Hiring for the best fit, not the best resume

November 26, 2012 at 9:00 am 4 comments

This is a guest post by Curtis L. Odom, Ed.D.         

Recruiters are the ones out there on the front lines of the workforce bringing talent into organizations. There are a lot of qualified people out there from a credential standpoint, but fit is where the true challenge lies. Will this person fit our organization? Does the person look and feel to others like they belong here?

The answers to those questions play a huge role in the talent acquisition success. Unfortunately, recruiting and staffing is seen by many organizations as an easy thing, as a lower level skill. On the contrary, it is probably one of the hardest things under the umbrella of talent management to find the right match of talent to the organization and the hiring manager that needs that talent.

Organizations sometimes shy away from being very definitive about the type of person they want, commonly because they don’t want to be viewed as being biased in some way. Personally, I think this is erring too far on the side of political correctness. As a culture and a society, we’ve carried it way too far. One of the biggest things that frustrates hiring managers is that recruiters take too long to find the talent the company needs. In reality, the business doesn’t understand what the recruiter is doing.

When the hiring manager says,“I need a human factors engineer. I want them to have 10-12 years worth of experience. I want them to have worked for one of the big five consulting firms. I want this person to be in the local area, because I’m not paying for relocation.” All of these unique factors not only shrink the candidate pool and restrict the options of what the recruiter has to work with, but also increases time to hire.

I am sticking up for recruiters here and acknowledging that this is what they are faced with daily. Once the hiring manager says, “Do you have everything you need? You’re going to get me this person. Great. Thanks. Bye,” the clock starts for the business leader right then and there.  In reality, the recruiter takes this information and has to create the job requirement if it doesn’t exist. That might take two or three days to write it, review it, post it, and start to field submissions from applicants. It might be three weeks or a month before the recruiter even starts to get candidates in for interviews from when the posting went up based on conversations with the hiring leader.

The hiring leader is ticked off. “It’s been two months. Where is this person I need?” Without constant contact from the recruiter back to the hiring leader, the hiring manager doesn’t know the particulars of the situation, or what goes on behind the curtain. They think, “Next time I’ll hire an outside agency so I can get this done in less time!”

Unfortunately, that’s what happens to internal recruiters. They are out there with a flashlight in the middle of the daytime trying to find someone’s shadow. They’ve been given this exact description of what skills they need to find, but they have not had time to get a head start on trying to find that person. And they get very little respect or thanks when they do find the needles in the haystack.

I think we’re coming to a point where things are going to stabilize, because nothing lasts forever—even the downturns, even the bad times. We’re going to reach a point of stability. And when that does happen, you will find a lot of organizations that are going to start to think differently. They’re not going to ever want to return to talent firefighting, and they’re going to turn to thinking, “We never want to go through that again. We want to at least be able to mitigate our exposure to the whims and vagaries of the markets and economics.” The only way to do that is to literally have as lean and as flexible an organization as possible. That means do more with less. To do more with less, you have to have top talent and processes to enable that talent to do their jobs while pioneering a new paradigm.

You can’t do more with less if the people that you’ve got do not have the capability to pull it off. The best way to find those people is to grow them. You can’t hire them; because if you hire them that means that you had to go out and poach them, which costs money and is not a long-term solution to a recurring problem.

Corporations and organizations over a twenty-year period have had to resign themselves, to hire and replace, hire and replace. If you don’t have talent management that gives Gen Xers comfort enough about their career with your organization, they will go elsewhere, and you will consistently hire and replace, hire and replace. A properly structured talent management strategy such as a “talent farming” strategy can dramatically cut the cost of that impact and can guarantee you, perhaps, a seven-figure savings over the long run to the company in recruiting and staffing agency costs.

There are serious questions that companies and organizations must now ask themselves:

  • “Do we want to continue to muddle along with this talent management thing and have things remain the same?”
  • “Do we want the Board of Directors to continue to kick us to get a plan in place?”
  • “Do we want to put the company into the position where we can compete the next time there’s an economic downturn or the competition has a decided advantage and we’re losing market share?”
  • “Do we want to invest in ‘talent farming’ now so that we can have the best talent in house to deal with whatever organizational challenges come next?”

If not, then they will just stay the same. Admitting that they are not willing to address the hard questions. Admitting that they are not willing to step into the unknown and do things differently. Admitting that this would require people that are self-driven, that have self-confidence, that are willing to get out there and lead.

Don’t continue down the path of trying to figure out what accommodates your need to feel comfortable, but is in opposition to the desire to get a result. Because sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to get the result you want. You have to go through a period where it’s going to be downright ugly as you shake things up, break things down and build them back up stronger. A sustainable, proactive approach to talent management is the organization’s displayed willingness to make lasting cultural change.

Talent management is about sourcing candidates for knowledge, skills, and abilities to accomplish the organization’s goals. It stresses the importance of hiring based on the right fit for the individual and the organization. Being stuck in the middle between having employees who are able to do the job and in a place where they can do the job well is somewhere many organizations often find themselves. However, many are learning to recognize the warning signs, and know now how important it is to get it right when hiring for the best fit.

Dr. Curtis L. Odom is Principal and Managing Partner of Prescient Training Strategists, LLC, a consulting firm focusing on integrated talent management. Author of Stuck in the Middle: A Generation X View of Talent Management, Dr. Odom has recently been a featured expert in/on CNNMoney.com’s “Ask Annie” column, Wall Street Journal’s FINS blog, Ebony.com, Huffington Post and a number of other regional and national outlets. He has over 15 years of experience in talent development, performance consulting, training, and instructional design as a practitioner, researcher, author and speaker. Dr. Odom earned his doctorate of education from Pepperdine University and has been industry certified as both a Human Capital Strategist and Strategic Workforce Planner from the Human Capital Institute. Formerly serving in the United States Navy, he is currently a member of the International Society for Performance Improvement, the American Society for Training and Development and American Mensa. For more information, please visit www.stuckinthemiddle.me.


Entry filed under: Company Culture, HR Management, Leadership, Recruiting. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Our way of saying “Thanks!” Define success in your organization

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Training Nation Weekly Round-Up | Training Nation  |  December 3, 2012 at 5:02 am

    […] Hiring for the best fit, not the best resume […]

  • 2. managementdocandpoet  |  December 6, 2012 at 8:24 am

    How do you assess fit? I know realistic job previews, weighted application blanks, and employee referrals are great ways to search those proverbial shadows in the dark that you discuss above.
    Are there other great ways to assess fit?

    Phil Bryant
    Co-author: Managing Employee Turnover

    “if you love your employees, they might just love you back.”

    • 3. Briefings Media Group  |  December 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Hi, Phil.
      I think the first step is to analyze your culture (see today’s post for advice on that), determine what it takes to succeed in your organization, and then ensure that candidates fully understand those expectations. We often recommend starting by evaluating your top performers (those people that consistently exceed expectations) and then listing the characteristics and behaviors that make them successful. Next, seek out applicant’s that possess those same characteristics.


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