If They Don’t Fit – Get Rid of Them

Here’s what kills me: When a person manages to get a job in an area where they are technically capable but socially inept. Let me explain.

For the past several months, a family member of mine has been sick, and we have had almost daily visits to the doctor’s office. The nurse is socially inept. She never makes eye contact, never smiles, walks away from patients while they’re still asking questions, and is void of any compassion whatsoever. Now, I have been reassured several times that she’s one of the most knowledgeable nurses in the area, but guess what? When you’re having daily visits to a doctor’s office – it’s not for a party, and I’d give up this techno-nurse for someone with a little more compassion any day.

But it’s not the nurse I blame. Well, not entirely anyway. It’s the person and company who hired her.

And bad hiring managers appear to be popping up everywhere; the grouchy bagger, the snobby salesman, the customer service rep with a ‘tude. All of them are a result of hiring managers who settle for candidates with the right technical skills but the wrong attitude.

Consistently bad hiring is a result of one thing: Companies who think they care about what their customers want but are too lazy to put the work into really caring. Because, let’s put it all out there, giving the customers what they want all the time is hard work. It means listening to your customers, hiring the right people (every time), holding managers accountable, keeping employees happy, caring about customer service all day every day and most of all…

Simpsona460 …not being afraid of talking about if candidates and current employees ‘fit’ or have the right ‘personality’ for the job. The lawyers hate this one, which has caused countless companies to look the other way when they have emploees who ‘technically’ got the job done but might have had the wrong attitude with the customer. But my theory is that if you have created a culture that is focused on giving your customers a high level of service, then when you have candidates or employees who don’t ‘fit’ that mold and their personalities don’t make them good at this, it’s easy for you to get rid of them. (Say it with me – if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit. )

Robert Francis, CEO of Planned Companies, not only gets the concept of hiring for attitude, but he’s making huge and controversial changes in his company to live out these values. He’s profiled in this week’s Workforce recruiting article. He has done his homework, made the decision to hire for attitude over technical skills, and followed through with that commitment. In fact, his company uses a lengthy attitude assessment with each candidate who applies for a position and if the person has the wrong attitude – even if they’re technically qualified – they don’t get the position.

Because of his stance and dedication to hiring for attitude, Robert Francis has seen turnover rates of 20% in an industry where 100% turnover is the standard and he’s not alone. Companies such as Nordstrom and Zappos have seen continued success because they understand what it means to evaluate employees on ‘fit’ and ‘personality’.

So if you’re like most companies out there who think you care about what your customers want, I’m challenging you to see your company through your customers’ eyes. Are you really giving them the service that will keep them coming back for more? If not, it’s time to re-evaluate your hiring practices and maybe it’s time to follow in Francis’ steps and start hiring for attitude instead of talent.

I know everyone has different opinions on hiring for ‘fit’. Did I miss the mark?

FOT Background Check

Marisa Keegan
Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.


  1. Jay Hargis says:

    Amen. Organizations spend a fortune on employees who just don’t fit. They don’t fit the culture and they don’t fit the direction that the organization is headed. It amazes me how much time and effort we spend on the bottom 16% of performers. We protect them Human Resources, managers do their work for them, and we actually pay them for it.
    For years I’ve been writing about the power of job fit testing and I’ve recently seen the light on skill testing as well. However, I still underscore the need for performance management within an organization–if they don’t fit, manage them out. If they won’t change–manage them out. There is amazing talent in the wings if we just take the time to look and if we stop spending all of our time with the bottom 16%, perhaps we can stop and inspect.
    ~Jay Hargis
    Talent Management Consultant
    Owner, Talent Insight GroupC
    Company: http://www.talentinsightgroup.com
    Blog: http://www.hrcleanup.com

  2. Your post is spot on! I think hiring for fit is crucial. I think being bold enough to fire for fit is important, too.
    Some of that sub-par customer service we are experiencing comes as a result of people being unhappy in their jobs yet hesitant to go on to something else that may be better suited for them. Take the nurse you referenced. What if she recently un-retired (due to economic reasons) and really doesn’t want to do what she is doing, but is doing it anyway to pay the bills. How many people out there are doing what they’re doing as a function of necessity vs. even remotely liking what their doing? These people haven’t “fit” in their job for years…but since they are meeting the minimum expectations required of them, there doesn’t seem like a good reason to let them go (aside from their apparent MISERY during working hours). I’ve been thinking a lot about people who, in their own perspective, are unhappy and STUCK in their jobs (even wrote about it on my blog here: http://ow.ly/1qLOE).
    I enjoyed your point of view. Thanks!

