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Break Free from Hiring on Skill and Firing on Fit


Break Free from Hiring on Skill and Firing on FitIf you’ve had trouble hiring the right person for the job, you’re not alone. The best recruiting firms in the world know the cycle. They call it “hiring on skill, firing on fit”.

Why do we so often hire the wrong person for the job?

Obviously any candidate is going to need the necessary skills to do the job, so it’s easy to understand why many hiring managers prioritize skills to the exclusion of the candidate’s other qualities. Another reason is that skills are measurable and more objective, and therefore easier to base an important hiring decision on. Some candidate’s skills include selling themselves very effectively — and they end up an imperfect fit. One final reason hiring managers hire on skill even when they know the fit is less than ideal is that their staffing needs are urgent or their applicant response has been less than stellar. But if you’ve experienced hiring someone who looked great on paper and fit poorly in your organization, you know this practice is costing you money and resources. Here are some ways to break free from the cycle.

What does “fit” have to do with soft skills?
Everything. If soft skills didn’t matter, neither would fit and you’d never fire anyone who was technically fulfilling the skill profile on their resume. Here are a couple of factors measured by benchmarking and assessment software that are hard to determine from a resume or interview.

Attributes are a cognitive measure of how strongly a person values certain competencies like customer service, leading others, quality orientation, flexibility, internal self control or self management. The more important the competency is to success in the job, the more important it needs to be to the person hired for the job.

Motivation tells us WHY a person does something. It’s obviously important to make sure that a candidate’s motivations align with mission and values of the company. Do you know how those values lend themselves to employee motivations? For example, someone directing a Non-Profit may have different motivations from someone applying to work as a financial advisor at an international investment firm. Neither motivation is wrong, but it is crucial to ask yourself the following: When times get tough and the pressure is on, what will make this person get up and put on pants every day? If the answer is something you know your company can’t meet, then it will be a poor fit.

Behavior used to be considered the key to a successful job performance. It certainly is a reliable indicator of success, but Attributes and Motivation are often more important because it is easier to change one’s behavior than their cognitive abilities or drives. That said, Behaviors can cause a person to fail in a job or feel a great deal of stress because their style is not a good fit for the position. For example, if organization and order don’t come naturally to a candidate, putting them in a high pressure job with lots of deadlines and an ever-changing list of clients and contacts can be very frustrating for them. A candidate applying for management who has difficulty making decisions will have trouble leading. Do you know your own behavioral styles? What do you want in a candidate and what do you find intolerable or will likely sabotage a candidate’s success?

Benefits of hiring on fit
Managers who are both clear and honest about the requirements for success in a job – including the ideal profile of personal attributes, motivators and behaviors – will have high levels of success when they hire. Filling job openings with candidates who really fit is the best thing you can do for your business. It improves productivity, morale, and ultimately, the success of your organization. It reduces the burden on the manager because the employee will like their job. It creates loyalty. It inspires creativity. It energizes your team. And finally, it saves money and reduces disruptions to the business which is the result of having to fire someone or having them quit.

1. Define the minimum skill and experience requirements of the job including experience required (and what kind), industry knowledge, training and education, willingness to travel, what they need to be proficient at (like using CRM or driving a forklift). Consider your minimum requirements, not some arbitrary “perfect” amount that could screen out ideal candidates that lack unnecessary qualifications designed to screen out. And remember, if you ask for +5 years of experience and knowledge as a tactic to screen out applicants, you need to be prepared to offer compensation commensurate with that experience.

2. Develop a list of 3 – 6 key accountabilities that this job will be held accountable for. These are those things that must be done and that will impact the business. These Key Accountabilities are the reason the job exists, so they must be measurable. And these 3 – 6 key accountabilities should occupy about 80% of the employees time. This is the most important pre-hiring activity and is the one most often neglected. It provides the applicants with accurate expectations of the duties and environment and allows you a clearer picture of what needs are being met by that position as your company grows and changes.

3. Benchmark the job. Make sure the talent the job requires matches the talent the person has to offer by benchmarking jobs for “soft skills”.  You may find that those employees you thought were A players, are actually C players when compared to what the job actually calls for. One of the easiest ways to assess these skills is with assessment reports and software.

4. Assess your top job candidates (internal and external) versus the benchmark. Using the assessment reports, determining candidates’ soft skills is easier today than ever before. The candidate’s reports should align with the benchmark which gives you a broader picture beyond just hard skills. In areas that are marginal, the candidate’s reports can guide you in asking interviewing questions that target the soft skills that are most important

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