Years ago, I was a new manager with a lot to prove. My organization was growing, and I needed to add on to my team. We struggled along for a while, taking on more work and focusing on inefficiencies, but eventually it came down to needing to hire someone.
I went through the usual channels—checking my network, looking in other corporate divisions, etc. But it came down to having to post an ad in the paper (that gives you an idea of how long ago this was).
As a new manager I was very aware of what my team did. Shoot—I was doing the same thing just a few months prior. Since I was so familiar with the day-to-day, I easily wrote up an ad listing the duties and qualifications that were needed.
HR liked my outline and ran the ad.
We received a bunch of applications and resumes—some better than others. I reviewed and sorted them based entirely on their skills related to the job functions. I knew that if I could find just the right person, the one with the skills that matched the job description exactly, it would be a home run.
I was such a nerd that I literally built a matrix with all of the important job skills and ran down the list for each applicant. By the time I was done, I knew that I’d found the perfect candidate.
This was going to be great! My team would be more productive than ever, and I would be looked at as a rainmaker, since we wouldn’t need to waste a lot of our valuable time interviewing a bunch of people that couldn’t do the job if they tried. I was scientifically deciding who was going to be the best employee ahead of time.
How could it go wrong?
As you can probably guess, it went wrong.
I narrowed the field down to one guy—let’s call him Joe. I called Joe in for an interview. My boss sat in, since I was so new. Looking back, I’m sure she would agree that she should have been more involved earlier in the process, but like I said, we were busy.
Joe came in, and I went through my list of job-related questions. He had great answers to every single question. I was on cloud 9.
But then my boss started in—
“Do you work well in groups?”
“How would your coworkers describe you?”
“What are your hobbies?”
I was like “What?!”
What does that have to do with anything?
Who cares what his hobbies are?
What difference does it make what his coworkers think of him?
He Can Do The Job. That’s it. No more needs to be said.
And since he can do the job, I was literally ready to take him down to HR for orientation.
Well, the interview ended, and my boss and I did a quick debrief.
Her only question—“Was that it?”
Yes that was it! I started to rattle off my list of duties, and how Joe met every requirement, but she cut me off.
“How well will Joe work with the rest of your team?” she asked.
I don’t know. I’m sure he’ll be fine was all I could say at that point.
She had another meeting to get to, so she dropped it with one last comment: “If you hire Joe, he’s your responsibility.”
At the time I didn’t really know what she meant. I do now.
To cut to the chase, I hired Joe, and he was terrible.
Don’t get me wrong. His job skills were exemplary, but his people skills were not.
He didn’t know how to articulate his ideas to other people—preferring to just do his work and turn in his completed project. Our projects were highly collaborative, and this was a tremendous strain. Other people couldn’t do their work until Joe did his. They couldn’t even start until he finished, since they didn’t know which way he was going with it.
He had zero sense of humor. For instance, when Mona was telling us a hilarious story about a client and a goat (that’s a story for another time), Joe immediately started in with a bunch of facts about goat behavior and why that story couldn’t be true. He cut right through Mona’s story and really took the air out of the room.
But the worst part of hiring Joe was his condescending attitude towards his coworkers. It seemed like every day I was hearing from the rest of my team about how Joe seemed to feel superior to everyone and wasn’t afraid to tell them. He was continuously telling other people how to do their job. On more than one occasion he was also telling folks how, if he were in charge, things would be so much better.
I addressed each of these issues with Joe as they came up—I wasn’t a terrible boss, just inexperienced. Joe didn’t see any need to change. These weren’t his problems. They were other people’s problems. People much less skilled than he.
Eventually I had to fire Joe.
It wasn’t his fault—not entirely anyway. I was at least partially to blame for bringing this hammer into my toolbox of fine jeweler’s instruments. He was effective but just didn’t fit in.
I learned something from this experience that I hope you learn as well:
**Hire for team fit and train for job skills.**
Looking back, it was obvious that Joe would never fit in, but I was looking for someone that could do the job, not someone that would help fill out my team and make if better for him being there. I found exactly what I was looking for.
We are all human, and we want to be a part of an effective group—a group that can do more and better together than individually. Having someone tearing down the team is a recipe for disaster. Lucky for me, I was able to send Joe on his way before any other team members left.
I was much more strategic when I hired Joe’s replacement. Amil was one of the best hires that I ever made. He fit in great with the team and actually challenged them (and me) to up our game and made us all better as a result.
The next time you’re looking to fill a seat on your bus, remember that the bus is small, and everyone needs to get along.
For a checklist of what to look for (besides job skills) when interviewing, click here.
Download My FREE Checklist of Interviewing Questions that will help you get the perfect hire--not just someone that can do the job.
In addition to the questions, I give you the rationale for them and what to look for in the answers.