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Hiring Problems

Organizational Health

I continue to be amazed by the lack of rigor I see among managers, especially senior executives, who are hiring leaders to help run their companies. In spite of all the great books and studies out there about the benefits of behavioral interviewing and the need to "hire for fit, train for skill," I am constantly confronted by evidence that suggests people are still hiring the old-fashioned way: for resume skills.

In so many cases this leads to hiring people who might be "rock stars" in their own right, but who end up creating political problems that disrupt the team, and ultimately, the health of the organization. I'm wondering if many executives aren't merely giving lip service to the cultural hiring school of thought, and privately writing it off as some touchy-feely campaign of behavioral psychologists.

If we need any evidence of the importance of assembling team members to work well together, we can look at the NBA Championship series that ended last month.

The Lakers were considered to be perhaps the best collection of talent the league had ever seen. That's tough to dispute when you consider they had four certain Hall of Fame players, and more importantly, two of the top ten players of all time (this is hard for me to admit because I'm not a Lakers fan). However, I'm not disappointed to tell you that those "rock star" players were resoundingly defeated by the Detroit Pistons, a collection of supposed role players, cast-offs and under-achievers who meshed together and played like a team.

Who is ultimately responsible for all of this? A man named Joe Dumars, who is the General Manager of the Detroit Pistons, and who was a quiet team player in his own career. He selected a coach and players who complemented one another and who fit a cultural model (toughness, hard-work, unselfishness, defense). Dumars even failed to draft one of the most talented players in last year's draft, because he already had a player in that position, and he didn't want to disrupt the chemistry of the team. Most teams would have taken that star player anyway and justified it by saying "he was the most talented player available". But for Dumars, players are more than talent. They're about fit.

So my recommendation to all hiring managers, but especially executives, is to embrace the concept of hiring for fit, and getting comfortable saying "no" to a candidate who might make a big splash with the board of directors or Wall Street but who isn't going to make the team better.

How do you do this? There are many great books out there on behavioral interviewing; one of these is Topgrading by Bradford D. Smart. But the key is to figure out the one or two behavioral qualities that make someone a good fit for your team, and force yourself to obsess about those qualities when you're sourcing, interviewing, and ultimately, making a hiring decision.