Is Good "Chemistry" with the boss an issue for you?
Need assistance with determining if the person is a Good Fit for the job?
Overall Recommendation: based on everything that Dr. Helm knows from the information provided by the candidate during the online assessment session, as well as on Dr. Helm’s knowledge of the job requirements for which the candidate is being assessed, his knowledge of your company, and his experience with other companies in your industry.
Job Match: how well-suited is this person, in terms of his or her work-related preferences and attitudes at this point in time, for the job for which he or she is being considered?
Promotion Potential: based on the candidate’s job-related preferences and attitudes, at this point in time, what is the candidate’s potential for future promotion to jobs of greater scope or responsibility?
How to Hire a “Qualified” Problem Manager
Your applicant’s resume indicates experience in your industry and probing interviews with your best people satisfies them that the applicant “really seems to know his stuff.” To all appearances he seems to be well qualified for the position.
However, within the first couple months on the job, problems begin to surface. He isn’t getting along well with his boss. While he is technically competent, he seems to be sort of “phoning his work in.”
Qualified? Yes! Suitable? Not so much.
The problem here may be that, while he is qualified for the job, he’s not completely suitable.
The difference between “qualified” and “suitable” is the difference between “can do the job” and “likes to do the job.” The “can do” part is critically important. If an applicant lacks the relevant experience, knowledge, skills for a job then he lacks the ability to meet the demands of the job. But by itself, “qualified” is not enough to ensure the applicant will be a productive employee. An applicant must be “qualified” as a base requirement, but the more suitable for the job he is, the more likely he will like the job and will do it well.
Suitable means “to satisfy or please” and a suitable job is one that is satisfying and enjoyable, a pleasure to engage in — one in which the problems are seen as challenges to one’s creativity and competence to solve, not as negatives. An applicant’s suitability for a given job will depend on how well he genuinely likes his bosses, peers and subordinates, and all aspects of his work. These likes, and dislikes, will determine how well he meshes with the culture and people at work.
The Two Biggest Suitability Issues
Suitability issues generally fall into one of two broad categories, and the good news is that something can be done in both cases. Let’s look first at what those two categories are, and what they mean on the job, and then we’ll talk about what you can do about them.
#1 Suitability Issue – Good “Chemistry” with the Boss
While it is true for most of us that we can get along with most other people, that may not be enough for a person’s relationship with his boss. During the “getting to know you” period of the first couple weeks of employment, the new hire needs to develop a level of basic trust in his boss. The boss needs to be seen by the new hire as someone he can depend on for support and turn to for guidance. If too many differences in the “chemistry” between the two get in the way, it may mean that respect and trust have not developed well enough. That can spell long-term trouble in the form of miscommunication and misunderstandings that corrode the relationship.
#2 Suitability Issue – Good Fit Between the Job and the Individual’s Preferences
The first point I want to make about the fit between the job and the individual is that it is not necessary for that fit to be perfect! That said, some people are better suited for certain jobs because each job will require greater strength in some personality characteristics and less strength in others.
For example, sales jobs (whether inside or outside sales) require lots of interaction with all kinds of people – the more contact, generally speaking, the better the sales. If you are a person who has an extremely strong preference to interact with people, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily will do a good job at sales, but it does mean that the extended contact you have with people will tend to energize you, instead of tiring you out. On the other hand, if you are a person who is introverted – in psychological terms, that means a person who has to “spend” a lot of personal energy in order to interact with people – then a sales job will tend to use up your energy resources rather than increase them. Introverted people can perform effectively in sales jobs, but it takes more effort, and it wears them out more quickly.
Remember that we said above that the fit does not have to be perfect between a person’s basic personal preferences and the demands created by the job, but what does matter is that the applicant, the hiring manager and the prospective boss understands what those demands will be.
Caution: Be wary of relying too heavily on job titles and job descriptions. They don’t always convey a clear sense of how the person who fills the job will spend their time, day in and day out.
The Importance of the Job Description
In spite of the above warning, it is still important to have a written job description. A well thought out job description, edited by the people who actually do the job, will give the hiring manager a good understanding of what the company expects the new employee to do. The job description lets you convey to the new hire what reporting relationships he will be in, what authority he will have, what responsibilities and duties he will assume, and (as completely as you can), what he will spend his time doing. If the job description and your explanation of it is thorough enough there should be no surprises for the new hire once he is on the job.
The Corporate Culture
Corporate culture is a term that is thrown around a lot but often not well defined. I think of corporate culture as the combination of written and, most importantly, unwritten rules that blend the kind of organization the company wants to be with the way things are really done.
Blending in with the corporate culture is an important step in the process of going from being a “new guy” to “one of us.” Most of the time a careful pre-hire evaluation process weeds out the obvious mismatches. The lesson: Corporate culture mismatches can create problems. Understanding your company’s basic culture, and understanding the basic preferences of your candidates will let you see the mismatches that require addressing. Addressing these mismatches early on is a lot easier and less costly than hoping that they will just go away on their own.
How to Handle Suitability Issues
Suitability Issue #1 – “Chemistry” with the Boss
The new hire and his new boss are not peas out of the same pod. They are two individuals with different personal and professional styles, some of which may be minor but some of which may be more significant. These individual personal and professional styles have been developed over the years and they are closely held and highly valued.
These differences are like potholes in the road of the relationship between a new hire and his boss. If they are addressed, the potholes can be filled in with understanding and an appreciation for the new perspectives they can bring. However, if the boss and the new hire are not aware of their differences, they can cause misunderstandings and miscommunication that result in problems that slow progress and soak up valuable time and resources.
To deal with these differences, make sure that both the boss and the new hire are aware of their own, and one another’s, strongly held preferences, and that these differences are clearly labeled as “differences” and not as character defects. The best time to start this process is at the beginning of the new hire’s tenure. Use information from the interview process, and the Performance Profile Report and the Professional Development Guide to get started.
Suitability Issue #2 –Fit Between the Job and the Individual
This is the time for full disclosure! Go back to the job description and go over it again with the new hire, along with any information he can provide about his preferred work style, preferences, and “pet peeves.” Get things out in the open, and do so in the spirit of acceptance and everyone’s overriding goal: successful performance on the job.
If you discover, for instance, that you have hired an IT professional who has trouble keeping track of details, but who has other, more important assets now is the time to help him organize his job so that he can be successful. Don’t wait until deadlines are missed, and others, who depend on his performance, are affected.
Smoothing the fit is not a one-time activity, by the way. At regular intervals you need to inquire as to how smoothly things are going. In particular ask about minor “burr under the saddle” type issues. Many times these “small” issues are just one manifestation of larger problems that the employee may be reluctant to bring up. If there are issues affecting the employee’s ability to bring all of his resources and talents to the job they need to be hauled out into the open and addressed.
The Final Word
Let’s go back and look at the problem I described at the beginning of this article. The new manager was technically qualified, but didn’t seem interested or committed to the job; he also didn’t seem to get along well with his boss. In view of all that we have discussed about suitability, the solution should be pretty obvious: it’s time for some honest conversation with the new hire about expectations for his position, and some honest exploration by his boss and by him about what works and what doesn’t in their relationship.
Here’s the bottom line: we almost never find a perfect match between all aspects of a person’s personality, experience, knowledge, and aspirations, and the job. What we can try to do, however, is understand where the fit is good and where it is a little off, and then find work-arounds in those rough spots. The good news? In most cases, given sincere effort and commitment, “fit” can be improved.