What do you think of when the subject of candidate ‘fit’ is raised? Do you think of whether the candidate has the appropriate skills and experience to be successful in the role? Or do you conjure images of people getting along, of sharing the same style, interests, passions, values, demographics as those in the hiring organization? Is fit the ability to do the job, how the person will approach the job, or their motivation to get the job done? Or is fit really just a metaphor for likeability in the eyes of the beholder? If perchance fit is all of these things how does one weigh the importance of each factor? And how does the weighting differ, if at all, when an organization considers hiring someone for, or from, another country or culture?
Despite images of pegs and holes, ‘fit’ is a surprisingly amorphous concept which means different things to different people. It is also a word used with impunity to embrace or dismiss any candidate, any time. Just last week one client said the following about a candidate, “there is no question he has the skills and experience to do the job, but I am just not sure he is a good fit with our organization. I can’t really put my finger on it.” Also last week, another client said, “He’s a very good fit for what we want. He will really shake up that department.” Finally, yet another hiring manager said, “She’ll fit in really well….and seems more than able to do the job. But, I don’t know, she just didn’t wow me.”
Hiring is an aspirational endeavor, the abstraction of desirable attributes and experiences for the companies we covet to become. At some point the ideals collide with the inconvenient reality of our actual ‘works-in-progress’ companies, our personal biases, fears, and irrational decision-making. Words such as ‘fit’ and ‘wow’ are the blunt instruments of choice by many to manage that struggle. For headhunters however, they are dangerous words that, unexamined and unchallenged, lead to serious hiring omissions and mistakes.
About the Author
Robert Hebert, PhD is Managing Partner of Toronto-based executive search firm StoneWood Group Inc.