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A Perfect Fit

Adapted from Tero's Selecting Top Performers participant manual


The hiring system can only be effective when the first step, a thorough understanding of the position being filled, is made. This will result from careful study of the unique characteristics of both the organization and the position being filled.

Using a competency-based approach to culture analysis and job analysis and an in-depth behavioral-based interviewing process to measure fit helps hiring managers select top performers for their organization.

Fit must be assessed on three levels.

Organizational or cultural fit
Job fit
Motivational fit

First, a list of the qualities (organizational competencies) that are necessary for success in the company must be developed. Individuals who demonstrate high competency in these areas will fit in well with the organizational culture and climate.

Then, a list of the skills, knowledge and abilities (position competencies) that are necessary for success in the position is developed. This list is compiled from information gathered from individuals who are familiar with the position.

It is important to remember that the position competencies should consider not just the technical requirements for the job but also the more abstract and interpersonal skills such as leadership ability, communication skills, teamwork, initiative and risk taking that are essential for success.

The list should include both the skills and abilities necessary for success in the position as well as the candidate's motivation and interest in the job.

Together, these lists form the foundation of the hiring system, from developing job descriptions to employee selection to appraising performance to promotion to performance management.

Cultural/Organizational Fit

Just like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, you already know that it's not enough to simply find a qualified candidate for the job. You must also be sure the person will fit your organization's unique culture.

Each organization, like each country, has it's own unique culture. The people who are most at home in your unique organizational culture are the individuals who will thrive and make a meaningful contribution to your business.

We've all seen situations where this wasn't the case and the uncomfortable series of events that must occur to correct the problem. In addition to recognizing the job fit and motivational fit, interviewers must answer the following question: Will this candidate thrive in our culture or will they find our culture to be so foreign to their own that their ability to make a meaningful contribution is impaired?

While it is difficult to find someone who wouldn't agree that assessing cultural fit is important when filling positions, most organizations devote precious little time to this critical part of the selection system.

Organizational cultures are based on the shared qualities that are reflected in the behaviors of individuals at every level in the organization.

Identifying the competencies that support your culture is the first step in analyzing a position. The same competencies should be included in every job analysis for every position in the organization.

Most organizations have two or three core competencies that are reflected in their culture. Determining these organizational competencies should be the first step to building an effective selection system, rather than the afterthought it often is in most companies.

Below is a sample list of organizational competencies. Use this list as a guide to help determine those organizational competencies that fit your unique culture.

Job Fit

In the eighteenth century, economist Vilfredo Pareto developed what is popularly known as the 80/20 Rule, or the Pareto Principle. This rule states that 80 percent of the value of a group of activities is generally concentrated in only 20 percent of those activities.

This is certainly true of most positions in organizations. Although many, many activities can and are carried out by an individual in a job, the critical few are the ones to target in selecting top performers for your organization.

Begin the process of identifying position competencies by defining the goals/major responsibilities that the position is meant to accomplish. Remember the 80/20 rule - only the critical few!

Once the goals have been identified, determine what skills, knowledge and abilities (competencies) an individual must possess to successfully carry out the accomplishment of the goals.

Consider the following questions:

Motivational Fit

Highly motivated people often outperform individuals with greater technical qualifications or skills. Without motivation, individuals can lose their knowledge advantage through complacency. Organizations that match individuals to jobs they are not only skilled in, but also motivated to do, will thrive in the face of today's rapid changes.

People are basically emotional creatures and the emotional needs of the individual must be assessed. It is the role of the interviewing team to determine if the things that are inherent in the job are also the things that interest and motivate each candidate. This is called motivational fit and a perfect fit must address the human and emotional needs as well as the job competencies.

In the classic Star Trek episodes, the stoic and levelheaded Spock was a stark contrast to the passionate Captain Kirk. Together, they made a fine team. Spock's objectivity and detached analysis of their many adventures helped the good Captain organize his plans. However, it was Captain Kirk's own values and heartfelt convictions that powered his resolve.

Cognition may steer the ship, but passion fuels it.

The same is true of the role of emotions in employee selection. Humans may distinguish themselves from other animal forms by their disproportionately large frontal cortex (seat of cognitive capacity), but we are still emotional creatures. Our cognitive abilities just give us the opportunity to observe and harness our own emotions - not to overcome them. In fact, when researchers removed areas of the front lobe of the brain, they found that human performance on standardized tests dropped very little. However, when they removed the amygdala (the area of the brain responsible for processing much of our emotion), they found that it destroyed the patient's capacity for creative play, imagination, decisions requiring value judgments, interpretation of social cues, humor and altruism (A. Demasio, 1994). The effect was - quite obviously - devastating.

Simply put; emotions have a HUGE role in human performance. Without addressing them, your selection system will not be as successful as it otherwise could be.

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