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.


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