We have traditionally hired for fit in belief that skills can be taught. This has contributed to our high retention rate - as our average tenure here is 8.5 years.

We typically have a laid-back atmosphere that is free from much corporate-speak. Our employees tend to be highly driven and don't like to let each other down - but also know how to play equally hard. Everyone is very passionate about their work and this company. One side effect of that passion is that we aren't always the most PC bunch. I realize some of you are opposed to that - but it does work for us.

All of this said, our rapid growth has caused a need for more technical proficiency in certain positions - such as the one we are currently in a hiring quandry over - which is a paralegal to manage licensing and agreements in the financial services industry.

We have three very good candidates in front of us. Random thoughts on each:

Candidate A - Hasn't gotten her big break into this field. Medium degree of experience. Personality is the best fit for our company. Seems very driven. Lacks a certificate, but has an unrelated bachelor's degree.

Candidate B - Has a good amount of experience - coupled with a master's degree. Ranks in the middle of the other candidates for both personality and experience. Acquired degrees while raising 3 children on their own - so obviously driven. Considered going to law school as well and may pursue if this job isn't hers. Would we lose her in the future to this? Is this person too good of a fit - in other words, would she stick her nose to the grindstone?

Candidate C - Excellent amount of experience. Speaks the legal language as easily as breathing. Great organization skills - gave concrete examples of how she organized her work. Personality is definitely pleasant - but she is the least likely to be a fit. We worry that she may be offended from time to time and would not likely fit easily with a group to go out to lunch or socialize outside of the office. This is important here because no one leaves this company - we are practically a family.

These are our impressions after two interviews and discussions with the recruiting agency. The first interview was with the hiring manager. The second interview was with the two other members of this group's team. This session was purposefully kept more casual and freeform. We like to give the interviewees a chance to ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking the hiring manager - such as about benefits, hours, dress code, management style, etc.

After hours of discussion, we are more confused than ever. It isn't likely references checks or background checks will eliminate one of them. We believe they would all come back as a high C on DISC - which is what is perfect for this position. StrengthsFinders could be interesting - but may muddy the waters even more.

Our next step in this process will be a call with our corporate counsel and then group interview and dinner with reps from various departments in the company.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to narrow this down? If I can provide any more information to help explain the situation, I would be happy to.

HMac's picture

kklogic - great description. Great problem to have....

Like you, I am a big proponent of hiring for fit.

Question: is there one candidate that most of the team wouldn't object to [i][u]eliminating [/u][/i]at this point? Sometimes it's easier to get from 3 to 1 by getting to 2 first!

And consider the plusses/minuses of one more round of interviewing (there ARE minuses, so consider it...). I once heard of a great interviewing discipline practiced by a highly successful company: every candidate is interviewed three times, by three different people, in three different settings. And then comparing notes became pretty routine: they could discuss the candidate's abilities in each of the settings, with the different levels and personalities of interviewers, etc.

Y'know, it sounds like you've been very successful getting and keeping staff - so there's real reason to listen to your collective "gut."

Finally - here's my single favourite piece of advice when someone is facing a really close call between two acceptable choices:

Flip a coin.

Flip a coin?

Yes, flip a coin. And while the coin is still in the air, pay careful attention to how -deep down inside- you WANT it to land.

And there's your answer.

- Hugh

tcomeau's picture
Training Badge

[quote="kklogic"]We have traditionally hired for fit in belief that skills can be taught. This has contributed to our high retention rate - as our average tenure here is 8.5 years. [/quote]

Different managers in my organization hire for different reasons. We have a few who hire for personality fit, and a few who hire either for specific skills or who only pick really, really bright people. There's no statistical difference in tenure. The average peaked at about 13 years, and has started to decline recently - not so much because people are leaving, but because we're growing the engineering staff rather significantly.

My own view is that you need to consider both skills and fit, and that there is an advantage to picking a slightly bad fit.

For example, if you have 12 middle-aged white guys on a development team, see if you can't find a highly qualified candidate who is not a middle-aged white guy. Deliberately look for somebody who is different.

I think monocultures are a good idea only if you're breeding lab rats. (Because the rats need to have consistent responses so you can use smaller samples.) Audiences and customers are diverse, and the society as a whole is becoming more diverse. I am trying to find opportunities to bring diversity to my teams, even if it takes a little more work on my part. I believe diversity has value for its own sake, though I admit that's a moral, not an economic, judgment.

So ask yourself whether somebody who is not going to be part of your social circle might be valuable for just that reason: If she's a little bit apart, can she be a little more critical of your arguments without being concerned she'll offend a friend?

I don't insist that you pick the "worst fit." I do suggest that you look for people you wouldn't expect to find in your own gene pool.

Oh, and I like HMac's coin-flipping exercise, too. :)


kklogic's picture

I see your point. My question to you though is this - would this employee feel like a square peg in a round hole? Objective input is nice -- but I wouldn't want that to be at the detriment of them feeling like part of the team. Though we are a part of a very large organization, our operating company has only about 40 people in this building.

BTW, thanks to both of you for your thoughts. Keep them coming!

HMac's picture

As usual, Tom raises really good thoughts to chew on...

Managing cultures is tricky business (and not for the faint of heart). But I also think the healthiest thing you can do is to keep prodding and pushing any culture along - if it's not evolving, it's dying...

If nothing else, Tom's observation can cause you to ask whether your team is too insular because of the similarity in personalities. Maybe not. And diversity isn't the only honorable goal out there - or put better, it isn't an end in itself. It's what your team can become and achieve better as a result of being more diverse.

MsSunshine's picture

I agree with Tom that a group of very similar people isn't always the best. I've had the fortune of being able to put together teams from scratch twice and am currently adding a person to my existing team. I always try to find what I don't have. I make sure everyone on the team knows their strengths and knows how the new addition expands the ability of the collective team. I encourage them to work through the rough spots from differences in how they work. After getting them going for a few months with a new person, I usually can back away and the group becomes self monitoring. I still have people in the company from those two teams talk about how it was the best team they were ever on and they still seek each other out for input.

Having said that, you do need to make sure that the person you are hiring is a person who can and wants to be part of a team. But it seems like none of your candidates are that far outside of the current group.

Talk to the team about doing this. Talk to the candidate about this. They do need to buy in. With my latest team, I got a bunch of very quiet high Cs. I've just hired a very passionate high C who is much more vocal - and can be negative. His technical skills are also outstanding. I told them that he'll be a bull in the china shop and they are the china. They'll have to have a little thicker skin sometimes. I also told him that I will work with him on learning to influence people who are different styles. (It's an internal person who could be great if they can learn to adjust their delivery sometimes! His current manager is struggling to deal with him.) Both sides are really excited. I realize there will be problems at some point but were all going in with open eyes.

kklogic's picture

Here's an update...

After going through the entire process (outlined in the group interview thread), one candidate did rise to the top. It ended up being the person who we felt would fit the best from the start. To clarify, by "fit," I don't mean "exactly like everyone else here." She speaks her mind and ask questions - which is what is needed in our organization to thrive.

I thank you all for your insight and feedback. We're making an offer today. I'll get back here and give you an update as to how it's working out.

HMac's picture

kklogic - just out of curiosity, is the winner candidate A, B, or C?

and, congratulations.


kklogic's picture

Hi, Hugh. It was Candidate A.

The other two candidates came back on testing as personally motivated and not team motivated - amongst other things. Candidate A tested as our prototypical employee here - cares about the team, doesn't want to let anyone down, driven, assertive, etc.

Thanks for asking.