Fit Factors and Knockout Issues

When we train managers to conduct more effective interviews, we teach them to identify “Fit Factors” – issues that are considered when formulating job requirements.  You want to know if a certain candidate is going to “fit” into your particular environmental circumstances.  Do they have the values and attitudes needed to work within your industry and specific company?  Do they have the teamwork ability or he ability to work independently, requirements needed in order to function in that department or division?  Can the candidate deal with the everyday tensions, pressures and ambiguities of the job?

And there’s a subcategory of fit factors – those job criteria that are not subject to evaluative judgments – we call them “Knockout Issues.”  Is the candidate able to travel extensively, to relocate to you area?  Can they work evenings and weekends, can they stay beyond the standard day is that’s required?  Can they work a second shift?  Whatever the realities of the job, you have to know whether the candidate will fit into it.  I call Knockout Issues those job criteria that need no interpretation.  Either candidates can meet them or they can’t.  Either they have the legal right to work in the U.S. or they don’t.  If your job requires the candidates to have an accident-free driving record for three years in order to be able to drive the company vehicle under your insurance coverage, that’s a Knockout Issue.  Either they are willing and able to commit themselves to working weekends, to extensive travel, and relocation, or they are not.

Note that we are talking about criteria that are immutable.  The candidate must be available to work weekends; they must be available to extensive travel; must be bondable; must have a security clearance or be eligible for one.  Those are absolutes.

Ideally, these criteria should be used first in the screening process.  You could even say during a telephone screening, “this job absolutely requires that you be available for work on Saturdays, therefore, let me ask you, is there anything that will prevent you from meeting this requirement?”  Why bother bringing candidates in for a series of in-depth interviews if they can’t meet the requirements for the job?

As the interviewer you have to find out: can the candidate do the job?  Will they do it?  Will they fit in?  Not as simple a task as it seems.  You can’t ask a candidate these questions directly – of course, as job seekers, they will answer in the affirmative!  These are judgments you hop to make.  These questions about motivation, interests, and goals are the ones that you, and not the candidate, will answer.  You’ll arrive at those judgment about the candidate based on their answers to great interview questions that, if you are skillful enough, will have had no obvious relation to particular traits.  You need an organized plan to collect information that is comprehensive, so that if there is no evidence of a candidate having the qualities that you have determined you need for the job, it will be patently obvious.


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