So Their Résumés Rock — Are They Also Good Fits?

When Barnes & Noble announced it was parting ways with CEO Rob Boire, he’d been on the job for less than a year. The company spent millions of dollars to settle claims, after declaring Boire “wasn’t a good fit.” If the hiring team had connected the dots earlier, that big headache could have been avoided.

Many of us have fallen into this trap. We speak with someone who looks good on paper, presents well in person, and is engaging throughout the interview. Then we find out that, while this person has talent, he or she doesn’t mesh easily into the culture.

Hiring is simple nuts and bolts — the hard part is succeeding at hiring the right people for the right jobs. And the discipline required to practice these processes consistently is difficult because of pressure to fill the gap. When interviewing candidates, you have to read between the lines, weighing cultural fit (can they contribute to a high-performance environment?), values (are theirs in line with yours?), and attributes of character (do they display your organization’s standard of integrity?) as heavily as skill sets.

If you find yourself saying things like “Let’s give him a try” or “Anybody is better than nobody,” you’re not making the best possible decision for the company.

Here’s what you can do to avoid hiring the wrong fit from the start:

Pull people together to raise standards. Ask a small group of employees who will work closely with this new hire about what they feel is most essential for success on their team. No one knows what’s truly required better than the candidate’s potential peers.

They’ll list a number of personal attributes and professional skills, which you can use to tailor interview questions. Not only does this provide a more accurate picture of how candidates should fit in culturally, but it also tells your team that you value their opinions and participation.

Conduct behavior-based interviews.Questions that focus on the attributes your peer hiring team has come up with are 55 percent more likely to predict future behavior and performance than traditional interview questions. Even if candidates possess all the right skills, what really matters is how they apply them.

Dig deeper. To ascertain their level of assertiveness, ask candidates to describe a situation where management challenged their decision and how they reacted. Ask about communication-related hiccups they’ve faced to see how well they communicate. Find out how they accomplish goals they’ve set by asking them to tell you about a goal they weren’t able to reach and why.

Whenever possible, hold group interviews involving the peers who identified the list of desired attributes, as well as potential direct reports. The more people involved, the higher likelihood of success.

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Check references — seriously! Considering research shows that more than 50 percent of candidates lie on their résumés, take advantage of this simple and obvious step. And don’t farm reference-checking out to HR, either. When hiring managers participate and ask thoughtful, probing questions, they gain valuable information.

When my husband called a reference recently, for example, he discovered the candidate was in the top 20 percent of performers on their team. Pressing further, he acquired the names of the highest performer and ended up recruiting and hiring this candidate instead.

Think of it like this: As a consumer, you’d likely spend an inordinate amount of time researching and asking questions before buying a new car. As a business owner or hiring manager, why wouldn’t you put the same effort into hiring employees who can make or break your business?