When you have influence over hiring in a company — whether you’re in management or in HR — it’s easy be seduced by a great resume. After all, if a candidate has a tailor-made history of experience in the right field and a track record of great results, what company would turn him away? But smarter HR pros know better. April Kunzelman, director of human resources for the coupon and discounting website FatWallet, spoke with me to explain why sometimes you have to pass up the perfect-on-paper applicant.
“Hiring for skill instead of ‘culture fit’ is a mistake,” Kunzelman explained to me. “You can have someone who’s extremely talented, but if they walk in the door and alienate people right off the bat, there will be problems. Those problems will be obvious right away, and they’ll also be long term.”
Her example: Let’s say FatWallet needs a director of marketing. (Note to FatWallet’s current director of marketing, whoever you are: Fear not, this is only an example!). They do a search and they find a guy with “the best resume in the world” — tons of accomplishments, improved metrics at their previous job, the works. But he also has “the personality of a turnip.” This guy has no sense of humor, and he focuses on business results at the expense of human relationships.
“People would rebel,” Kunzelman said. “If you bring in someone who doesn’t fit personality of the business, either the business chews them up ands spits them out, or we lose the people who have created the core to begin with. And either is unacceptable.” [tagbox tag="human resources"]
Why do companies end up making the mistake of hiring someone whose personality doesn’t mesh with the corporate culture? In part, because it’s very hard to walk away from a great resume. But part of it has to do with the way traditional interviews are structured. “Most interview questions are skewed toward skills, not culture,” Kunzelman said. “Companies need to identify their culture and craft questions that will help them find people who fit.” FatWallet has done that by including questions on their basic application about whether the candidate is concerned with saving money when they shop — if that’s something they never think about, they won’t be a fit at a company that’s all about thrift.
Personality may seem like a minor factor compared to a proven record of results. But employers ignore it at their peril. “This is the most important part of the hiring process,” Kunzelman said. “You can train for skill, but you cannot train for spirit.”