How to make a new hire stay

The One Factor That Will Decide Whether Your New Hire Will Stay

by Apr 16, 2024Advisory Groups

The employment landscape has undergone significant changes in recent years. From the rise of the Great Resignation to the phenomenon of quiet quitting and the emergence of “lazy-girl jobs,” job seekers now wield more power than ever due to the high number of unfilled and open positions in the country.

However, the way many companies and many candidates approach the interview process–often the last gateway to filling or landing a job–is frequently flawed. Both companies looking to hire and candidates looking to be hired usually focus on the wrong things during the interview, leading to bad hires and higher turnover.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The solution is to focus on will more than on skill. The distinction between skill and will in the hiring process was popularized in the book Who by Smart and Street.

Let me explain.

Will over skill

Every interview is a two-way conversation between an employer and a job applicant. However, these interviews are often treated merely as screening tests to assess whether the candidate has the appropriate skills and experience to function in the job and perform at a high level.

A typical interview will cover things like whether the person has the right degree or educational background to be successful. Or what on-the-job experiences and skills they have earned will translate well to the new position.

The truth is that an applicant’s resume probably covers most of these qualifications (unless they lied). These days, you might even have used AI and machine learning to help screen for the best candidates based on the skills and experiences they listed.

So why waste time discussing these qualifications during the interview when you could spend your time together focusing on what’s truly important: Does the candidate have the will to do the job?

The interview should be a time for both the employer and the candidate to assess whether the person will be happy and thrive in the role.

In other words, even if the person has the skill to do the job, do they also have the will to thrive?

Understanding culture fit

It’s clear that if you want to make better hiring decisions–or land a job that you will truly thrive in–you should use the interview to assess the candidiate’s or your fit for the position.

We often hear about hiring someone for “culture fit,” but how exactly do you do that?

This is an area where a candidate for a position should lead the conversation and try to assess things such as: Do I want to hang around this group of people for many of my waking hours? Do they have goals and a purpose that I agree with? And what kind of environment is it–collegial, hierarchical, etc.–and can I thrive in it?

And, maybe most essential, will I like the work they are asking me to do?

Case in point: I am mentoring a young man who took a job working for a large defense contractor. Let’s call him Tom. The company makes components for military equipment, like fighter jets and missiles. Tom, an engineer, loved his work because it challenged him and allowed him to learn new skills. But something was missing: Tom didn’t connect with the organization’s purpose. Making the machines of war bothered him. So, Tom eventually felt compelled to leave–he wasn’t a culture fit–which worked well for him because he landed a new job with an organization with a purpose he aligned with.

Now consider another case involving a young woman I am mentoring; let’s call her Jill. Jill is a competent and confident person who was very happy in her job. It afforded her a flexible schedule, and she loved what she was doing. However, a position above Jill opened, and her bosses encouraged her to apply for the promotion. Against her better judgment, Jill took the promotion, even though she wasn’t sure she would enjoy the managerial tasks. Now, Jill is miserable. While the organization didn’t change, her role did–and now she’s thinking of leaving. The skill was there, but the will wasn’t.

The lesson learned is that Jill and her bosses should have had honest conversations about the new job and whether Jill would thrive in it. If they had, perhaps Jill would have made a different decision.

Interview prep 101

As the stories of Tim and Jill illustrate for us, there’s real value in preparing for an interview in ways that will help you assess whether the job is truly a fit.

Salespeople are especially prone to overlooking these nuances because they’re driven to close the deal–and only then, on further reflection, do they realize they have made a horrible mistake.

As a job seeker, ask yourself what kind of work environment you want. Do you want to work remotely or in an office? Do you embrace formality at work or prefer a more loose and informal environment? Do you connect with the organization’s purpose and mission?

The closer you can align your answers with your new job, the better off you’ll be because you’ve probably found a place you want to work now and into the future.