Hiring for fit: Clearly defining what candidates need to succeed with your organization


For years, organizations have been advised to pay close attention to cultural fit in their hiring practices. Screening for fit has often been touted as the solution to hiring misfires, poor retention and negative morale. But what do we mean by fit? And how do we decide that a potential candidate doesn’t fit?

One of the dangers of screening for fit in a hiring process is that “fit” can often mean “sameness” and that hiring for fit can act as a roadblock, preventing organizations from achieving a truly diverse workforce.

The solution is not to stop assessing for fit — it’s important that a potential employee aligns in key areas with corporate culture — it’s to be sure not to conflate personal fit with organizational fit and to carefully examine how you are measuring fit in your recruitment and selection process.

So how do you do this?

Clearly define what allows people to succeed in your organization

Take the time to define the competencies, skill sets and behaviours that have proved most successful in your organization and then strategize ways to assess candidates objectively against those criteria, so that you can avoid relying on a “gut check” in the midst of your screening process.

Clearly define the role and the selection criteria

Define the absolute must-have criteria then define the nice-to-haves. How might a person who comes to the table with the must-haves, but not the nice-to-haves, add value in a different way? While a good search begins with clear criteria, you don’t want to overly narrow the potential pool to the extent that only those with a particular rarified degree are screened in.

Deconstruct your screening process

Make sure that those who are screening resumes on the front line understand how to assess candidates objectively against your baseline, but also feel empowered to think through how a candidate with a non-traditional career path might add value in a different way. It may also help to offer unconscious bias training or trial a blind hiring screening process whereby candidates’ names and identifying characteristics are removed from resumes.

Question the interview process

Develop a set of structured and behaviourally based questions and use them consistently. Think through who is on the interviewing panel: do potential candidates see themselves represented in the room? Keeping your interview process consistent and allowing for a diversity of voices in the room will steer decision-making away from instinctual affiliations with candidates and toward a more objective assessment of fit.

Don’t throw the concept of fit away, just measure it more effectively

Evaluating for cultural fit, while still a valuable part of your search process, should be done carefully, thoughtfully and systematically. The end goal of this process of re-evaluation is that you emerge at the end of the hiring process with a new teammate who offers a fresh perspective on your current challenges and better equips you to provide service to a wide diversity of clients.



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