ideal fit

Hiring: Plan Ahead, Ideal Fit Takes Time

By Kristen Harris

“Never make a decision until you have to.” – Randy Pausch

As hiring managers and job candidates, we’re all looking for an Ideal Fit. Whatever term you use to describe it, we all want to find someone who is a good fit for our team, or a work opportunity that feels “just right”. If you’re not sure how to assess an Ideal Fit, check out our article Hiring: What’s an “Ideal Fit”?

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time. It’s not something you can rush through, yet we’re often pressured to make quick decisions. Hiring managers need to quickly assess whether a candidate is the right fit for their team and realize that candidate is probably talking to other companies too. When you find the right person, you feel pressured to make an offer before someone else does.

On the other side, with all of the options and opportunities, candidates are getting offered roles more quickly and feel pressured to accept. They may get multiple offers and need to make the right choice for themselves and their career.

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time, but with all the pressure to make a quick decision, we don’t have time. How to resolve this seemingly impossible conundrum? By putting in our time beforehand, so we’re prepared to make a quick decision when the clock is ticking.

Never make a decision until you have to, but be prepared to make a decision when you need to. When you’ve spent time getting clear on what the Ideal Fit is for you, then it’s much easier to make that quick decision when the pressure is on.

For hiring managers, it’s important to be very clear on what matters to you, your company, and your team. Identify the must-haves vs nice-to-haves for any role you’re trying to fill. What is required for success in this role? What skills, experience or background are necessary? What type of personality traits or soft skills are you looking for? What’s important to your company? What is your culture like? Make a list of everything you’re looking for, ranked from most important to least.

For individuals seeking a new role, project, or work opportunity, you need to know what matters the most to you (and what doesn’t). Are you looking for higher pay? More interesting projects? The opportunity to learn new skills or grow the breadth of your work? To work with a particular person or for a certain company? Is flexibility or a specific work schedule important to you? Stability and predictability, or new exciting challenges every day? What kind of culture do you thrive in? Write it all down, in order of priority.

A prioritized list of what matters the most gives you a base to compare against when making decisions. Let’s be honest, no person or job is completely, 100% perfect. There will always be compromises. You need to know what matters most, your deal-breakers vs nice-to-haves.

When you’re clear on what’s most important, making decisions becomes easier, even under pressure. Compare every candidate or opportunity to your list. How does the person or role measure up against your must-haves? If all those boxes are checked, then look at the nice-to-haves. Those probably won’t all be covered, so decide where you’re willing to compromise. You’ve already set your priorities; you decided that the items lower on your list are less important to you. Now, take a breath, listen to your gut, and make your decision.

Finding the Ideal Fit takes time that we don’t have in the heat of the moment. By spending time beforehand to identify what’s most important, we can quickly make a better decision when the pressure is on.

Hiring: What’s an “Ideal Fit”?

By Kristen Harris

In hiring it’s important to remember people are not commodities, individuals are not interchangeable. Even with equal skills or experience, every person is unique, and so is every company and role. It’s important to find the right person for the right position– that’s an Ideal Fit.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve interviewed two candidates for a position on your team, equally qualified from a experience and skills set perspective.

Candidate A is an ambitious go-getter that wants to constantly improve things and often questions the status quo.

Candidate B is complacent, likes routine, and doesn’t question rules, challenge assumptions, or make a lot of suggestions.

So, who do you choose? Wait a minute...before you answer that, you should know more about the role.

It’s in a government agency, helping people fill out and file three different forms, using a fairly outdated computer system. This role serves the public, and the people being helped come from all walks of life; some have special needs and require a high level of patience. The role isn’t expected to change much, and there’s little opportunity for advancement, growth or development.

Now, which candidate would you choose? While they may be equally qualified on paper, you had the opportunity to get to know their personalities in your in-person interviews. Candidate A would be frustrated in this role, trying to improve things, questioning the rules, pushing for better technology, and hoping for advancement that never comes. For the same reasons, Candidate B could be an Ideal Fit for this role. They’re more comfortable accepting things as they are, working within a system, don’t mind doing the same thing repeatedly, and are very patient. They could find it rewarding to be the person who helps others navigate a bureaucratic process.

To find an Ideal Fit, it’s important to assess the traditional areas of skill set and experience, as well as soft skills and how they align with your culture.

A client recently said to me “...this resume looks fine...I mean, they seem to have the right experience, but that’s just on paper. I know you’ve met them, and there’s so much more to someone than what’s on their resume.”

Exactly. There’s so much more than what’s on paper— both a candidate’s resume and a company’s job description. To find an Ideal Fit for both sides, you have to dig deeper. You don’t just want to fill a void, you really want someone who is a good fit, and vice versa.

Before you start assessing candidates, answer these questions:

  • What’s the culture of your company or team?

  • What industry are you in, and how that does it affect your culture?

  • Who are your clients? What specific needs do they have or type of service do they expect?

  • Are you growing? If so, how quickly? How will that affect this role?

  • What soft skills are important to your team? What are your values?

  • What soft skills are important in this role? What makes other people in this role successful (or not)?

  • How much opportunity is there for growth or development in your company? In this specific role?

  • What’s your managerial style? What do you expect from people who report to you?

When you hire someone you’re not just filling an empty seat, you’re committing to them and they’re committing to you.

Knowing yourself and company better, what you really need, and what type of person would be successful in the role helps identify an Ideal Fit. Putting the right person together with the right company is critical for long-term success.

