It’s just not a good fit

At some point in your career, chances are that either you have said the title phrase or someone whom you hired said it. Google the phrase “job fit” and close to 200-million responses will be generated. Fit is about a lot of things: obviously, the individual’s ability to do the job is one but it is not the only one, even though many recruiting efforts do not go much further. Fit also entails, or should entail, how well a new person will adapt to the company culture and the nature or tempo of the workplace, and it also includes arguably the biggest of the three key questions that should be asked prior to hiring someone.

In case you’re curious, the first two are straight-forward: 1) can the person do the job; does the individual have the cognitive ability to learn what is required, to do the required tasks, does he/she have the professional background that is preferred for this position, and 2) how will the person do the job; what behavioral traits does this individual have, what sort of predictions can be made about the candidate works with a team, reacts to stress, is a leader or follower, and so forth. Question three is, will the person want to do the job, because ultimately, when someone says “it’s not a good fit,” that person is telling you he/she is not interested in the work.

In one sense, you are being done a favor; the person has figured out this won’t work so the time and capital of on-boarding is minimized. On the other hand, you’re back to square one and what time, effort, and money that went into recruiting, interviewing, and initial hiring of this person is lost. Human resources professionals calculate the cost at six to nine months of that person’s salary, at a minimum. It gets much more expensive the higher that the position sits in the corporate food chain.

Being in the talent management business, I’m going to tell you that a good assessment instrument is worth its weight in the precious metal of your choice. Fair warning: it is not a panacea and no responsible person will tell you otherwise; if they do, they are not telling you the truth. A standard rule of thumb is to use the assessment as a part of the hiring decision, say one-third, not as the basis of it.

An assessment that reveals a good job fit is a tool that adds color and clarity to the information that was already discovered from the candidate’s resume, from any interviews that have occurred, and from anything that a reference check could produce. But it also provides something far greater than just a score – a good assessment will include a breakdown of several behavioral factors and how those of the candidate fit within the range demonstrated by people who are successful at that particular job.

In some areas, the candidate will fall outside the success range; the HR professional’s question is, does this deviation matter? Not every behavior is crucial to workplace success. For example, if the person tends to make decisions in a deliberate manner and the norm is for faster thinking, is that important? It may be possible that this person’s more calculated approach can be a hedge against rash choices that end badly; on the other hand, the individual may be deliberate to the point of paralysis. That’s what I mean by HR has to assess the assessment, so to speak: How great is the deviation, how important is a particular trait to job success, and can this individual adapt behavior so this area is not a concern?

Bottom line, use all of the information that is provided, not just the job fit score. Accept that no one is going to score 100%. Focus on the areas where there is some variance from the norm and ask good questions about those areas, questions about situations in the person’s past that are applicable to what you need to learn. The answers will reveal potential worry spots or blips on the screen. Either way, the company will have a greater depth of understanding about job candidates, a more solid footing on which to decide whether or not to make an offer, and a greater chance of avoiding hearing those six expensive words.

Stay out of your own way

It’s as much a ritual of fall as football season and the leaves changing – young people heading to college. I thought about this in reading a blog post that based college success on three words. While the author is entitled to the words he chose, let me offer up three others: have a plan. The vast majority of undergrads will change majors at least once and some will do so as many as three times. Nothing particularly wrong with that; these are 19- and 20-year olds, after all.

Finding yourself is part of life’s journey but the trip can be expensive, thousands of dollars worth of expensive. Did you wind up where you expected to be? One of my daughters struggled mightily to pin down the appropriate minor, so major angst seems is not exactly a banner headline. So what’s my point, you ask?

Back to the three key words: have a plan. Anywhere from 20 – 50% of incoming students are undecided; again, 19- and 20-year olds. Did you have a life plan at that age? I don’t mean an idea of what you wanted to do but an actual plan that fit who you are. More likely, you picked a major because the program was one that had demand for graduates, you picked a course of study based on family history or the family business, or you picked one because a particular occupation sounded cool. How’s that working for you?

I will surprise no one by saying that chances of career success are greater when you 1) go into a field you find challenging and interesting, and 2) go into a field for which you are suited. How do you know you are suited? Assessments that identify your thinking style, the behavioral traits that define you, and the things that you find interesting. Chances are, you will find that could do well in areas you have not considered. Doesn’t mean you have to pick one of those areas but an assessment will at least leave you equipped to pursue options that play to your strengths and that involve activities that you like, increasing your chances of success.

Every career field is not for every individual and people complaining about their jobs is as frequent as complaints about the weather. The Gallup survey cited found that only 13% of people, 13%!, relished their jobs, looked forward to working, and saw themselves as part of something worthwhile. Most of the rest are what a colleague of mine calls “at-leasters,” people who do at least enough to get by and stay employed. What a horrible way of spending at least one-third of your life.

