Part of making the right hire involves finding not just the right person for your company but also fitting that person into the right position. Picture this: you hire someone with impressive credentials and the potential to become a valuable member of your organization; your gut tells you he’ll be a great addition. But after the start date, you start to suspect that his working style just is not a fit for the job (or team) he’s on. You notice low productivity and higher than usual levels of conflict within the team.
You start to second-guess your hire. In fact, you begin to think maybe this great candidate won’t be around for so long after all.
So, what do you do?
To let him go might be short-sighted. You’d risk losing someone with potential, as well as waste the time and money you put into hiring and training him. Not exactly what you want to do.
Your second choice is to move him into another position or team in which he might be a better fit—a much more appealing proposition. The challenge is in figuring out just what that position or team is.
This is the perfect opportunity for you and/or your HR team to engage in coaching conversations—that is, to ask key questions of the employee to draw out his personality and working style. Only when you have a better understanding of who he is, apart from his credentials, can you better gauge where he is likely to succeed.
Here are three types of questions that will help you do this:
1. “Why did you decide to…?”
Ask a new hire who doesn’t quite seem to gel why she decided to apply for the position in the first place to reveal what motivates her.
If she answers along the lines of “for the challenge” or “for the opportunity,” then she is possibility-oriented. In other words, she is motivated by what is possible and adept at finding alternatives to any situation. Try moving her to a team or department that isn’t heavily structured or procedure-based.
On the other hand, if she offers a step-by-step sequential story (“After I finished university, I interned at a tech startup which led me to my interest in mobile app development¦”), she is very likely to be a procedure-oriented person—someone who is predominantly motivated by necessity and most comfortable with following established procedures.
2. “What do you want from…?”
Questions such as “What do you want from this job opportunity?” will reveal how your new hire takes action.
If he delivers a short, action-oriented response, such as “to work with a team,” it reveals he’s someone who is proactive. He’s likely to be energetic and to initiate action without the need for deliberation or analysis. Is he in a position that allows him to do that?
Answers that are passive and analytical will reveal a more reflective individual. If he says, “I have been considering the possibility of developing myself in this area,” it shows that he needs time to deliberate before taking action; he’ll rarely be the one to initiate change. A fast-paced, “let’s decide it and move on” atmosphere won’t work well.
3. “How do you know…?”
This type of question will help to uncover how the person makes a decision. An example: “How do you know when you’ve done a good job?”
If your hire responds with answers such as “I just know” or “I can just tell,” it shows he is internally referenced, which means he relies on his internal feelings and personal experiences to evaluate the situation and make a decision. He’ll do best in a situation with a lot of autonomy.
But if he responds with an answer such as “I read it in a performance report” or “I can tell by having satisfied customers,” it shows he’s externally referenced. This means he relies on others to educate and motivate him to make decisions. Your hire will thrive in an environment in which he’s consistently able to seek feedback from colleagues to gauge the best course of action.
Don’t wait next time
Coaching conversations are certainly a great tool for helping to solve the right person/wrong position dilemma, but wouldn’t it be better to avoid the dilemma in the first place? If you ask these questions during the interview process, you’ll be far less likely to have to contend with a bad fit.
Appointing someone based on personality and working styles will help you to ensure that you hire the right person for the right position. Do this repeatedly, and you will start to build a cohesive team whose working styles are aligned, which means higher performance and fewer conflicts stemming from different approaches to productivity.
Of course, part of this process also is having a firm understanding of your team’s dynamics and the position you are hiring for—that’s what ultimately determines what makes someone right for a given job. Bonus: this also gives you a tried-and-true framework for selecting the right hires and reallocating people if need be.
Adam Verity is the director for corporate relations at Erickson Coaching International. He helps business executives and leaders to implement external and internal coaching practices in their organizations, helping them to unlock the inner creativity, motivation and productivity in their employees. Adam has contributed to building highly productive teams and fast-growing businesses across three industries in four countries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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