When hiring to fill their clients’ positions, staffing firms usually have a clearly defined list of criteria to consider: skill set, salary range, availability—whatever their clients tell them to look for. By checking off the right boxes, staffers are able to match candidates to clients: “You want an employee who has X, Y, and Z? Here’s someone who fits the bill!”
It’s a different story when hiring for internal positions, though. When companies need to find their own staff, they often focus too much on cultural fit. Why is that? The answer, in a nutshell, is “comfort.”
People who work full time often spend more waking hours with their coworkers than with their spouses or partners. Forty (or more!) hours a week can seem like an eternity to someone who doesn’t like his or her colleagues. That’s why being comfortable with one’s coworkers can be so important. And that’s why companies that do their own hiring for their internal positions often put too much emphasis on whether a candidate is “likeable” or someone who’s “like us” or someone who would be fun to grab a beer with after work—and not enough emphasis on whether he or she has the attributes and skills that will contribute to the growth of the company.
It’s human nature, after all, to want to work among friends. Unfortunately, prioritizing “likeability” over “competence” can lead to trouble down the road. Applicants always bring their “A game” to interviews—but don’t always sustain it once they’re comfortable in their new jobs. Those hires can end up being disappointments, and sometimes actual disaster ensues when a company thinks it’s hired Dr. Jekyll but has actually hired Mr. Hyde.
There will always a subjective element to hiring. Any time there’s a cover letter, a personal statement, or an interview involved, some aspects of a candidate’s personality will seep through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: the fact is, personality can indeed influence a person’s workplace performance (and ability to interact with coworkers—which can in turn affect their performance).
But personality should not be the main criteria for hiring. Rather, knowledge, skills, and potential are key components of a successful hire. Sometimes, though, companies that fill their own positions themselves have trouble seeing beyond the “do we want to work alongside this person?” question and can’t accurately evaluate a candidate’s skill set.
With their distance from the workplace, staffing firms often have the perspective—and objectivity—that companies lack. When marketing their services, staffers should highlight their ability to deliver candidates who are best for the company’s future success.