Traditional methods of screening job candidates do not always accurately identify poor fit.
Anyone who's fallen in love probably remembers the dizzying overtures of courtship–surviving on little or no sleep or food, talking for hours, planning a bright and hopeful future with the long lost one. Colours are more vibrant, sounds are more profoundly beautiful and moments spent apart leaving us wondering how we ever made it this far without this special person. In the less epically romantic sense, this is your DNA recognizing a workable biological fit and your neurotic self finding its perfect match in the other. "If the glove fits, you must commit!" That's chemistry and it's an important part of good partnerships whether they be marriages, friendships, client-server relationships or business partnerships. But chemistry is only part of the equation. It's a vital part of instigating a new relationship but it's not the only quality required to sustain it. Necessary, but insufficient, it might even be the weakest link.
The "right" partner seems like the key to unlocking value lying dormant in a relationship.
When Doug McNabb took over the Fabutan indoor tanning business as a young man in the '90s, the chain had forty locations outfitted with UV tanning beds. Over the next few years, he grew the business to over 120 units across Canada, making it the largest business of its type in our nation and among the largest in North America.
A business of that size attracts unique challenges. He was always tussling with dermatologists who were convinced that tanning beds cause cancer (which can also be true of the sun when it's misused, even as it makes life on earth possible and contains the same ingredients as tanning beds). And as a franchisor he was always tussling with noncompliant franchisees who were wandering outside of the bounds of the franchise agreement, eroding the brand and the quality of service to customers.
When I started coaching Doug almost 100 business quarters ago (he is my oldest client), he was really interested in developing a system to screen out the sort of franchisees who were too entrepreneurial and too inventive to follow someone else's system. People with this temperament made terrible fanchisees. He wanted enterprising people who did not want to reinvent the wheel just use the wheel he was offering to get to their goals faster.
A poor fitting client or employee is expensive, time consuming and puts the business at great risk.
Temperament is akin to chemistry and is the first dimension of fit. If I am recruiting someone for a role, that role demands a specific kind of temperament in the person doing it. My business partner balances me off almost perfectly. She is concrete where I am abstract, steadfast where I am artistic, tactical where I am strategic, detailed where I am conceptual and consistent where I am inventive. I make the cracks and she does not let anything fall between them. We are aligned on our goals and purpose: I tend to set the vision and she tends to set the plan. If I wasn't already married to her, she'd be an ideal franschisee for me. We most definitely don't need more of my disruptive energy in our business but we could use many more people like her who are stable executers.
Doug and I built an on-line screening tool that measured prospective candidates along these spectral dimensions and he used the tool to identify people with a good fit and people with a poor fit. This tool saved him a lot of trouble and lawsuits to enforce his franchise agreement, but we learned that there was more to fit than temperment. I published one of the first books on core values in 2001 and spent the next few years developing a proprietary methology to assist my clients in doing the deep work required to reveal a set of governing values that were both practical and authentic. I still do that work today.
Many of the misalingments between people exist at the deep structural values layer of consciousness. I've had one failed marriage and several failed business partnerships and can attest to the destructive force of mismeshed values. A blend of unique but complimentary temperaments prevents mindless conformity within a common echo chamber. A meshing of shared values prevents the kind of vitriolic polarization that occurs between people operating at cross purposes. Values are the second dimension of fit.
A well-fitting person has the temperament, values and technical capabilities to thrive in the role.
When we decide to enter a professional relationship with someone, our thesis is that they are fit for our purpose. We hire the person, test drive the relationship and hope that they're capable of fulfilling the job requirement or at least growing into the role within an acceptable time frame. Competence is the third dimension of fit. A true positive is someone who demonstrates the skills and strengths to do the job, along with a cultural values fit and the temperament appropriate for the kind of work and challenges that need to be dealt with in the job. They have a deep respect for the values on which we have designed and built the culture, brand, products and services and operating system.
