Have you said this to yourself from time to time, maybe when you’ve been house-hunting, or car shopping, or looking for a new shade of paint for a room redecoration? That’s fair; sometimes you just need to sit in the driver’s seat, or see the colour on the wall before you really know.
But what about when you’ve been in the market to hire someone new?
People in hiring positions use the word ‘fit’ a lot. We tend to use it to describe how we think someone would be a good or bad addition to a team, or the company as a whole. It also usually refers to something other than the technical qualifications, or the tangible experience, that a candidate brings to the table. Something a bit more nebulous, difficult to put our finger on. In fact, in many cases, it leans towards intuition. Something that we’ll know, when we see it.
To be sure, intuition does play a role in hiring. We all base decisions in part on gut feel; sometimes we’re right, sometimes less so. To minimize instances of the latter, it pays to give thought – before going to market – what constitutes a good fit for the position in question, and what preferences and attributes a person might have if they are a good fit. If you can articulate these elements, you’ll be able to give clearer direction to people helping you hire (meaning more interviews with better candidates) and you’ll give your ‘gut’ more and better information to help you in your decisions.
Here are three of the most important considerations to guide you, each building on the last.
Some organisations operate with a very high level of process. Hierarchies are rigid, and multi-layered. Decisions are made in a strict and consistent manner, each one documented thoroughly. Employees have clear and detailed instructions, and are expected to follow them to the letter. Other companies run more loosely, with employees trusted to make the right decisions and do the right thing. Management structures are flatter, if they exist at all. There’s more experimentation, more decisions made on the fly. Neither of these is inherently better or worse; companies evolve their own way of being over time, based on what works best for them. Each of these offers a very different experience for employees, though, and demands different things from them. The better you understand where on this sphere you are, the better able you’ll be to hire people who work best at your level of structure and process.
Closely related to structure is the level of dependence or independence employees have from management and supervision. In some positions, employees may go days or even weeks without a conversation of any kind with a supervisor; it’s expected that they know their job and that they’ll do it. In these positions, employee performance is measured more by results than by process. In other positions, an employee may have ongoing communication throughout every work day with their supervisor. That manager may closely monitor the work being done, and provide constant direction and feedback to the employee. This dynamic can be very different from one position to another within the same organization, so the right fit may change from one hire to the next. Hiring an employee into one kind of position who works best in the opposite could – and often does – lead to poor performance and an early departure.
Beyond the relationship between an employee and their direct supervisor is the culture of the organisation overall. While structure and process are contributors to this, a culture goes beyond those mechanics. Some workplaces are as quiet as a library; employees have their heads down at their work, phone conversations are hushed, and any meetings are held behind closed doors. The work itself is more individual in nature, and at the end of the day employees go home, not socializing – in groups, at least – outside work. Other workplaces have a culture that’s far more social. New sales or other accomplishments are celebrated loudly by ringing bells or blowing air horns. Work may be more collaborative, all hands on deck. Conversations about work, and life in general, happen at the water cooler and just about everywhere else. Employees routinely get together after work for casual drinks, or for more organized Events-with-a-capital-E on weekends. While it’s possible for a quieter, more introverted employee to do good work in an extraverted organization (and vice versa), employees will be happier – and stay longer – in an organisation that aligns with their own personality and preferences.
When you know how these attributes show up in your organisation, you can put that information to work for you in every hire. This knowledge allows you to design great questions to ask each candidate, and their answers will give you a better understanding of how well they’d fit in to the position you’re hiring for. More data, less intuition.
Reflecting on how these aspects manifest in your organisation will make things clearer for the recruiters you work with, provide better questions to ask in interviews, and ultimately help you – and your gut – make better decisions when it comes to making the hire.