Recruiting is one of the more important exercises in any organization. Too often we are so anxious to fill a slot that we don’t look deeply into the qualifications and fit of candidates. We look at CVs and have a round of interviews and make a decision. But in far too many cases, little attention is paid to whether the candidate is a good fit for the culture, purpose, and needs of the institution. Personality, personal attitude, and team compatibility are grossly underrated in the process. No matter how successful the person is as a caregiver or scientist, if he or she is likely to find it difficult to adapt to the culture, the recruitment is headed for trouble.
Conversely, a small but distressing number of academic programs and other institutions have a stifling air of distrust and scientific secrecy leading to competing factions and an enormous waste of energy and a degradation of good will. The recruit may have a difficult time of adapting to such an environment.
Both the institution and the recruit must realize that each brings a work attitude and culture to the table. Both must recognize that it will take time for a new recruit to fit into a new organization; this often takes up to 18 months.
Judging personality and fitness for a job, both professionally and personally, is not a science. That does not mean one shouldn’t spend considerable time on this important issue. One test I use to help in this process is to imagine each of the following scenarios:
Desert Island: How would I feel if the candidate and I were shipwrecked on a desert island, just the two of us? Could I depend on that person to pull his or her share of the workload? How would we get along under stressful circumstances?
Daily Interdependent Colleague: This less rigorous test imagines how it would be like to deal with the recruit on a daily basis and be dependent on his or her actions and behavior.
Project Collaborator: This is even less stringent because the interaction is limited to a specific project that takes a portion of time but not all of it. Would the person be likely to serve as a good colleague?
Nice Guy…But: This means that the recruit is amiable, a “good guy,” but a bad fit professionally for the position, a painfully slow worker, not aggressive enough for the job, or may not function well as a team player.
‘South End of a Horse’: The SEH may be bright, ambitious, and highly productive, but is considered a complete jerk who annoys and frustrates everyone around him, often reducing their productivity. Propriety, graciousness, candor, and kindness are not part of his personality. He is socially toxic.
If the candidate fits the descriptions in either of the latter two scenarios, I don’t need to tell you that you should not offer the job. If the person fits one of the first three, he or she is likely (but never a certainty -- this is not a science) to do well on some level.
You won’t always have enough information from previous colleagues or former bosses, but the exercise still can be helpful. It is not fair to you or the candidate to recruit someone who is not likely to fit in or thrive in your environment, so spending a little extra time trying to gauge these issues is well worth the effort.