The following article was originally posted on Thursday, June 21, 2012 on Workopolis.
In the world of HR, we often feel like “fit” chasers – searching for that candidate who is the perfect fit for our company. As a recruiter, I have found that there are two types of “fit” in the context of hiring: social fit and work fit.
Social fit relates to a candidate’s charisma, social charm, even their gift of the gab. But it goes beyond surface-level social skills, to include how approachable someone is, and how empathetic and caring they are among their co-workers.
Work fit focuses on specific job skills and qualifications, and work experience, but it also considers a candidate’s approach to work. How passionate, committed and responsible are they? How do they learn, handle pressure, take on challenges, etc.? What drives them when it comes to work performance?
Sometimes in the hiring process we can undervalue work fit because someone’s social fit charms us. In assessing candidates, here are the top five lessons I’ve learned over the years, to help differentiate, and more objectively evaluate both social fit and work fit:
1) Pre-set your interview objectives: It’s human nature for us to get swept away by charismatic personalities. To counter this potential bias, pre-set your objectives. Identify in advance, what you want to know about your interviewee, so at the end of the interview, you can answer the question: “What concrete things have I learned about this job candidate?”
2) Avoid the “talker” and “reserved” stereotypes: Friendly, talkative candidates may impress us during an interview, but it doesn’t guarantee that they will be top-performing employees. Their chatty ways can sometimes distract them from their work. Similarly, the quiet reserved types may be capable of far more than we may think. Asking for specific examples of how a candidate achieved success or excelled in their performance will help assess their fit.
3) Who was successful in the past? Consider previous employees who thrived in the position you are hiring for – how important was their social fit versus their job fit to the role? For example, your evaluations for the social fit dynamic may be quite different if you are hiring a social services worker versus a parking enforcement officer.
4) Take an idea and run with it – together or on your own? Walking into your workplace, are most people absorbed in their work independently at their desks, or is the environment more collaborative where people must put their heads together to complete their tasks? Identifying this before the hiring process begins will help you prioritize your needs for social versus work fit.
5) What’s your sweet-spot ratio? Your emphasis on social fit or work fit for a candidate will depend on the position you are hiring for. For example, a sales position that requires lead generation may call for someone who is more charismatic and social, compared to a sales role that must close deals, where it may be advantageous to have someone who is more experienced and focused on the numbers.