When Hiring Leaders, Focus on Fit

01 Dec

When hiring a new leader into your organization, what do you think is the most important thing to focus on? Is it technical skills or certifications? Is it past experiences? The answer likely depends on the specific position, but one thing is certain – no matter the role, fit plays a huge role in determining a leader's success (or failure). Just because someone's experiences and skills look good on paper doesn't mean that person will be a good fit in the role, the team, or the company. When hiring external leaders into your company, don't forget to consider these important aspects of fit.


Fit with the position

One thing that I've learned throughout the course of my career is that job titles don't mean much. For example, an HR manager in one organization could have very different tasks and responsibilities than an HR manager at a different company. To avoid confusion and unrealistic expectations, ensure that you develop a clear and concise job description and share it very early in the hiring process. However, just because that information is readily available, don't assume that a candidate applied because he/she is a good fit. This is something that should be addressed directly. When talking with the candidate, avoid simply enumerating what the job offers. Instead, ask the candidate what they want in a position. Get specific information about tasks they enjoy and goals that they have. Does the candidate's preferences closely match what the job entails? If not, consider how this will impact a person's satisfaction with the job. Even if the person loves their coworkers or the organization, they're not likely to last long if they hate their day-to-day tasks.


Related: 5 Reasons to Update Your Job Descriptions


Fit within the team

Use an objective assessment to gather information about the candidate's leadership style, and then compare that with the needs of the team. Consider things like how many direct reports the person will have, how much coaching and development the team members will need, and what percentage of the leader's time will be devoted to managerial tasks. A well-established, experienced team may not need a lot of guidance and may in fact resent someone who comes in and wants to have a high level of oversight. On the other hand, a team that's accustomed to a very hands-on leader might flounder under a transactional leader who largely leaves them to their own devices. This might be the most important aspect of fit to consider, as a poor fit will not only impact the new leader, but will certainly have a trickle-down effect on the team members as well.

Read more: Choosing a Leadership Assessment: How and Why

Fit with the organization as a whole

An organization's leaders set the tone for the company. Their decisions and actions influence the culture of the organization and have a cascading impact for employees at lower levels. A diverse leadership team with varying opinions and ideas is a good thing, but at the end of the day, the team needs to come to a general consensus about what kind of culture the company is going to have. If a company encourages employees at all levels to challenge the status quo and strive for continuous improvement, it needs to hire leaders who are going to be open to new ideas and feedback. If a company has a very formal hierarchy or strict policies about communication and information sharing, its leaders will need to respect those guidelines and act accordingly. Data shows that an employee's cultural fit will impact their job satisfaction and even tenure, so organizations need to ensure their leaders fit within and promote the culture and ideals that are most important to the company.


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