Screen for round pegs to avoid hiring mistakes

When it comes to best hiring practices, nothing beats hiring the best person for a position. Sounds simple, but the reality of finding the best candidate for the job is complex – and it starts with screening candidates to ensure they fit your company culture.

Those who don’t should go into the reject file, no matter how sharp or personable they may be. You can’t put a square peg in a round hole, and you can’t make a mis-hire into a dream employee.

How do you avoid costly and potentially damaging mismatches? The easiest and most cost effective way is to hire a top-notch recruiting firm that understands that a cultural fit is just as important as education, experience and attitude. If you want to go it alone, though, here are a few things to remember as you work through the screening process:

The first step in screening candidates for compatibility is having a clear concept of your company culture. The needs of a fast-food corporation, which values consistency and uniformity, are very different from an ad agency (or a Google), which values creative thinking and flexibility.

Does your company value independent, reliable, self-directed problem-solvers or team players who never deviate from the plan? Chances are the same person wouldn’t fit both cultures, and hiring someone whose personality or values don’t fit means time, money and energy wasted. Making a bad hiring decision ultimately hurts your company and the person hired.

You probably have a company mission statement (if you don’t, you should), but a statement of corporate culture can be just as important, especially in the hiring arena.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says hiring to fit company culture is the only way to go.

“We’ve actually said no to a lot of very talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line. But because we felt they weren’t culture fits, we were willing to sacrifice the short term benefits in order to protect our culture (and therefore our brand) for the long term,” Hsieh says in a blog post, “Your Culture Is Your Brand.”

Second, consider testing for cultural fit, whether it be a version of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, the answers to a questionnaire plugged into a computer algorithm or another diagnostic tool. Of course you can’t test a candidate’s cultural fit without scoring the company as well. Knowledge without context is not much help, and you must know your corporate culture score for context.

“Sometimes assessments that measure personality traits and behaviors can help,” says Drew Stewart of Crossroads Workforce Dynamics in Little Rock. “However cultural fit is usually determined by management and management style,” so assessing “a fit between manager and employee along with measuring emotional intelligence can be helpful.”

Such testing can be expensive, but not as expensive as hiring, training and firing a misfit for a position, only to start the process over. Statistics vary depending on situations, but the consensus of online source after source is that a hiring mistake costs a company from 1 to 5 times the bad hire’s salary. And if you factor in accounts lost or other serious damage done to a company – and perhaps to its reputation – the figures can be much higher.

When screening candidates yourself, a third thing to remember is that it pays to be dispassionate. Really liking a candidate with whom you share many leisure-time hobbies doesn’t necessarily translate into her being the best candidate for the job. Being so bedazzled by a bubbly personality or warp-speed mind that you overlook warning signs of a cultural misfit will cost you time and money and cause you headaches.

In fact, “hiring on emotion and gut feeling” is the worst mistake Stewart says he’s seen employers make in the hiring process.

“Most hiring decisions are made in the first 15 minutes of an interview,” Stewart says. “Hiring on emotion will result in a mis-hire 75 percent of the time.”

Again, the best hiring practice is to hire professionals to be your matchmakers. As a retained firm, CEG Partners includes cultural fit testing as part of our process. You should only consider firms that do the same.