By Michael Gunther
As leaders, we understand the importance of strong employees and their ability to not only perform their job well, but also for them to fit culturally within your firm. I was recently speaking with a group of business owners discussing the challenges with finding qualified employees and the conversation quickly turned to the recruiting and onboarding process of the employees.

There seemed to be some consistent themes: the person they hired had the right education and job experience, but never quite fit into the organization or the person didn’t seem to embody the same core values or belief systems as the other team members. The new hires ended up leaving within a year whether voluntarily or not. The cost of recruiting and retraining an employee became more expensive since these firms had to start all over again.

As the conversation continued, we discovered that the leaders didn’t spend any time assessing the cultural fit of the potential recruits. Instead, they got caught up in their previous roles at larger firms. It was assumed the recruit had to be amazing because they had worked at larger companies. The leaders thought the applicants’ educational background was the perfect fit for the role and were amazed they could attract an individual from such a prestigious college. This person must be really smart and can contribute to the firm, right?

I’m not sure about you, but I have fallen for these same recruiting approaches in the past. What I have learned is the importance of determining compatibility of the applicant with the firm’s mission, core values, and existing members. Job experience and education does not always equal a solid recipe for success in the recruiting process. The areas missed in the hiring process are in depth exploration of the individual’s characteristics as well as a cultural fit assessment and evaluation.  I think the cultural fit and the basic characteristics of a recruit are actually more important than the job history or schooling an applicant brings to the table in the recruiting process.

The challenge is how does one assess these areas in the interview with an applicant? One leader spoke of a group interview he had with about ten applicants. His organization believed in the importance of service and helping others. He had his wife park her car in the parking lot with the hood open as if she was having trouble. Only three of the ten applicants actually asked if she needed help as they pulled in the same parking lot for their job interview. It was those three individuals innate service characteristics that had them stand out from the other candidates. You couldn’t have found that out just by asking questions.

Another leader shared how they typically will take an applicant to a restaurant for a meal. They usually go to the same place and they ask the wait staff to purposely get the applicants order wrong. They want to see how the applicant responds to the restaurant staff and the situation. They are always amazed if an applicant becomes disrespectful and judgmental of the wait staff. Once again, how could you have picked that up in an interview process?

Bottom Line

Finding the right people is difficult. If you move too quickly without clearly vetting out the characteristics and cultural fit of an individual, it will cost you more time and money in the long run.  Be creative in trying determine who the person is and how they operate beyond the details on their resume.

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