How things change when you start with Fit

Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade


September 2, 2015


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janheadshotwebBy Jan van der Hoop

When it comes to hiring, we’ve all heard the old adage, ‘Hire for attitude, and train whatever’. It’s certainly not a new concept, but it’s one that’s been notoriously hard to do consistently well. We’ve all learned to rely on our ‘gut’ in interviews; some of us take great pride in our ability to size someone up, almost as if we had x-ray vision. We always remember our best hires, but that pride often fades when I remind a business owner that even his worst hire, one who cost him money, reputation or clients (or all three) somehow got through.

Truth is, what your ‘gut’ is telling you is generally more a reflection of what you had for lunch than a clear assessment of the person in front of you.

So how do you back up what your gut is telling you, with hard science? Reliably screening candidates for ‘fit’ has become a lot easier – and a lot more affordable – over the past few years. Behavioural science has made some great advances, and there are some great self-serve products on the market that deliver the same punch as the fancy tools the Fortune 500 companies use, at incredibly reasonable prices. The one we use, TalentSorter, even offers a free trial.

While it’s more objective than your gut, the science is never foolproof. In fact, we advise clients that it should never be given more than a 30% weighting in evaluating a candidate… you do need to take what they know (skills, education, work history) into account, of course… and you do need to filter it all through your own instincts.

When clients start screening for ‘fit’ up front, we find they experience a sequence of three epiphanies. They each tell their story a little differently, but here’s the common thread:

  1. OMG, this is saving me so much time! 80% less time spent wading through résumés, and 70% less time in interviews. When you start with the candidates who have the highest likelihood of fitting the job, then look at their résumé, you save all the time wasted with people who look great on paper but just aren’t right for you.
  2. We found ourselves in conversation with (and hired) folks who are a great fit for our business – but who we’d never have looked at based on their résumé. All of a sudden, clients find the old ‘rules’ about ‘X years of experience’ or ‘Y degree’ aren’t actually all that important in the scheme of things… but in the absence of anything more reliable, those rules were all we had.
  3. [I refer to this as the ‘honey, I’ve been cheating on you’ conversation]… You know, I had to test this out to see if I could tell the difference. Sooner or later a new user has to test the science by interviewing someone with a lower FitScore, to see if they could tell the difference against candidates with higher scores. More often than not, they’ll tell us they knew in the first three minutes why the person was wrong for them, and then spent the next 30 minutes looking for a graceful exit.

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, who we hire (the whole person, not just the experience) is in many respects the most important decision we make in business. Gut alone is dangerous. Gut + good science is always better. The science is there to help you measure what matters most in the job, and to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

 Jan van der Hoop is President at Fit First Technologies. Jan can be reached via e-mail at

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Mississauga Board of Trade
Mississauga Board of Trade
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