Who’s Fit to Hire?

Who’s Fit to Hire?

April 24, 2024


There’s an old saying in the Human Relations profession that you should “hire for fit and train for skill.” It sounds wise, but what does it really mean?

As a manager, you know that hiring well is more difficult than it appears on the surface. Basic screening criteria and standard interview questions are not enough. And these days, it’s hard to get a truly descriptive reference from past employers who are often restricted to verifying dates of employment and job titles.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you want to choose the best person for the job:

It’s not just about you. The person you liked best or clicked with the most might be a great choice if you are the only person they will interact with, but they might not be what the team needs. Look for the person who will mesh best with the team. But don’t stop there. Look beyond your own team for someone who has something to offer the organization, someone who will be a good ambassador for your brand.

Don’t forget the power of diversity. Diversity in demographics, personality, and thought can create new opportunities and enrich the culture of your team and organization. Diversity in values is not so desirable, so look carefully to see where your candidate has demonstrated those values.

Read between the lines. Many candidates may look good on paper or say all the right things in an interview. It’s important to look for what’s missing as well as what shows up. This is particularly true in an age where Artificial Intelligence can generate a spectacular cover letter and dynamic resume. When a candidate checks all the “yes” boxes, make sure you take the time to look at the “no” or “maybe” boxes as well.

Look beyond today. Think about how the candidate will fit the vision of where your organization is going, not just how they fit today. Get a sense of their flexibility and their capacity, not just their accomplishments. You’re looking for people who will lead to the culture you want.

It’s not an either/or decision. Don’t hire for fit or skill, hire for fit and skill. Good management decisions, including hiring, involve taking multiple factors into consideration. If the balance must shift one way or the other, look at where the gap is widest between the perfect hire and your best available candidate and prioritize that aspect of your decision. Keep in mind that it is easier to train for skill than it is to create a cultural fit.

Know when to let go. The first step to making a good hire is to have a good opening. Knowing when someone is no longer a good fit for your team or organization and making a shift over, up, down, or out is essential to having the right space for the right candidate. In the same vein, it is wise to know when to let go of your attachment to a particular hiring criterion or a particular candidate. Don’t settle for the person who will always be a management problem because of a deficit in either skill or fit and don’t hang on to the applicant who seems to be a perfect fit while a vacancy creates stress for you, your team, and your organization.

With the right blend of hiring for fit and hiring for talent, you will be building a team and a business that is positioned for success.

Chris Williams