Assessing Job Candidates for Fit

Quality personnel selections are important to organizational success and are critical to performance improvement. Increasingly, organizations are not just looking to fill positions based on knowledge, skills and abilities, but also for the right cultural fit for each role. This includes quality staff that can operate in an environment of increasing complexity and change, and can help create and sustain a company’s competitive advantage. Properly executed, organizations will reap the rewards of qualified employees, high morale and increased productivity.

On the contrary, a poor hire can lead to employee discord, high turnover and can be costly. There are the significant costs for terminating the employee, recruiting, training and orienting a replacement, lost productivity as well as negative long-term financial and non-financial implications to hiring the wrong person. According to Deloitte & Touche, it costs $12,000 USD per year in recruitment and training expenses alone to replace the average nonprofessional worker and $35,000 USD to find a new professional employee.[1]

It is now critical for organizations to find and hire the right person and determine how these potential employees will fit into the way it does business.[2] Fit is a relative parameter, with no absolute measure. When an employee joins a company, they are joining a culture that already exists. Candidates may perform well on screening tests but once hired, they may not “fit in” with operating norms, values and assumptions about how work gets done. Research indicates that people tend to fail more for lack of fit than lack of skills or desire to do well.[3]

Assessment is a complex practice. To be effective, positions must be examined and success criteria defined, including the skills, experience, knowledge, competencies, work values, as well as the important personality traits necessary for success in the position. Job profiling allows management to effectively assess jobs at any level and ensures that candidates are compared to job criteria, versus candidate to candidate.

Often, competency-based questions or behavioural interview questions are used as part of the interview process. These questions can reveal insights about a candidate’s ethics and integrity. Asking follow up questions to uncover the thinking behind the behaviors will provide a more complete snapshot. Other common methods to assess culture fit include panel interviews, in –depth reference checking, and informal meetings with team members and colleagues.

When there is lack of clarity concerning any aspect of the job or the person needed, managers tend to make emotion based decisions, opting for candidates they like, consequently not fairly evaluating candidates based on their fit for the job. Another common mistake is hiring candidates who seem to know people in the industry or have an extensive rolodex. This is quite usual for sales people or very senior positions.

Determining a “goodness of fit” between the organization and candidates remains important for providing an objective basis for understanding candidate gaps, their implications and the likely training and support that will be required to close any gaps, and to ensure the candidate performs optimally.[4]

Motivational Fit

Traditionally, organizations have focused on identifying and selecting people based on their skills and experience. While finding a candidate who has the right set of skills and has done a similar job is a good indication of future performance, research and practice increasingly point to motivational fit as a key differentiator in the selection process.[5] Motivational fit is the degree to which the candidate and the employer agree on what each expects to receive from the relationship.

It is defined as an individual’s compatibility with an organization’s values and mode of operation. Such a candidate is likely to perform successfully across the organization in differing roles. Values guide behaviour and decisions, and recruiting an individual who matches the organization’s values helps to strengthen the organization’s culture.

Cultural Fit

The most commonly and frequently cited element of ‘fit’ centers on the congruence between individual and organizational values. This is often referred to as Culture Fit and is the ability of an employee to comfortably work in an environment that is congruent with his or her own beliefs and values.

Along with helping to reduce absenteeism and turnover, assessing for fit also helps organizations increase employee satisfaction and morale, which leads to better performance and productivity. Motivated employees are more likely to take charge of their own performance, seek ways to improve processes, products and services, and contribute positively to their organization’s bottom line success.

While both constructs are important in making effective hiring decisions, culture fit increasingly represents the key. An employee who is a good cultural fit will work well within the environment and culture that exists. As the parameters of jobs become blurred, and individuals are asked to embrace a range of responsibilities, knowledge and skills needed for a specific job may be less important.[6] Thus, an important purpose of job interviews is to enable the employers to assess the potential cultural fit of a candidate. In behavioural interviews, how candidates have previously approached various work situations will indicate their style and behaviour and whether it is congruent with the style of the organization.

Integrating culture fit

The challenge for employers is to identify and hire employees who fit their work culture and consciously shape a work culture that will ensure the success of the organization. There are various ways organizations can embed and assess fit during their recruitment and selection process.

Articulate the value proposition up front by clearly and realistically articulating the attributes of the organization to prospective employees. This increases the likelihood of attracting the ‘right’ people in the first place.

Use tools such as Realistic Job Previews and/or ‘Day in the Life’ profiles to help applicants self screen. These enable applicants to better understand the dynamics of a particular job and organization and make decisions early about suitability for the position and as such, may self screen themselves out of the recruitment process.

Utilize a Fit tool; analyze the job and organizational characteristics that are present and absent in the role and organization to determine a job profile, ask prospective candidates to complete a motivational questionnaire to provide information about characteristics that are appealing or unappealing in an ideal job and organization, and compare the organization and individual profiles to determine suitability and fit.

Describe values in behavioural terms and use behavioural-based questions to assess suitability. As well, identify competencies that align with the core values and ensure that interview questions address these. If interpersonal skills are important, then define which skills and behaviors. For example, is teamwork an important part of your culture, or is success driven more by individual effort? Is it a high-pressure environment, or more laid back? Is there a family atmosphere, or is it more formal? The ability to adapt to your environment will have a direct bearing on a candidate’s success.

The fit between an employee and the organization is a crucial component of individual and organizational success. Job dissatisfaction is the leading cause of voluntary turnover, and is directly linked to lower productivity and morale. Filling job openings with candidates who fit is simply good business. Managers who are clear about the requirements for success in a job will have high levels of success when they hire. When a well designed and consistently executed selection system is implemented, organizations not only yield the benefits of hiring better people, but they also ensure a process that is fair and consistent. Job fit quickly and accurately maximizes the ability to identify candidates whose job preferences are closely aligned to those of the job. It can reduce the burden on management because the employees will enjoy their job, and can create energy for those in the work environment. It inspires creativity, creates loyalty, saves money and reduces disruptions to the business.

[1] Ustin, Joan. Assessing Job Candidates for Fit. Joan K. Ustin & Associates.

[2] Birk, Thomas, Burk, John. The art and science of personnel selection assessing “goodness of fit” with organizational culture. 2007.

[3] Ustin, Joan. Assessing Job Candidates for Fit. Joan K. Ustin & Associates.

[4] Thomas International Inc. 2010

[5] Watt, Bruce. How to Hire for Cultural Fit. 2005

[6] Australia Research Report. Recruiting for Culture Fit. 2005