FIT: The Secret to Hiring the Right People — a True North Leadership Principle


New hires everywhere. President. Vice-President. Senators. Congressmen. Chief of Police.

And those, just in our nation’s capital over the past few days.

Seems like this may be an opportune moment to determine how and why we hire. And how we as True North leaders might do so much more effectively for our enterprise’s (country’s?) long-term benefit.

Years ago I lost count of how many times I had used the term “tribe” in association with someone’s happiness (or lack thereof) in their job. As in, “They’re just not my tribe.” Or, “I don’t really fit there.” By some estimates, up to 70% of Americans are unhappy with their job, or boss. Or, both.

Wow! Are we just chronically unhappy? Or is there something else at play here? I argue that it’s almost always a FIT issue.

Let’s dig into FIT as the greatest predictor of relational (professional, spiritual or personal) success or failure.

Forgive the brief academic review of the organizational literature. Two theories describe how to assess one’s greatest job/satisfaction/effectiveness congruence:

· Person-Job-Fit, and

· Person-Organization Fit

The first helps understand the dynamics involved in hiring the right person to fit the needs of the job description. It’s more transactional — meaning in simplistic terms, find someone with dexterity and they’ll most likely make a good hamburger-flipper at McDonalds. Now it’s far more complex than that, but in its essence, P-J Fit simply measures the compatibility between an individual’s characteristics (psychological and biological needs, goals, values, personality and abilities) with those of a specific job.

This is the work and function of most hiring managers in HR departments around the world.

On the other hand, Person-Organization Fit Theory describes more complex levels of compatibility between people and companies that occur when one entity provides what the other needs, and/or they share similar fundamental characteristics.

For example, when a potential new hire finds a match with a company’s culture, climate, values, goals and norms with their own values, goals, personality and attitudes, an initial indicator for fit is created. In many cases, the fit is merely perceived, right? It isn’t until an employee is ensconced within the organization that more realistic appraisals of fit on myriad levels can be detected.

But it goes deeper.

Not long ago, I was recruited to consider a deanship at a well-known university where they planned to amalgamate academic departments that had not co-existed under a single umbrella. It was an exciting challenge filled with many unknowns.

So when I reached the in-person interview level of the process, I politely answered all their questions and then began asking my own:

· How committed is the university’s leadership (Board, President, Provost) to this endeavor?

· What levels of resourcing this new School are they prepared to invest? The job, as I envisioned it, would require the investment of substantial new monies for a new building, new faculty and new equipment.

· Did those with whom I was interviewing see me as a “fit” for their environment and ethos?

· Did I see myself thriving in that setting?

Jesus taught on this topic, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28–30 NIV)

Here’s what we know: higher levels of congruence between the person and the organization have long-term benefits for the organization and the individual. Better fit between the person and the organization leads to more positive work attitudes, lower employee stress, lower potential turnover, and higher levels of work performance. Ultimately, these positive outcomes contribute to success for the organization.

So how do you know if a potential new hire will be a good fit with your organization? Consider these three factors:

· This one’s obvious: does the candidate’s experience match the job description?

Here we go beyond just the resume vs job description. Following up with personal references is a starting point. But digging deeper may be a great benefit. Who else (beyond listed references) can you find and interview? Why did this candidate leave their last job? Plenty of good reasons potentially, but do any of them raise a red flag for you?

· Assess, to the best of your ability, is the candidate is a team player?

Some jobs do not require interpersonal skills. Working alone in a research laboratory comes to mind. Or, high-stress, quick decision-making jobs, like an ER doctor, also don’t require a warm fuzzy “bedside” manner. But matching personality to the environment into which you will assign the new hire will prove vitally important to their success.

· Do the professional and personal values of the candidate match those of your organization?

Here’s where strong interviewing skills come in handy. Knowing how to inquire and which questions to ask to elicit the answers you’re needing are skills required by everyone in the hiring process queue. Unfortunately, these types of questions are often omitted either because the interviewer is inexperienced or uncomfortable probing at this level.

A spiritual truth distinguishes the True North leader’s hiring process from those of others: we have the promise of the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and discernment. What an advantage, to have the literal presence of the Most High God living inside you, answering your requests for help in these matters.

But let’s be practical. You and I have seen this occur far too often: the “God told me” syndrome. In Christianese this may be literally true. But it may also be a manipulation that relies more on my personal feelings disguised as hearing God’s voice. Be careful to assess the sound of God’s Spirit within you and your own desires or imaginations.

When a True North leader sets up this type of new candidate analysis process: looking for fit on these scales, you go beyond the role itself. You discern compatibility on several levels, each as important as the others. And when you’ve done this homework, your chances of hiring the right person for the job are greatly enhanced. You’ll add strength and cohesion internally. You’ll have a much higher degree of mutual team engagement, and ultimately, your success at hiring will lead to the new employee’s success with your company and best — the blessings of more success for the enterprise.

Norm Mintle