  3. Wow this article is spot on.
    I don’t understand why some organizations don’t get this. I think they get stuck in the I have to fill the spot now and good enough is good enough. I find this to be very apparent in the service industry.
    Thanks for sharing
    Russ Faulkner
    Principal | Your Training Team, LLC
    Visit our site: http://www.yourtrainingteam.com
    Watch our show: http://blog.yourtrainingteam.com

  4. I couldn’t find a contact us page. So I wil post it here in hopes that you will see it. In your next system release can you add a share on social media button. I love your articles and would enjoy sharing them with others today I copy the link and send it, but a quick button would be nice.

  5. Jan Watson says:

    I’m so glad to know that others are noticing that true customer service is becoming extinct!
    There are too many people in the wrong jobs, working just to collect a paycheck. For those of us who make a living following their passion, it is truly sad to see people work at a “J.O.B.”
    As Jay mentioned, succession management needs to be addressed. True leaders are born and cultivated through proper training. The current practice of promoting a person because of seniority, or educational degree is not working. Management positions play a significant role in fostering and enhancing a depts’. corp. culture.
    Wonderful topic/discussions.
    Jan Watson
    J.P. Watson Group, LLC
    “Providing a diagnosis for healthier teams”.

  6. Mark B. says:

    Right on, Marisa!!!
    It never ceases to amaze me how many hiring managers don’t “get” this!

  7. fran melmed says:

    i believe in hiring for fit and having the courage to cut the cord when you find out there was a misfire.

  8. Mary says:

    Totally agree – in fact, I would say that hiring / retaining employees who do not fit is disrepectful.

  9. My ‘amen’ extends to the retail sector. I was on a shopping mission one night last week and went into three large, nationally known department stores. In two of them, I had to cross several departments to find a sales clerk. In the third, an attempt at eye contact with someone behind the counter was met with a look down and a swift turn and almost comical exit. What’s with that? I had a wad of cash to spend, was dressed nicely, and smiled. After the third attempt, I went into a little boutique that was personal and helpful..and grateful for my business. Point is, customers WILL vote with their money eventually and bad service = bad business.

  10. Patricia says:

    I agree with everything in the post and comments. Sometimes, however, good people can get into a negative rut because the culture supports, reinforces or allows it. The grumpy clerk may well be overworked and under apprecitaed, but has never been coached to work through that with her boss and not show it to the customer. As mentioned in the article, caring is work and as a manger, noticing these behaviours and nipping them in the bud can go a long way.

  11. Paula Guthrie says:

    Now what about the other side? We have an employee that does a wonderful job with her tasks but over the last 2 years has been reprimanded for her behavior. She has been employed here for 16 years and has gotten glowing reviews. What are the managers doing to help the employee to change their attitude or create measurable expectations on what behavior is needed. I agree that it is easy to teach skills but not personality but we need to work with the long term employees on this rather than turning our backs.

  12. Your post couldn’t have been better timed for me! I’m so relieved that I was able to refer a hiring manager to your post than struggling with one of my own to sound unbiased 🙂
    Technical skills are crucial for sound process design but bad attitude in a team member kills any good a firm is trying to do for its clients.

  13. Excellent article and love the graphic too! Nothing yo add except for the how to find a fit: excellent job description, interviews with sewral people including peers, and surveying right after interview to ensure all feedback is received.