A good point can be made that students should not declare majors at least until they finish their freshmen year. Earlier in this piece, you saw what the cost of indecision is in terms of additional student loan debt and out of pocket costs. But there is also a cost in terms of your life’s progress and your own peace of mind that are doing something you were meant to do. College is supposed to be a time when critical thinking skills are developed, right? Use some of that thinking to take a critical look inward. Each of us has traits and skills that portend success in given fields. Instead of taking a test for a grade in a class, take a test to map a course for what follows.

High potential or high performance?

Potential.  It’s an intriguing word, isn’t it?  “(Person/team/company) has the potential to be great.  This product has the potential to change people’s lives.”  We have all said, heard, or seen statements like these.  It’s what makes ‘potential’ such a maddening word.  On the one hand, it hints of tremendous promise; on the other, it alludes to unrealized opportunity.  It also applies to the corporate arena where companies work to identify future star performers, budding leaders, or others who they believe are high-value employees.  So why do more than half of such employees leave within five years?   

Part of the reason is not truly knowing your people – what motivates them, what are their aspirations, how invested are in they in the company?  That last question often gets ignored as companies spend a lot of time and money on leadership and training programs, only to see the beneficiaries leave and apply that knowledge elsewhere. 

Some experts say the problem is one of process, that too many businesses do an inadequate job of managing talent, which goes back to not knowing your people very well.  Hard to really blame most companies for that; they’re busy with tending to their core product or service, putting out fires with unhappy customers, developing ways to differentiate themselves from competitors, and handling the day-to-day aspects of running an organization.  The cogs that make the system go are too often regarded as, well, as cogs.  One person leaves, another comes in; if that person doesn’t work out, the cycle repeats. 

Whether the economy is truly past the recession is a matter of whom you ask, but among the Hiring Lab at Indeed.com finds that half of those searching for their job are looking outside of their current occupation.  Not to be repetitive, but this goes back to knowing your people.  It’s one thing for a person to want to leave a boss, it’s marginally different when that individual is looking to leave the company, but this people ready to bolt entire industries. 

People tend to gravitate toward the things that interest them.  Compare the degrees that many college graduates hold with what they actually do for a living.  Obviously, I am a proponent of assessments for the purposes of determining job fit.  I want to know what gets someone excited because, chances are, that person will be successful working in such a position.  I want to know how someone thinks in order to have some means of predicting how they will handle certain situations, whether or not they’ll fit the culture, and whether they are the type person a company might want to target as a potential (there’s THAT word again) employee to groom for the long haul. 

As it is, employees stay in a job for less than five years, on average.  Consider the cost of recruiting, hiring, training, supporting, and paying that person for five years vs. the value that he or she brought to the company.  Net gain or net loss?  Or did you just break even?  If you don’t know the answer to those questions, that is a problem.  Answers, however, can be discovered providing you’re willing to do a little work in order to get them. 

How’s the new hire working?

Have you ever hired someone you just knew would be great for a job and that person confirmed your expectations?  In fact, you can probably think of at least one such person right now. Let’s flip the question: have you ever hired someone you just knew would be great and some months later, you are asking what gave you that idea?  It’s a good bet you can think of at least one such person right now, too.  What did you do differently in the hiring that resulted in either outcome? 

The reality is, you probably didn’t do anything different and nothing about that makes you unusual.  Most organizations have a rote process for finding people, particularly after they have decided on which candidates will be the finalists.  There is a varying number of interviews depending on the position, perhaps a background and/or credit check, the occasional reference, and maybe some intuition.  Odds of success?  About the same as a coin flip. Otherwise, the Google search string “reducing employee turnover” would not spit back more than 1.5-million results. Think about that – one and a half million articles, from scholarly entries in peer-reviewed journals to articles in business publications to posts with tips and suggestions.

This contains my favorite suggestion: hire the right people. Ya think? If the right people were being hired, turnover might not be a problem. And yet, that’s a common bullet point. At some level, it does make sense. A bad hiring decision will cost you anywhere from 50% of that person’s salary up to 200% of salary, and that’s direct tangible cost.  Never mind the indirect costs – recruiting and training time, the impact on employee morale – or worse, on customers, and other areas, perhaps including legal bills. What if you had information that could predict the likelihood of a candidate’s success in a given job? What would that be worth?

Specifically, I’m talking about information that answers three questions:  can the person do the job; how will the person do the job; will the person want to the job?  If you understand how someone thinks and processes information, if you understand how the person fits (or doesn’t) into the corporate culture, and if you understand what motivates this person, you are eliminating a lot of guesswork. It not guarantee success but it does guarantee less failure, and reducing the number of losses tends to result in an increased number of wins.