Select the Right Fit – Not Just a Warm Body

Welcome to my 3rd blog in our 2016 Culture Hacker series. It’s time to talk about selection.

One of the most important roles you have as a manager is to select the right people to be a part of your team. Although controversial in his thinking, I found a quote from Italian Philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli that has stuck with me over the years. He said, “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the people he has around him.” I think this is a powerful insight for any manager. Ask yourself, how would I judge someone purely on the attitude, behaviors, and words of the people he is responsible for at work? It is an interesting concept.

We all know – at least I hope we do – that selecting the right person is important. There is plenty of research that suggests hiring the wrong person will result in lost productivity, increased turnover, and increasingly disengaged staff. Yet for many managers, getting someone as quickly as possible to fill a role without any consideration for their job or organizational fit is the norm.

When looking to hire someone, you have to begin with a job match, ensuring the candidates have the skills, disposition, and intelligence to complete the tasks required. Some positions require more emphasis on skills than others. Obviously there would be more emphasis on skills for a technician than a receptionist. However, once the basic requirements have been met, an emphasis on culture fit must occur. Job fit means they have the skills, expertise, and experience to do a job, while culture fit means they adhere to a set of values and behaviors that are aligned with how things get done. What we are proposing today is that you must be willing to focus on cultural fit as much as job fit.

As a big LA Lakers fan, I love this quote from their late owner, Jerry Buss in 2007, “Everybody can see the skillful players, but the question is, ‘Are you willing to wait until you find a skillful player with high character?’ because eventually, the character is what wins out on the court.” This is a great reminder about building your winning team. It is easy to find people with skills and industry experience, but what you really want to find is a person with those skills and experience who also has character. It might take a little longer to find, but it is the character that will contribute most to the performance of your team.

So, how do you ensure you select someone with both the right experience and skills set as well as the personality or mindset to be successful in your organization? To select the right person – not just another warm body – use behavioral based questions, keep an open mind, complete reference checks, and get your other associates involved in the interview process. Let’s consider each of these steps in more detail and begin with utilizing behavior-based questions.

Use behavioral questions based on the applicant’s past experiences to determine job fit. Also, use behavior-based questions related to your corporate values to find a culture fit. I mentioned in my previous blog that one of the most important elements of having clearly defined values is that they make a great guide when making important decisions. One of the most important decisions you make is when you are selecting people to be a part of your team. Having clearly defined values that are being utilized in the selection process is my first piece of advice to any manager getting ready to hire.

During any interview, it is important to remain open minded and aware of your own biases. Biases are a natural part of being human. Recognize your biases, which may include stereotyping gender, religion, or race. That is why involving others – especially your staff – is a great idea to ensure the right person is selected.

One of the best practices I have used over the years is to involve a few of the staff in a speed interview process, not unlike what you imagine or have experienced in speed dating, where people sit together for five minutes in quick conversations. By arming staff with a couple of questions and having a mixture of staff involved in the process, it will help get a broad sense of a person’s capabilities and personality. It is also valuable to have a selection of staff involved in the final selection process, so they have some interest in making the new hire successful after they helped in making that decision.

Remember, potential candidates are interviewing you, too. Allow them time to ask questions and get an accurate understanding of the role and what is expected. It is a great idea to allow them to speak to other staff during the interview stage as well. This is another reason why I like speed interviewing with multiple staff members.

Remember to do reference checks. They are an important reinforcement of the perception and perspectives gained in the interview process. While you may only learn limited information, you will be able to confirm titles, dates, and tasks. If the referee is comfortable sharing more information, then focus on the candidate’s strengths and accomplishments.

Finally, remember that the experience any potential candidate has during their interview process needs to be memorable. Even if they might not be your next employee, they could be your next customer. Ensure a professional, respectful, and memorable interview process. Ensure you are prepared for the interview, on time, and are engaging. Ensure they are offered a break and a beverage if they are meeting multiple people and will be with you for more than an hour and a half.

After the interview process, remember to maintain that professional experience by following up when you say you will, giving them updates as required, and notifying them one way or another as soon as a decision is made. I think it is a nice touch if after the interview, regardless of whether or not you select them, you send them a thank you note or message. Remember, the interview process is an opportunity to showcase your culture and values, so put your best foot forward.

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