QUESTION: Dear Bert, With the acquisition of talent focused on skills and on the expertise of specific subject matter, how much weight do you place on technical skills versus chemistry when recruiting for critical needs? Thank you. (From Craig M, Chief Operating Officer, Prime Contractor, Government Sector)
ANSWER: Dear Craig, There is an important balance between technical fit and cultural fit. Obviously, the person you are going to hire needs to have both. The market place today is full of changes and daily challenges. Being able to technically adapt is important. Being a good cultural fit means the new hire has a much higher probability of successfully embracing changes and challenges as a productive contributor.
In the December 24, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal, questions asked during an interview with Google were published.
1. Using only a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass, measure exactly nine minutes—without the process taking longer than nine minutes.
2. A book has N pages, numbered the usual way, from 1 to N. The total number of digits in the page numbers is 1,095. How many pages does the book have?
3. A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?”
These are good examples of technical interview questions. More traditional ones might focus on demonstrated experience in a specific field. Technical questions help to determine if the candidate has the skills and or background to meet the challenges and handle anticipated technical changes.
In some cases, technical questions determine that a candidate is more of a generalist or an “athlete” then an expert. Technical “athletes” are well suited to embrace change and can adopt accordingly.
While the technical fit is important, I regard cultural fit or chemistry as being more critical to the outcome of a successful hire.
By defining a successful recruitment by the long-term contribution made by an employee who enjoys their work, we have to focus beyond simply the date they are hired.
Interviewing for chemistry or cultural fit is hard to test. It requires an investment of time by the hiring manager. It requires several meetings for there to be an opportunity to develop a bond. It is based more on a feeling and a rapport between the candidate and hiring manager. The candidate is being hired because the hiring manager has a problem or challenge that needs to be addressed. The hiring manager is likely to hire the candidate who has developed the best chemistry. It may or may not be the candidate who is the best technical fit.
As the new hire works with their hiring manager, changes and challenges will arise. By having good chemistry and cultural fit, the two are well on their way to successfully working through issues together.
Hope you have found this helpful and good luck on your efforts to look for strong chemistry during your interviewing efforts.