If it Doesn’t Fit, You Must Quit

Everyone knows this now famous quote from the OJ Simpson trial. I believe we all have the image to the left seared into our minds of Johnny’s closing arguments using the gloves as proof of OJ’s innocence. Obviously it worked because OJ went free. The fact is, when things don’t add up, it’s hard to get an all in from a jury.

I find this principle a lot in leaders when recruiting talent to their organization. It seems the good leaders usually have a gut feeling they just can’t seem to shake and this gut feeling could be either good or bad. Usually, when it’s bad, most leaders who have some wisdom to them just back off of their gusto for the candidate and redirect their focus to a “good fit.” Unfortunately, I believe all of us have stories of making hires against our gut. The war stories are numerous.

So what do you look for in hiring? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself this question? If not, the ingredients for disaster are already there. I am not talking about a job description but rather, those x-factors someone would need to be successful in your organization. It could be energetic personality, strong attention to detail, strong ethics, or a bullish tenacity for success. Whatever the variable, you need to know what they are and use it as a measuring stick for your candidates.

At one point, I was looking to hire someone to my team and had to go through this exercise. I knew the pragmatic aspects I was looking for, but there was also a list of things I needed this person to possess not to be included in a job description. Here was the ruler I judged candidates by:

  • Must have extreme ability to be fluid. They must be able to change as often and as quickly as needed to meet the client’s needs.
  • Must be self-sufficient. I don’t want to babysit. I want someone who will bring ideas to the table and be willing to take on projects without being asked to do so.
  • Chameleon-like. Must be able to adjust their personality to fit and communicate with all personalities.
  • Willing to challenge. Want a submissive, but free-thinking challenger to everything we have in process now.

Now you have to agree, these are not things you would list on the job description, but at the time, they were critical factors I wanted in the new position. I interviewed roughly ten people and found myself exhausted and willing to compromise. Unfortunately, I did the worst thing a leader could do, I settled. I settled for a warm body that met some of the criteria I was looking for. Eventually, this mistake made itself ever apparent within the first three weeks. Then, I spent the following 30 days self-evaluating, making sure the issue was not my leadership but truly the candidate. So 60 days into the associates tenure, I was planning a strategy to either coach up, or coach out. So, 180 days later, the decision was made to part ways. It was best for the candidate and it was best for me. As they always say, mistakes make the best professors!

Watch this video of a similar circumstance from the point of view of the candidate.

Brigitte Sire is the (now former) CEO of the Oprah network. Listen to how she describes the interviews in the beginning, and now, having the benefit of hindsight, we know both Brigitte and Oprah should have simply disengaged. As you can see, even leaders with the “golden touch” are susceptible to this silent enemy.

So, the next time you find yourself in a “gut-nasty”, disengage and hold out for that glove that fits perfectly!

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.


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