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This article mentions the criteria employers look for during interviews…some useful  tips. 

By Michael Gravelle. 

Not long ago I was talking to a recruiter about a placement she was working on. It was tough going. Her client was having a difficult time explaining what he wanted but emphasized that he wanted someone who “really fit in.”  

“What exactly do you mean by that?” she asked him. 

“I’m not sure, but I’ll know it when I see it,” he answered. 

When conducting job interviews, it’s easy enough to judge candidates by their technical knowledge, education and skill sets, but that final hurdle – fit – is nebulous at best.  

Yet it is this elusive quality that will have the biggest impact on success or failure.  “Talent is wasted if the chemistry is wrong,” says Vince Laverghetta, vice president of human resources for CP Ships.   

But how do you measure chemistry? What is fit?   

In fact, there are four levels of fit to consider when interviewing candidates: Job fit, boss fit, team fit and culture fit.

Job Fit

Determining whether an employee is the right fit for the job means more than simply matching knowledge and skills.  

 Last summer I had the opportunity to work with the Certified Management Accountants of Canada.  The participants were employed across many industries and, while they agreed that they were all hiring from the same talent pool in terms of knowledge and skills, the jobs varied markedly in terms of fit. 

Each job had its own personality.  This personality had very little to do with reconciling accounts or tracking key performance indicators.  Some companies wanted their accountants to be conservative and compliant while others wanted them to be more flexible and proactive.  Same job titles, different personalities. A person successful in one role would likely struggle in the other, despite a stellar résumé.  Unlike skills, which can be trained, personality factors are deeply engrained and difficult to change. 

Boss Fit

 A study published by the HR metrics firm, The Saratoga Institute, cited the relationship with their boss as one of the top reasons people left their jobs.  

“From my experience, fit with the boss is most critical,” says Hugh Secord, vice president, human resources for Securicor Canada. “I can think of an instance where the company defined its culture as being entrepreneurial and hired an independent and creative manager. But his boss was very hands-on. The new manager felt micromanaged and left within a few months.” 

Each manager has her own personal style, which will sit better with some employees than others.  The tough part is that the candidate can’t fully gauge that style until they are on the job – and by then it is too late. 

Team Fit

Team fit is often a double-edged sword.  While no one would dispute the benefits of a cohesive, tightly knit team, some companies take this to the extreme.  To encourage team fit they hire clones with similar interests and cultural backgrounds who are prone to group-think. 

A department manager once told me that he couldn’t possibly hire a woman because it would throw his all male team into disarray, forcing them to constantly be on their best behaviour. 

Sometimes it is good to challenge the status quo and hire someone who does not fit. The sales VP for a Telco that I worked with recognized that this had happened.  He had a team of account managers who were technically efficient and bonded well but were stuck in a pre-competition mindset. So he decided to shake things up and hired an aggressive account manager who did not fit.  Although the new recruit was not loved by everyone, the team followed her lead and became more proactive – it was a calculated risk that worked.

Culture Fit

“Adapting to a company’s corporate culture can take up to two years at senior levels” says Cindy Hillaby, human resources vice president for CAA.  To measure cultural fit she cites a comprehensive hiring process that includes behavioural job descriptions, personality assessments and 360-degree interviewing. 

A corporation’s culture will vary based on a broad range of factors including senior executive philosophy, location of parent company, industry, level of competitiveness or regulation. 

When hiring, it’s important that organizations be upfront and candid, not only with the interviewees, but with themselves, about the true nature of their corporate culture. Every company says they are dynamic, fast-paced and entrepreneurial, but that might not be the actual picture day-to-day. 

Fit Demystified  

Stratifying fit into four levels increases our ability to define and appraise this hard-to-measure quality. The tools used by many organizations – panel interviews, behavioural interviewing and personality assessments – can elevate its measurement to a more scientific level.  Given the importance of fit in the eyes of most HR managers, any step forward would be better than “I’ll know it when I see it”. 

Contributed by Mr. Michael Gravelle, speaker at Happen meet. Michael is the vice president of The McQuaig Institute®, www.mcquaig.com , a Toronto-based organization committed to helping companies assess, select and develop talent.  He can be reached at 800-387-5455, ext. 361 or [email protected]