“What happened?” you ask. HR screened the résumés and gave you the best of the stack. You checked for education, work experience, and skills, and they were all there. You interviewed her and she sounded bright and enthusiastic—a real go-getter. It all felt right. How could she have been so wrong for us?
You’re not alone. A manager of a fast food restaurant posted a job for a part time food service worker—someone to make sandwiches and serve customers. Among the teenagers who typically applied, he was hoping to find someone who was a good student in school, dependable, and not afraid to work. Student government officer, previous employment, and decent grades suggested a good fit. But he ended up with a self-absorbed, social media addict who found customers inconvenient.
At the other end of the spectrum, the CEO of a biomedical company hired an attorney as general counsel. To the CEO, everything seemed perfectly in sync. In his words, “He looked great on paper, he matched the job specs perfectly, and I thought we really hit it off.” Two months later, the attorney resigned. All the CEO could do was shake his head and say, “I don’t understand.”
It’s frustrating in the least. We go to all that work and end up with a dud. Why does it work out that way when we try so hard to use a logical process to get the right people?
Of course we want people with the right education or training and the kind of experience that suggests they can do the job. That’s what we use an application or résumé for. We also want to be confident that we can work with them and they’ll get along with the rest of the team. So we interview them to get a feel for their personality. But what we often miss are their values and how they’ll demonstrate those values at work. Résumés and personality interviews don’t always tell us that.
The values that should matter to the business are things like laser-focus on serving customers, drive to achieve results, and not being willing to push out shabby products. Do those values show up on a résumé?
What about the things people value about the job? Do they value being able to work on their own without a lot of direction? Do they want to be part of a chummy, collaborative social group? Are they looking forward to organizing people, or strategizing for products? Do they value being creative or solving problems? Those values have a lot to say about how the person will feel about the job. If you don’t find them out beforehand, and the person has expectations that aren’t met, somebody is going to be disappointed.
Don’t let that happen to you. Here’s a checklist for avoiding mismatches like the ones we’ve been talking about.
- Don’t just hire on skills, smarts, personality, or training and education. If you do, you’re likely to miss the person’s values—the most important factors that will determine how well they fit in your company
- Determine values employees should have so you’ll know what to look for before you spec the job or interview candidates
- Identify the values important for a person to be happy in the job based on what the job entails so the employee isn’t surprised and disappointed after they take the job
- Look in the résumé for clues that may hint at those values and reveal what’s important to the candidate like caring about quality or valuing independence
- In the interview, ask candidates to share their experiences dealing with situations common to your workplace. Look for evidence of what they value and how they show it
- Ask about the decisions they made in those situations and what they based them on to get further insights into their values
- Ask questions to determine what they value most about work to see if what they’re looking for matches the opportunity
Ultimately, you want to hire competent people. But that’s not enough to ensure a fit. You want people who value doing what’s necessary to help you succeed in the business. You also want the work to provide what they value in the work. If you miss on either, you may end up with a dud.
Ascent Management Consulting is found at www.ascentmgt.com and specializes in productivity improvement through performance turnarounds, leadership coaching, and appraisal-less performance management.