Gauge The Fit Before You Commit

By Kristen Harris

"Fit" seems to be something we're always looking for--whether we're seeking a love interest, career options, or a new pair of jeans. Cinderella's glass slipper fit only her dainty foot. When Goldilocks checked out the dwelling of the three bears, one bed was too big, one too small, and one was just right.

Not only found in fairytales, "just right" is an important factor in finding the right kind of work as well. But what exactly does "find the right fit" mean when it comes to job opportunities?

Ten Ways to Test Job Fit:

1. Values Match. Do the company values align with yours? Do you agree with what they believe is important and critical to success? Is what the company believes similar to the way you live your life? If yes, you should feel comfortable and succeed within the culture.

2. Like the Company. Do you like and believe in what the company does? Is the product or service provided interesting or important to you? Are you already a user or admirer? A passionate employee truly believes in what the company is producing. At a minimum you can't disagree with it, no matter how badly you want the job.

3. Interesting Work. Is the role interesting and challenging to you? Do you enjoy (at least most of) the tasks you'll be performing every day? Will you wake up excited to do this job? Even when you think the company is great, if you're not enthusiastic about your part it's hard to remain engaged.

4. Role Matches Skills. Does the position match your skill set fairly closely? Is the role one where you can utilize many of your skills? Can you be excellent at this job? Additional skills can be learned, but make sure you have the basics required to be successful.

5. Room to Grow. Does the role offer opportunity for growth? Is it challenging enough that you'll keep learning and stay engaged? Are there growth opportunities within the company? Don't ask for more until you've mastered your current responsibilities, but always be looking for ways to grow and improve.

6. Connect with the Team. Do you seem to fit in well with the team you'll be a part of? Do you like these people? Will you get along with them on a daily basis? You'll probably see your co-workers more waking hours than anyone else in your life, make sure you enjoy spending time together.

7. Get Along with the Manager. Do you seem to connect well with your manager or supervisor? Can you learn from this person? Will you work well together? The saying "people don't quit companies, they quit managers" applies here. A good relationship with you manager can make a big difference in your engagement and success at the company.

8. Pace of Work. Is the company in a fast-moving, reactionary type of industry? Or a slower, more deliberate business burdened with regulation? Is the work pace, and expectation, faster or slower? And how well does that match your own work style? There's no wrong answer here, but there are wrong matches; find a pace that matches yours.

9. Schedule that Fits. Is the schedule one that you can commit to? Are there a lot of late nights and overtime? Or are the office hours pretty set and predictable? Are you clear on the expectations for availability and can you meet them? Again. Not necessarily any wrong answers here, but definitely wrong fits. Make sure you can commit to what is expected.

10. Acceptable Pay Range. Does the position come with a pay range that works for you? Do you think the pay is fair for the work expected? Can the company afford your level of skills and expertise? Don't get too stuck on a number, consider all facets including future opportunities for growth and promotion, or getting your foot in the door with a company you really like. Everyone has a bottom-line; know what yours is and then consider all the factors.

Consider these areas for your current job or any future position you may be considering, and be completely honest with yourself. A great fit can lead to happily ever after.

Unicorns and Leprechauns: Stop Waiting for the Perfect Candidate

By Kristen Harris

Quick quiz...which of the following really exist?

a. Unicorns
b. Leprechauns 
c. Purple Squirrels
d. Perfect Candidates

Sorry, it’s a trick question. The correct answer is “e. None of the above.” Just like unicorns and leprechauns, no matter how strongly you want to believe, perfect candidates simply don’t exist. No single person has all of the skills you want, the specific years of experience you desire, fits smoothly into your culture, gets stellar reference reviews, positively impacts your business from day one, and wants to be paid exactly what you’re offering. 

I hear you protesting—you believe you HAVE found the perfect candidate. This wonderful, magical person seems to be everything you wished for. Am I saying you shouldn’t hire them? Of course not! Snap them up now before your competitor does. Just be aware, no matter how perfect they seem, here is always something you’ll need to work on. And that’s okay. Imperfection equals opportunity. 

Maybe you believe it’s worth waiting for that perfect person to show up. Please don’t. It’s a futile exercise that eats up valuable time and resources. You could wait forever to find the “perfect person.” Or you could hire someone who is a very close fit, develop them in a few minor areas, and see results quickly. 

When hiring there are always concessions or compromises to be made. The important thing is to know where you’re compromising, and what it will take to develop this candidate to where you need them to be. 

My best advice when adding a new person to your team is to look for the BEST POSSIBLE FIT and then fill in the gaps. What does that look like?

• Find a person who has most of the skills you want, and is eager to learn more.

• Look for someone with the right kind of experience doing the right types of work, without getting too hung up on a specific number of years. 

• Be very particular and focused about screening for culture fit. If they fit your culture, embrace your values, and buy into your mission, they’ll be excited and enthusiastic about learning what they don’t know. I can’t emphasize enough how important culture fit is; the right fit is different for every company.

• Listen very closely to reference reviews; what the reference doesn’t say is as important as what they do say. Also, ask around, don’t just call people provided by the candidate. Reach out to your network; ask people you trust about past experiences and interactions with this person. 

• Consider the potential impact this candidate can make on your organization, and what it will take to get them to that point. How quickly will they be productive? What kind of time and resources will it take to get them there?

• Be realistic and flexible on pay...to a point. Do your research to make sure what you’re offering is appropriate for the role, and consider the value this person will bring to your organization. How does that value compare to what they’re asking for?

No matter what role you’re looking to fill, perfect candidates don’t exist. Find the best possible fit for your needs, identify the areas where they’ll need to improve, and help them grow. Get as close as possible to perfect. In an imperfect world, that’s all you can ask for.