Meet the organization where it’s at, when hiring

Last week, I touched on the importance of respecting your organization’s starting place before introducing or making significant changes. I believe the same principle applies to hiring and finding the “right” candidate or the “best” candidate. It can be tempting to assess a prospective hire in isolation and seek someone who seems to be the most capable, has the most pedigreed and relevant background, fits best culturally, has the most repetitions in similar roles, and demonstrates subject matter expertise (or some version and combination of these positive qualities). But you have to respect the current state of your organization and the role you require someone to fill. The “best” candidate needs to be evaluated with the lens of the role you are filling and your requirements, and not based on an isolated assessment of merit.

I have seen two sides of this issue: i) hiring an excellent candidate who is overqualified for the role and loses engagement given the current state of the organization, despite the fact that it’s a role they might have excelled in at a different stage in their career, and ii) hiring a highly promising, but still growing and developing candidate, who is ultimately underqualified for the role, and struggles before ultimately failing to grow into the role at the pace your organization requires. This is a fairly nuanced subject, which makes it challenging to follow a ‘first-principle rule’, and there are a number of factors that need to be considered: (a) how over/underqualified is the candidate, (b) how much do you expect the needs of the role to change and/or how quickly is your organization changing, and (c) how strong a cultural fit is the candidate and can you live with them not being a perfect fit on day one because you see them becoming a closer fit over time. Recognizing all of the above, often I have seen hiring discussions put heavy weight on the merit of the candidate and rarely (or at least not frequently enough) have I seen it be calibrated by the timing and the need for the role you are hiring for, as simple as that may seem.

Hiring the “right” person means finding the right person based on what you need in the role at the time you’re hiring for it, not in the theoretical standalone consideration for that role type.