Hire the right person, not the best (brightest, most talented) person

This picture was taken on the first night Grace and I were together, June 1, 2005. She was wearing a collar and a harness because she had slipped out of a collar at her foster home. And true to her frightened nature, she has a piercing look at a foreign sound that worried her. She definitely needed a quiet home that didn't overwhelm her heightened senses.
This picture was taken on the first night Grace and I were together, June 1, 2005. She was wearing a collar and a harness because she had slipped out of a collar at her foster home. And true to her frightened nature, she has a piercing look in the direction of a foreign sound that worried her. She definitely needed a quiet home that didn’t overwhelm her heightened senses.

The first time I met Grace, I was advised not to look at her. That’s because direct eye contact, especially for a fearful dog, is threatening. It’s best to let the dog get comfortable with you before you get too close or direct in your communication.

That is not the same advice I would offer to a hiring manager that is trying to get acquainted with a candidate in an interview! Having good eye contact and asking direct, engaging question would be the preferred approach.

Yesterday, Nancy Bishop and I were invited to participate in the Net Impact Career Fair. We shared insights and ideas that would help these University of New Hampshire students think about their career options, and answer any questions they had about interviewing or the process of job searching. All the conversations we had got me thinking about the right fit in the workplace — and of course, my mind finds the connection with how Grace and I are aligned, too. 

One student said she had been on several interviews and she was surprised how different each had been. One was very formal and serious, another very casual and low-key, and one that was blended. She said it was difficult to know what to expect and how to act in each. It’s a great question because we all have a tendency to want to fit in, even if it may not be our own style. And it’s also a perfect illustration of how important it is for us to find environments that are comfortable for us, because in the long-run, we’ll either thrive in the right environment, or be miserable and/or leave the culture that doesn’t fit us.

While there are times that we need to “bend” a little to adjust to nuances in a situation, such as a formal or informal interview, I think it’s more important to recognize what that says about the company’s overall approach. For example, that student can learn quite a bit about the organization’s culture by observing the format of the interview. For a company that has a formal meeting, it likely speaks to the demeanor and style of the leadership and will ripple through to policies, processes, and unwritten rules of operation within the company. That’s not bad, it just is what it is. And it may very well be the preferred style of the candidate. If it is, great.

But what if the candidate is more of a “maverick” — the type of person who is extremely creative, flexible, prone to be spontaneous and whimsical when it comes to process and procedure. That would be a very frustrating arrangement for both parties.

Evaluating a person’s knowledge, skills, and experience is a big part of understanding the fit. But it’s not everything. Both the candidate and the hiring manager must be aware of a person’s natural work style in order to decide how the two will mesh.

Grace wouldn’t have lasted two days in a busy, active household with lots of small children and visitors coming and going. She’s not the well-balanced dog that can adjust easily to changing environments. She needs routine and structure. It’s just not her style to be comfortable with a lot of noise and confusion. I knew I wanted to adopt a dog, but I also knew I had to take into account not only what I wanted in that companion, but what she needed from me, too. A good hiring manager will remember to take both parties into the equation.

What’s your experience with having the right fit in your organization? What are ways that helped you determine the alignment? I’d love to hear from you!

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