A false negative is someone who actually does fit but we misread the person and reject them for the role. This is a lost opportunity but not generally as costly and risky as a false positive. If we misread a fit gap at the beginning, we can waste time and money going down the road with them and end up in lawsuits, paying out needless severence and having to start back at the beginning after having to fix all the problems that their insertion in the business has caused.
It's very difficult to gauge fit at the beginning of a recruiting process. Candidates, who are invested in winning the enagement, and sometimes from a needy or desperate place, often lie or game the system, telling us what we want to hear. It's only when we've had some time in with them that we can practically assess their longer-term suitability. This is why there are ninety day probations, trial shifts and other procedures to allow us to test and back out of an irreconcilably dysfunctional relationship.
Behavioral interviewing evolved to make it harder for candidates to game a recruiting process.
If you have ever been interviewed by a profesional recruiter, you've likely been asked a question like, "tell me about a time you encountered a problem you had difficulty solving on your own". Traditional behavioural interviewing proposes a dillemma without intimating what the "desired response" is. The interviewer is listening for traces of temperment and deeper values that might indicate you might thrive in the role to the company's benefit and yours. The problem with behavioural interviewing is that the questions themselves have become a bit standardized and well-worn and people can game them if they are so inclined. The questions needed to evolve to be more devious than the candidates.
As a result, I started developing a concept I called "polar values". I got the idea while waiting in the reception are of the Calgary Stampede head offices about ten years ago. I'd been inviteed to bid on facilitating a board retreat and was there to meet the CEO. Like every Albertan, I have a little red neck in me and showed up in my finest Italian cowboy boots (I'll let you contemplate the irony of that for a moment.) I am a progressive person. It's one of my values. I am always looking for ways to transend the status quo, make useful system reforms and introduce innovative thinking and approaches. While I was looking around the office, sitting in a overstuffed leather armchair, I thought, "there's no fucking way I'm ever going to get this gig". They appeared to be a very converative group of people who clearly value tradtion and heritage. I have clients who appreciate tradition and heritage but none who place that over progress. Tradition, a completely valid virtue unto itself, was just structurally opposed to progress. They are polar values.
ChatGPT has opened up a brand new channel for developing next level behavioural interviewing.
I developed a system to identify and reveal value polarities. A core value (like progress) and polar value (like tradition) form a dichotomy. Putting a well-designed moral dillemma in front of someone that could be answered from either side, limits the possibility for deception and the risk of false positives. Done well, this method reveals true character tendencies.
I was working recently with the founder of a new franchise system which is gearing up to start recruiting franchisees. I've worked with my entrepreneur and his team to identify the four governing values of the firm (expressed as character traits that a successful candidate would possess). The traits are somewhat immutable and unlikely to suddenly appear through time and effort (and coaching) and if the person lacked the trait, it would introduce massive friction and risk in the relationship. We also derived polar values to form workable dichotomies as the basis of useful scenarios featuring relevant moral dilemmas.
Historically, writing the scenarios and crystalizing the moral dilemma has been more black art than popular science, until Matt and I stumbled on what might be a novel use of a large-language-model. A generative AI like ChatGPT can produce highly useful answers to questions, but it is greatly dependent on the quality of the questions posed. This highlights the value of a generative human intelligence. We posed the following question to ChatGPT:
"what is the moral dilemma between the two virtues of enthusiasm and diligence?"
In seven seconds, the app returned a practical and profound articulation of the dichotomy and several underlying subdimensions. Matt asked a second question to tweak the thread around his business context and the app returned a useful scenario and a list of questions and "indications" to determine which side of the dilemma the person was answering from, and whether they were revealing their enthusiasm or diligence. In one hour, Matt had developed a state-of-the-art franchisee interview guide that is much better than the "traditional" approaches to figuring out whether it's worth investing in trying someone out (I assume you saw what I just did there).
Progressive Fit Assessment* uses the best of artifical and human intelligence to reduce recruiting risk.
*I am happy to help you use the PFA methodology to support your key recruiting initiatives.