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Hiring Smart: Finding the Fit Factor

By Daniel Kosir |

The process of hiring employees can be complicated, frustrating and confusing. This is as true for large multinational corporations as it is for small businesses. But unlike multinationals, small businesses don't have the luxury of a multi-faceted HR department.

However, knowing exactly what you need out of an employee can make the selection process much less painful. To ease the hiring process, you need to find the "Fit Factor".

The term was coined and has been extensively written about by Jim Beqaj, co-founder of Beqaj International, a consulting firm that advises companies on strategic directions for future development, talent recruitment and leadership coaching.

CanadaOne caught up with Beqaj to find out how small businesses can determine the "Fit Factor" when hiring and why it's such a vital component for success, growth and efficiency.

What is the Fit Factor?

For Beqaj, finding the fit factor means determining exactly what each job must do for the company to succeed and ensuring that the position is occupied by someone who can deliver. If this is not done at every level and for every position, then the level of success of an organization defaults to the weakest fit in its structure.

"The majority of organizations have much work to do," says Beqaj. "Most are filled with capable people with plenty of talent but who are in the wrong jobs within the organization. Sustained success is not possible for a company with too many wrong fits."

For small businesses, where there are fewer employees who often wear multiple hats, the wrong fit could greatly hinder efficiency, organizational chemistry and overall success.

Beqaj notes that the fit factor is just as important for employees as it is for employers. His most recent book, How to Hire the Perfect Employer, is about "...finding an employer who both needs your skill set and wants your personality, and [ensuring] that there are more people working there that are similar or complimentary to your personality and values."

Why is it so important?

According to Beqaj, determining the fit factor in your employee selection process makes sense for efficiency, profitability and the overall success of an enterprise.

"Like everything else in life, fitting is far easier and more efficient than not fitting," he says. "It's [much better] for a company when very little of their time is wasted on dealing with issues that arise from the conflicts or lack of productivity created by people that don't fit the organization, whether it be their skills or their personality."

Finding and upholding the fit factor is crucial not only for productivity, but also for building a cohesive team and organizational culture.

"Tolerating the wrong fit, whether it be skill or personality, has huge negative impacts on not only your productivity but on the other employees in the organization, who receive mixed messages about what the right fit is and are often confused about why management tolerates bad fit," says Beqaj.

He thinks that many organizations fail to take action even when they recognize that someone isn't the appropriate person for the job, mostly because they are afraid to take the steps necessary to correct the issue or are not motivated to do so.

"They tolerate bad fit usually because they are afraid to deal with it or too lazy," he says. "Either one is a poor excuse."

What advice do you have for small businesses looking to hire?

When asked what small businesses can do to hire employees who are the right fit, Beqaj suggests viewing every employee or potential hire as an extension of your personal brand and holding the same standards for others as you do for yourself.

"Ask yourself the question: 'If this was my company and I had all my life savings tied up in it, is this the person I would hire to help me make it successful?' You would be surprised at what people answer to that question."

Beqaj also notes that failing to find the right fit can be hugely detrimental to small businesses in particular because of the close relationships between workers and customers.

"Small businesses cannot afford to get the interaction between employees and customers wrong, especially if you want to build long-lasting relationships," says Beqaj. "Be diligent on fit and hold people accountable."

What can employers do to define fit and find the right employee?

Hiring the ideal candidate for a position in your business starts with careful consideration of what exactly you need out of the individual doing the job.

"Before you ask questions about any particular person in any particular job – or a new person being recruited – you have to decide what success looks like in the position," says Beqaj.

"Once you understand the skills that you are looking for you can then focus your attention on how the person would work with others, how clients would respond to them, and would they work like this was their company too."

Though the right skill set is a crucial component to look for when hiring, Beqaj is very clear in differentiating between skill sets and overall fit.

"Do not confuse [finding] the right skill set with finding the right fit. They are two separate issues," he says. "Skills are important, but you can find plenty of people with the right skills. Finding the right person who fits seamlessly [in the organization], as if they had been there forever, is more difficult."

How can small business owners determine if their current team is the right fit?

Though a particular employee may have been the right fit when you hired them, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are still fulfilling the criteria as your business progresses.

"Organizations and people are constantly changing and are dynamic, and therefore reviewing their fit and whether the organization still fits them is [prudent]," says Beqaj. "You should do an annual review and see if your employees continue to fit from both a skills and personality perspective."

For Beqaj, making sure everyone on your team fits is similar to the way sports teams look for the right players.

"Would you buy tickets to watch your favourite sports team if they didn't do a review at the end of the year to see who still fits?"

What if you can't find the perfect fit for the job?

Though finding the perfect fit definitely is not easy, Beqaj thinks that you can always find the fit factor if you look hard enough for it and are clear in what you need.

However, small businesses often have a much smaller pool of applicants from which to choose than their larger counterparts, and extending the application period may not be feasible. Assuming you cannot find the perfect fit, Beqaj suggests making a well-reasoned yet simple compromise.

"Personally, I would take someone who maybe had a little less of the skills but would never compromise on personality fit," he says.

"It is too important to the efficiency of the organization...and a better personality fit who is a little less skilled will do far better than some rock star in skills who rubs everyone the wrong way."

When it comes down to it, putting in the extra bit of work to determine exactly what you need and screening applicants accordingly will allow you to select the person who will best contribute to the success of your business. Ultimately, the onus is on you to find what the fit factor is for your organization.

Happy hiring!

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