals aligned with job at hand)
  • Do they Fit the Company? (Shared values/ liking the work and people they work with)
Do they Fit the Bill?

The first way that you’ll notice a bad fit in a hire, is when you’ve hired someone who does not fit the bill for the job you’ve hired them for. Maybe they aren’t skilled enough to do the work or experienced enough to do this work quickly. Maybe they have done work like the work you need to be done, but lied about having direct experience in the role.

When someone doesn’t fit the bill, it means that they aren’t going to perform as well as a candidate who does meet the skill/experience requirements of the position. When a hire does fit the bill, they may be a great performer, but they still won’t work out if they don’t fit the profile or the company.

Think back to a job that you were great at, but couldn’t stand. Even though you were a top performer, did this high level of performance give you high levels of satisfaction? Probably not.

The person you hire needs to fit the bill. They need to be able to perform the tasks required by the job and they need to be experienced enough to perform these tasks well. If a candidate does not fit the bill, or only sort of fits the bill, then the stress of doing a job that they’re “sort of” qualified to do will make them quit or fail before long.

That being said, this is only the first category of fit, and failing in subsequent categories is just as bad as failing the initial, skill-based fit with the job at hand. If the person you hire is a great fit in terms of skill, but really couldn’t care less about the work they’re doing or the company they’re doing it for, then they aren’t a good fit for the role. This sort of hire may be able to help you in the short term, but their willingness to do so will decrease over time. Before long, they will have “put in their time” at your company, and will be looking for the next best thing as quickly as they can.

Yes, fitting the bill is crucial for any hire, but this initial skill qualification is not enough to garuntee a candidate will be a success. In order to be sure of this, candidates who fit the bill must also fit the profile of a great person for the job at hand and fit with your company as well.

Do they Fit the Profile?

In order for a hire to fit the profile of your open job, you need to have a complete and realistic outlook on the job you’re hiring for. Like we said earlier, everyone has their own way of getting things done, but everyone also has their own individual aspirations and career goals. If you want to make a hire who fits the profile of your open job, then that open job needs to be connected to their career goals, if not a step forward on their career path.

A candidate who fits the profile already fits the bill and is good at what they do for you, but they are also engaged in this work. For whatever reason, they find this work to be satisfying or meaningful, and will get more out of this job than a paycheck. For today’s career and passion driven workforce, finding a fit with a job in this category is of the utmost importance. If you can find a candidate who fits the bill and fits the profile of someone who is a great aspirational fit for the role, then you almost have a candidate who fits perfectly with the role.

A candidate who doesn’t fit the profile, however, is doomed to fail. They may be great at what they do and they may even like your company and their co-workers, but that doesn’t matter. Whether they’re an introvert in a highly public position or an extrovert being forced to work alone, a hire who doesn’t fit the profile for a job will not enjoy that job.

In order to make a hire who fits the profile, you should take a little time to examine your open job and create a profile for someone who would be a great aspirational/temperamental fit for that job.

Profiling Your Job:

  • Would this job be a better fit for an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement from this position?
  • What career path will a great candidate already be on?
  • What sort of person would love every minute of this job?
  • What sort of person would hate every minute of this job?

Once you’ve profiled your open job and have a good idea of what sort of person will fit this profile, it’s time to evaluate the last area of fit, fit with the company.

Do they Fit the Company?

The company you keep has a huge impact on how much you can enjoy yourself. Whether you’re at the office or at a party, there aren’t many feelings that are worse than a bad fit between yourself and the people around you.

If your hire fits the bill (they can do the work) and fits the profile (they want to do the work), the whole arrangement can still go toes up if the hire doesn’t fit with the company or their immediate team. Finding fit with the work being done in the role is essential, but this fit won’t count for much if your hire feels like they’re doing this work for the wrong company.

Now, whether they feel your company is the wrong fit because of philosophical differences, personality conflicts or just because they don’t like your product, the end result is the same. Though they may be a good fit with the work, they are so-so about the people they’re doing it for and with. This miss-match will cause the employee to dis-engage from their work over time and, ultimately, quit their job.

Just like other areas of fit, a company or team miss-match makes a hire wrong for the job. No matter how good they are at the work and how much they enjoy that work, nothing can make up for a miss-match in working environment. You can try putting them in a different team, giving them more freedom or even giving them a promotion, but none of these tactics will work if your hire is simply “meh” about working for your firm or with their team.

In order to evaluate candidates for fit in this area, make sure that the final stages of your screening process involve exposing potential hires to real people and real working conditions at your company. Everyone should be on their best behavior, but nobody should be putting on a front. The point of this exposure is to show candidates what they’re getting themselves into, the “real deal,” as it were. This is when candidates experiences fit (or not) with the team they’ll be working with or the place where they’ll be doing this work. This is the time when the right sort of person for the job thinks, “Hey, this actually seems like a pretty great place to get some work done!”

Whether you test the fit between your candidates and your company’s employees/workstyle by going out for pizza or doing some brainstorming, the key is to take the pressure off. Candidates may feel like they have to fit in, so let them know that isn’t what you want. You want to get to know them, and you want them to get to know you, their team and your company. This can only be accomplished by dropping the impression-making pretense that is so common in the application process. Let them know that you want to see the whole picture, not just the polished, professionalized version you see in the interview.

By exposing candidates who fit the bill and the profile to real people and real work at your company, you allow these candidates to experience fit (or not) with your open job. Though this will add some time to your screening process, it will make for better-fit hires who will be retained for much longer than hires who are a so-so fit.

The fit has to be right. Just like a pair of flashy, uncomfortable shoes, a highly talented hire won’t be able to take you very far if they aren’t the right fit for the job. On the other hand, wearing the most comfortable running shoes are still going to look quite silly at a formal even. It’s all about knowing what you need, and finding a hire who truly wants to be the answer to your problems. At the same time, you should consider what your top choice for the job needs in order to experience fit with your company and the position they’re applying for.

You can’t fake fit, for long, and, if you don’t have fit as one of your main hiring criteria, you’re going to keep making miss-fit hires.

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