  14. Amanda Vanderbilt says:

    We get people who “don’t fit” when we (companies) use inane online forms as applications for employment. Those forms mean nothing, and say nothing about a candidate’s qualifications, emotional intelligence, communication abilities, or interpersonal skills. All those online forms do is electronically match “key words.”
    We, as an industry, need to get back to accepting phone calls from candidates, actually sitting down and — hello!–READING candidate resumes (there’s a lot that can be learned from how a candidate writes a resume), and interviewing more candidates. Some may say we, as a profession, have become heartless, and lack compassion. I know I have heard this a lot lately — especially during those tough economic times.
    We, as HR professionals, may not be “good fits” with our own industry if WE don’t use our people skills, and stop relying on computers and electronic scanning to vet candidates. Perhaps we need to put the compassion and people skills that we have back into HR. Just sayin…

  15. Chris Young says:

    Dead on Marisa! I couldn’t agree more that managers need to look outside technical skills and show a greater focus on hiring for job fit, personality, and attitude.
    Time after time I have seen the impact that hiring for fit and attitude can have on an organization’s performance and it is simply amazing (and quantifiable).
    I have included your post in my Rainmaker top five blog picks of the week (found here http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2010/03/the-rainmaker-fab-five-blog-picks-of-the-week-3.html) to remind my readers of the importance of looking beyond technical skills when making hiring decisions.
    Be well!

  16. Excellent post and comments. I ask my students (I teach in the UM-Dearborn College of Business part time) “Would you rather hire the first, second, or third bricklayer?” [Questioning looks.] I explain: the wise man came to a village where he saw three bricklayers working. He asked #1 “What are you doing?” “Can’t you see, you blamed fool? I’m laying bricks.” He asked #2 “What are you doing?” Grumpy response: “I’m making $12 an hour.” He asked #3 “What are you doing?” Beaming with pride, #3 said happily “I’m building a cathedral.”

    • Tim Woods says:

      Inclusive data to make a decision.

      Anyone who says they won’t hire person #1 or person #2 is deluding themselves. #1 shows that they are focused on their job which is not necessarily a bad thing. #2 is good because they are are bottom line thinkers.

      Hiring #3 means you want to hire a dreamer which is all well and good, but does this person know enough? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to lay bricks, but it does take skill to know how to place them to ensure that the structure doesn’t topple over in case of a disaster (in other words, don’t put one directly on top of the other).

      Very narrow minded… and very wrong.

  17. Right on. I’ll echo a comment I made a while back on an HBR blog. The ability to predict future job performance (i.e. fit) is a real issue that businesses of all sizes could use to immediately affect their success rates with new hires.
    In this current age of knowledge workers, we need to measure not the physical attributes, but a worker’s inherent behavioral attributes. This is where we’ve found psychometrics (statistics) to be incredibly useful and accurate at helping to predict future job performance.
    Through analyzing the behavioral attributes of top performers in a particular job, one is then able to seek those attributes in future hires: job fit.
    Ben Baldwin
    Co-Founder, http://ClearFit.com
    We Make Hiring Easy.

  18. I recently read that there may be a genetic link to being a good manager
    Food for thought!

  19. Tim Woods says:

    I strongly agree with this article, pity many hiring managers will not pay attention to it, especially smaller ones. I have interviewed with countless companies where I was told emphatically that they loved me and thought I was a great fit, but some spoiler out there demanded that I have “direct experience” in that field working with the company’s competition ideally in the exact same job, instantly killing those dreams.

    So… hate to say it, but yes you missed the mark because you are targeting the wrong people with your message.

    I have read countless articles on here and LinkedIn from executives who say that they are proud of hiring that barista who they made an office manager or that olympic medalist who was a natural for that VP of Sales. Hate to be a downer, but that’s beyond idiotic. It’s almost like we are returning to the 90s where we are so desperate for help that we would rather hire someone who has zero experience than someone who is just as eager, just as hungry to succeed yet won’t get it.

    It’s time for us to take a serious look at ourselves. Hire first on fit – absolutely, then hire based on experience – relevant experience even in tangential markets, then cast a huge net to the world at large if you must, but this “hire for attitude” is puffery by hiring managers and execs who think they are on the bleeding edge of hiring people.

    Enough is enough.

    • Tim Woods says:

      Sorry.. forgot one part in my rush to publish… 🙂

      I meant to include:

      It’s almost like we are returning to the 90s where we are so desperate for help that we would rather hire someone who has zero experience than someone who is just as eager, just as hungry to succeed yet won’t get it — because they are simply happy for the opportunity to switch careers.

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