Hiring Mistakes – Vetting the Candidate

“But s/he was such a good fit on paper!”  How many times have you heard that description of a failed hire?  Unfortunately, the paper is only part of the story. It’s the person behind the paper that matters.  The answers to three key questions will most often determine the success of a hire.

CAN they do the job?   Pretty basic, right?  Of course the candidate must have the requisite hard skills. In many instances, however, the environment in which they apply those skills gets overlooked.  Scope, scale and context are as important as the skills themselves.  If you’re hiring a technology executive to support a 24x7 retail operation, do you really want someone from custom manufacturing? Granted, the tools may be the same, but they’ll be providing different vastly different solutions – and in fact may not even understand the questions. The resumes of a candidate managing a team of 10 and one managing a division of 100 may read the same, but require vastly different leadership skills.  A business development or sales exec who’s used to carrying a multimillion dollar quota may not understand the dynamics of selling a single million dollar deal. And the list goes on. 

WILL they do the job?  We are all capable of doing many different things. But it’s not enough to have the ability to do a job; the candidate has to want to do your job. The individual’s goals and the company’s goals need to be in sync, and both must share the same vision of success.  The word “passion” is almost a cliché in executive search right now, but the fact remains that people are complicated. We really only excel at the things that capture both our hearts and our heads.  

Do they FIT?  Cultural fit is crucial to a successful long term hire. Culture includes physical environment, process and attitude, among other things. It’s everything from jeans and t-shirts vs. suits, to communication style, to decision making process. If an executive is accustomed to working in a large environment that requires multiple levels of input, they may freeze when the decision is theirs alone. Likewise, someone who’s used to “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” may stagnate in a more deliberate, highly process-oriented environment.  A creative type won’t last in a company whose reason for doing things is “because that’s the way we’ve always done them.”

A failed hire damages more than just the egos of the parties involved. It costs the company money, opportunity, morale and momentum. Vetting a candidate in these three areas – can they, will they, do they fit - will go a long way in avoiding costly hiring mistakes.