Employers looking for ‘network fit’ when hiring

May 25, 2014

A fresh class of college graduates will soon embark on their first full-time job searches, joining more than 50 percent of current job holders who, according to CEB research, are investing at least some effort in looking for a new job.

Both the recruiter and job hunter can take steps to improve their odds of success.

Conventional recruiting wisdom emphasizes “culture fit,” which is focused on how a candidate fits with the organization’s values and building camaraderie with peers. We’ve heard culture fit described by hiring decision makers as “Our values and what it takes to be successful here” or “Would I want to be stuck in an airport with the person?”

This kind of fit can’t be ignored; in fact, it drives quality of hire by 12 percent. However, what hiring managers are looking for in candidates today has more than twice the impact on whether someone will be a high quality of hire as culture fit. Now more than ever, recruiters and hiring managers want “network fit,” or how well a candidate fits with the way future colleagues at the organization work.

What does this mean for managers?

Managers can use the science of assessing and selecting talent to help hire for network fit, beginning by defining the role and objectively measuring applicants’ relevant competencies and skills.

The first key is to uncover and document what success looks like in the role. Start by identifying people who know how the job should be done. These subject matter experts are typically high-performers in the role, managers supervising the role or others who have expertise about how the job should be performed. Your subject matter experts should be able to describe how these roles serve the organization’s customers and mission and exactly what they do to achieve success. What tasks and activities do they complete? What technologies do they use? What processes do they follow? And, in our increasingly interconnected world of work, what teams or roles do they regularly talk to, collaborate with, hand off to, involve in decisions or depend on to accomplish their objectives?

All of these inputs lead to a solid behavioral description of the role requirements, including elements of network fit. From there, recruiters and hiring managers should identify talent who fit not by scanning and sifting resumes, but through use of formal objective assessments, including online testing, structured behavioral interviews and simulations that let candidates show off their competencies and skills.

What does this mean for job seekers?

If you are interviewing for a new job, here are some tips to follow:

Assume some level of baseline objective screening will occur.

Be prepared to be assessed in a work-reflective environment. This might mean realistic job previews and other means of giving both you and the organization a mutual sense of what the role would be like.

Arm yourself with answers to questions that not only address how you individually approached a problem and came to a resolution, but also how you interacted with others.

Expect to meet with more people than just the hiring manager and recruiter during the interview process.

Focusing on network fit is good for everyone — it helps ensure job seekers end up in an employment situation that allows them to shine, while enhancing the likelihood that employers will hire staff with the potential to excel in their work environment.

Employees with network fit are 13 percent more satisfied and 38 percent less likely to leave the organization, and ultimately, reduced turnover and happier employees benefit all involved.

Donna Weiss is a managing director of CEB’s HR practice. Ken Lahti is vice president for CEB product development and innovation.

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