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Til Death Do Us Part August 17, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: , ,

It is said that many marriages run aground on the rocks of unrealistic expectations.  The old saw claims that every bride looks at her groom and thinks, “I can change him!”  Each groom gazes at his bride and thinks, “I hope she never changes!”  If a woman is seeking a project and a man is seeking a prize, both will be sorely disappointed.

Hiring someone is like getting married.  After a brief courtship, employee and employer embark on a (hopefully) long-term relationship, seeking mutual benefit and collective success.  Sometimes it works out, but all too often it does not.  A lot of that has to do with how we hire, and if we are acting like the apocryphal brides and grooms.

There are aspects of a new hire that should never change.  In that sense, a hiring manager must think like a groom.  Ethics, attitude, enthusiasm, and personality are ingrained in a person long before they reach your door.  You need to make sure that these parts of a candidate align with your company culture.  It is absolutely unrealistic to think that you are going to change core aspects of a person’s personality once they join your team.  If there isn’t a strong alignment with your needs in these areas, call off the wedding before it’s too late.

Conversely, there are parts of a person that you can change once they are on board.  In particular, some technical skills can be taught or expanded.  Certainly, understanding of your specific business processes can only happen once the job begins.  We often reject candidates because they do not have the exact list of technical skills we seek, when in fact we could teach some of those skills to an otherwise qualified candidate after they start.  The trick, of course, is to know which skills are required at the beginning and which can be learned later.  You need to think like a bride, but be a discerning one.

Often, in the excitement of courtship, we make bad decisions.  A technically qualified candidate is a lousy fit, culture-wise, but we think we can change him.  A delightful person with all the right social skills turns out to be untrainable.  Someone who seems great during the interviews winds up being dramatically different a few months later; if only we had paid closer attention while we were dating!

Like a bad marriage, these bad hiring decisions hurt the candidate, the company, and everyone surrounding them.  Parting ways can be expensive, litigious, and hurtful.

An approach that borrows from both the bride and groom will serve us all best in the long run.  Know what to change, accept what you cannot, and you’ll have a much better chance of a productive relationship.  Be patient and wait for the right candidate, because your Mom’s advice holds true as well: there are plenty of fish in the sea.  Catch the right one!


1. Wally Bock - August 19, 2009

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best independent business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.


Wally Bock

2. Maria Weyman - August 19, 2009

Brilliant analogy between recruitment and marriage. I see myself referring back to this post in the future as a practicing HR Pro.

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