Hiring for Fit

Alison King

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One of the biggest challenges shared by almost every entrepreneur and small business owner I know is staffing. Not just the time and money spent searching for, screening, interviewing and hiring candidates, but finding long-term employees who contribute to the business' bottom line.

It seems harder than ever to attract and keep staff who are reliable, who demonstrate the "can-do" attitude needed to get the job done, and who understand that today's workplace is not always a 9-to-5 world.

There are lots of theories out there about millennial workers: they are lazy; their parents have coddled them; they lack a strong work ethic; they have short attention spans that require constant stimulation. Honestly, I don't believe any of that to be true. If entrepreneurs keep hiring the wrong people, we're going to keep seeing the same poor results.

Employee turnover is costly. Businesses invest a great deal of time, money, and company resources searching for, hiring, and training new staff members. When those hires fail to meet expectations or walk out your door, your investment walks out the door too.

Part of the problem lies in our entrepreneurial nature. We are DIYers, mostly because we have to be. How many small business owners have any formal human resources training or any budget to hire an HR expert? While recently researching HR best practices for entrepreneurs, I came across a blog post that changed my perspective. What if the problem isn't whom we hire, but how we hire them?

The message: "It turns out, that if an employee fits in well (with your already-successful department or company) culture, he or she will typically do well, according to research from the Harvard Business Review and a variety of expert studies."

Let's unpack that statement a little further. Most of us tend to focus on three areas when screening applicants: education, experience, and skills. We develop position descriptions based on the requirements of the job, then look for candidates who have experience performing similar duties. Makes sense, right? But the shared struggle to attract and keep top talent shows that the traditional approach is not working well.

Instead, the research suggests that "fit" with the company may be the best predictor of employee success and should be weighted at least as heavily as the factors we typically focus on when hiring. Obviously, having the right skills and experience to perform the required work is important, but consider whether the candidate will be able to interact positively with you and others on your team and whether they support the same mission, values, work ethic, and standards you've established for your company.

How do you know if a candidate is the right fit, especially if you don't have a background in HR?

It's not as hard as you might think. There are lots of tips and tools available online that pre-screen candidates with behavioral questions and psychological profiling. Some will even evaluate your job description, create a profile of the ideal candidate for that position, and rank applicants according to the best fit. If it helps reduce employee turnover and boosts productivity and profits, I'm willing to give just about anything a try.

The next time I need to hire, I'm going to try hiring for fit first.

Alison King is a freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist who has been juggling the demands of family and entrepreneurship for over 10 years.

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