Case Study: Mistaking Similarities for “Fit”

By October 4, 2019Hiring

A tight-knit, family-owned carpet manufacturer was coping with the retirement of its president, a 30-year employee who had risen through the ranks. 

The founder, a bright but reclusive woman who had functioned at arm’s-length for some time, determined that she would become involved in the process of selecting the next president. 

When it was clear that there were no suitable internal candidates, she hired an external firm to conduct the search. The search firm met with the founder and a couple of her top staff members to identify qualifications for the position. 

It was agreed that a good candidate would be someone from a small, family-owned business with a financial background (similar to the previous president) who was ready to move up. 

After a brief exploration, the search firm presented the founder with a couple of ostensibly suitable choices. The founder quickly identified, and zeroed in on, a candidate working for a family-owned wood and tile flooring company. 

The founder requested that we evaluate the candidate to provide additional insight. Our evaluation established that the candidate was not a good fit for the position, given her tendency to gloss over details; we also judged her to be too boisterous for the introverted founder. 

We predicted that their differing interpersonal styles would lead to workplace clashes. Nevertheless, the founder hired her, enamored with the fact that she was already doing a similar job at a smaller company. 

This new hire was on the job for only six months when the founder called us to say that she regretted ignoring our concerns and the counsel of her staff. She conceded that the new president was simply not working out. 

The founder, embarrassed that she had not heeded any of the dissenting opinions, determined to go back to the drawing board. She vowed that the next set of candidates would be considered not only for their business acumen and background, but also for their fit with the company’s culture and, most importantly, with her personally. 

In the hiring process, technical capabilities and previous experience are rarely the most important criteria of a candidate. How a candidate thinks critically, solves problems, and interacts with others are far better indicators of future success.

With our help, the next hiring went far more smoothly and, while not perfect, the match was much better for the company and the founder alike.

THE TAKEAWAY: Don’t look for someone who merely “checks the boxes.” Find a candidate whose critical thinking and interpersonal style are a match for your organization. 

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