Common Diversity & Fit Blind Spots in Talent Acquisition

Common Diversity & Fit Blind Spots in Talent Acquisition

(Warning: You might suck at this.)

We don’t need to tell you how much effort, money and your own reputation  go into hiring an employee — particularly for critical roles that can make or break business objectives. It’s a lot, and so is the pain of getting it wrong.

And yet, many well-intentioned, experienced leaders do get it wrong, only to find themselves having to refill the role after much damage to the organization, or deal with teams in disrepair.

Hint #1: You Have a Massive Blind Spot.

Why do hiring blunders happen so frequently? More often than not, poor-fit hires occur when a candidate seems perfect on paper — right experience, background, know-how — but the culture or leadership mismatch is insurmountable.

Put another way, a candidate may know the best answers, formulas and tools for the job but lack the skills to compel others to trust (or even like) them.

Other times, they seemingly check all the boxes on hard and soft skills, but their values are at odds with the organization, leading to conflict and poor decision-making.

In reality, technical fit isn’t hard to find. A simple LinkedIn search will turn up hundreds of candidates with impressive resumes and the right technical aptitude. But how a candidate impacts those around them and the atmosphere in the office — that’s what it takes to build influence and make money in today’s market.

Hint #2: You Don’t Know Who You Are Or What You Want

How do you uncover blind spots when assessing candidates for organizational fit?

First, define the key attributes that make up an ideal leader or member of your organization. Spend some time as a team considering where you are today as a company, where you want to go, and what kind of leader or employee will get you there.

Values that impact relationships, daily interactions and decisions in your business likely include:

>> Strategic thinking
Is the candidate aware of market trends? Can they execute today’s objectives while cascading a future vision? Do they understand the long-term implications of short-term actions?

>> Entrepreneurial vs corporate approach
Do you need someone who acts like an owner every day, or who drives consistency and compliance with set standards?

>> Communicating as a leader
Can the candidate deliver information in a compelling way, in a variety of formats (e.g. written, verbal, casual interactions, formal presentations)? Is this someone you’d be proud to have as the face and voice of the company? Are they effective storytellers, able to simplify complex themes?

>> Learning agility
How adaptable is the candidate? Are they hungry for different points of view? Can they use multiple approaches to apply knowledge with others? Are their sources of information diverse?

>> Influence without authority
Would people across the organization or industry trust and listen to this person even if he/she has no authority over them? Will they build a following?

>> Managing today while enabling future innovation
Can the candidate drive fresh solutions without losing sight of what the business needs now? Can they prioritize the urgent and necessary while considering what will be essential in the future? How do they communicate this through the organization?

>> Political courage
Can the candidate have “good” conflict without damaging relationships to meet the needs of your organization? How do they agree, disagree or react to not getting their way?

Note this isn’t an exhaustive list. Long-term capacity, passion for growth, and servant leadership are some of the values you might deem imperative in your business. In any case, your ideal hire should be consistent across the company, although it may be more nuanced in certain areas of the organization.

Want to Get Better?

Then get real about your business needs and set standards high in acquiring new talent. When a business need requires hiring, spend most of your time ensuring culture and leadership fit dynamics are well thought out. Get clear on what attributes are essential for your organization.

This exercise alone is tremendously helpful in opening your eyes to candidate alignment issues that may have escaped you before. Just as important, it enables you to better understand how to value candidates’ experiences in different companies and cultures, and appreciate their diversity.

Once you identify your essential fit values, make it a habit to score candidates on those traits objectively and consistently across similar role types, regardless of the role’s technical or execution requirements.

In essence, whether hiring someone to manage accounting or marketing, you need the same level of culture and leadership fit if they are to be successful in your company.

Hint #3: You Don’t Need “Another You”

Often, leaders say they need the organization to think differently, innovate and outsmart the competition, yet they continue to hire the same talent profile.

You don’t need another you. As Muffet McGraw, Women’s Basketball Coach at Notre Dame, famously put it, “You can’t create positive change in a fast-changing market without talent diversity.”

In the context of hiring, diversity isn’t about appearance, speech pattern or other personal style elements. Rather, diversity in how your employees think, influence, learn, adapt, innovate, prioritize and interact with others is essential to producing results for your organization. Like culture and leadership fit, don’t neglect diversity as you build your workforce.

Putting It All Together

Knowing what to look for, you can adapt many of the questions you’re asking today to shed light on a candidate’s fit. Detailed explanations of how the candidate managed critical scenarios in the past can provide valuable insight into how they’d behave in your company, for instance. Role-playing scenarios can also help clarify fit considerations.

(You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here: Don’t be shy about requesting a complimentary consult and asking us to describe our process in detail.)

Remember that guy or gal you thought was a golden hire but proved to be a headache? You can prevent a repeat of that experience by assessing every candidate from here onward for culture and leadership fit. You’ll also be better equipped to discern what each new hire needs to succeed faster.

The offshoot: a winning streak of slam-dunk hires who can transform your business and multiply your hiring investment.