Hiring: Finding a Round Peg for a Round Hole Is Not Nearly Enough



Everyone knows you shouldn’t put a square peg in a round hole. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible (you need a big hammer) but it isn’t advisable. What doesn’t get nearly enough attention is making sure you have the correctly sized round peg for your round hole. Misfitting round pegs may be more destructive than even the squarest square peg. Hires that blatantly don’t fit (square pegs) are visibly obvious. Their potential impact on culture can be planned for in advance. While still not necessarily a good choice, at least you can see what is coming. With wrong sized round pegs, the potential damage is long term and drawn out. Like the slowly boiled frog, before you know it, you’re in hot water.

Ill-fitting round pegs can “come in many sizes.” (Pun intended. My apologies.) It could be a matter of “the right person in the wrong seat.” Someone who is a culture fit but doesn’t quite fit the needs of the position ( i.e. the peg is too small). In other cases, it the wrong round recruit might fit the needs of the position of but just not be a good culture fit (i.e. the peg is too large). In either situation, it is tempting to say we can “fill in the gap” later or “sand it down a little bit” once the candidate is hired. However, what most likely will happen is the imbalance is chalked up as “close enough” and nothing is ever done.

The problem with “close enough” is twofold. First, the organization will have to give somewhere to make up the difference. Someone from somewhere else will have to give a little of themselves to fill in the gap or everyone will have to shrink a little to make room. This may not be the worst thing on its own. However, when combined with the second fold of the “close enough” problem, it is devastating in the long run. The second problem is that by accepting a “close enough” candidate, there is a danger that you will permanently move standard of comparison. Let’s take shoe size for example. I wear a 12.5EE shoe. I can probably fit in a 12.5D, a 12EE, a 13D, etc. However, if I were to buy a 12.5D shoe because that is all the store had in stock, I will have a problem in the future. I never remember what size shoe I wear, I have to look at another pair to figure it out. If I don’t specifically remember that the last time I bought the 12.5D instead of the 12.5EE, I might think I am ok to buy a 12D if that is all they have in the store. I unintentionally moved the standard. In each case I only adjusted one variable by a small amount, but I now have shoes that are both too tight and too short. What is worse, I probably won’t notice right away. Sure, I might say I don’t remember these being so tight. However, it will probably be followed by “they must stretch out.” It won’t be until I’ve been wearing them for a while and my foot is in excruciating pain that I realize something is very wrong. The same thing happens when an organization starts making small concessions on different candidate variables—eventually, the small compromises aggregate to a big change and a huge pain.

This isn’t only a problem for the potential employer. It is also the candidate’s responsibility to be honest. I don’t think that in most cases candidates lie. Rather, I believe most candidates either ask themselves the wrong question when applying or don’t know themselves well enough to know the actual truth. When looking at a job description, candidates usually internally ask “Can I do this?” rather than “Do I want to do this, will this fulfill me, does this use my strengths?” I know I did this for a long time. It wasn’t because I didn’t want a fulfilling job that fully utilized my capabilities. For me, I didn’t know what those things were. I couldn’t see the common thread between the activities enjoyed doing that I could use as a benchmark for what type of position would best fit me. Being a researcher at heart (which I actually learned through this endeavor), I started looking for, and taking, every test I could find to determine what my strengths are and what makes me “tick.” Below are the three that I felt provided me the most insight into myself. I believe that all of these are great tools for job searchers to find their ideal career fit. Furthermore, one or more can be used by employers to determine a candidate’s fit for their position. The Kolbe A specifically has been used successfully by many employers as an unbiased late stage screening tool.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an introspective self-report questionnaire with the purpose of indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.
[My results: INTJ]

 Kolbe A

There are a variety of assessments that measure how smart you are or your personality — what you like and dislike. The Kolbe A Index is different. Kolbe measures your instinctive way of doing things and the Result is called your MO (method of operation). It gives you greater understanding of your own human nature and allows you to begin the process of maximizing your potential — both personally and professionally
[My results: 8-5-7-2]

Gallup/Clifton Strengths Finder

During this hour-long online assessment, you'll see 177 paired statements and choose which one best describes you. The assessment measures your natural patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, so when you're done you'll have discovered your talents.
[My results: 1. Ideation 2. Learner 3. Individualization 4. Strategic 5. Intellection]

Whether you use these tools or something completely different, it is extremely important for both the employer and the candidate to have a deep desire to find the perfect fit—the right sized round peg for the right sized hole. Anything less is just asking for trouble.