A man I know contemplated a career change. He went through the Know Thyself Process® using a personalized guide focused on finding a new career. He came to understand that his past and present jobs were not a good fit for his interests, strengths, and needs. Armed with valuable insights on the type of work that would be a good match for him, he soon got an interview for a position in a totally different field. The hiring manager, recognizing the mismatch with the applicant’s previous experience, immediately asked him why he was at the interview. The applicant said, “I have done work to understand what my interests, strengths, and needs are. This job is the perfect match for that.” He went into great detail further explaining this. He was offered the job on the spot.
While a true story, this is anything but usual.
So how should a potential employer approach such a situation? And how important is past experience?
There is substantial research on the cost of bad hires with costs ranging from 2 times to 25 times the annual salary of the position being filled. A friend of mine used to work directly for Steve Jobs, and he tells me that Steve repeatedly said that a bad hire was worth a million dollars. Whatever the actual dollar value, a bad hire is costly.
But what constitutes a bad hire? It could mean that the individual lacks the knowledge and skills needed to do the job (e.g. past experience), but more often than not, it is because the individual does not fit into the organization. The organization either has to get rid of the new hire because he or she is disrupting the corporate culture or the individual leaves on his or her own.
Much has been researched and written about why individuals choose to leave an organization as well. The number one reason in most studies is dissatisfaction with the relationship with the individual’s boss (which would be impacted by each individual’s strengths and needs). Other factors include perceived lack of career growth (impacted by the individual’s interests), dissatisfaction with recognition including compensation (impacted by the employee’s needs), and general lack of cultural fit (again impacted by an individual’s needs).
The standard exploratory interview questions can be used as the launching point for initial assessment of a match on interests, strengths, and needs:
- Why do you want this job? This is an exploration of the individual’s interests.
- Why do you think you will be successful? While knowledge and skills gained from past experience are a factor here, equal time should be spent on behavioral strengths and whether they are a good match for the job.
- Why do you think you will fit into this organization? This is an exploration of what the individual needs in order to best perform and whether the culture will give that to him/her.
While past experience is a factor, I assert that such things as interests, strengths, and needs are equally important. A potential employer should not be scared off if past experiences are less than ideal if a good match on the other factors can be determined.
Dr. Sarah E. Brown recently retired as a managing director of Accenture, where she focused on talent-management challenges for multinational corporations. She is now authoring a series of self-help books, available at www.knowthyselfguides.com.