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When Culture Fit is Paramount, Consider "Speed Dating" Your Candidates

"Speed dating" is a concept that first originated in the matchmaking world where understanding the 'goodness of fit' was important for a seeker prior to investing great time in companion selection. defines speed dating is "an organized social activity in which people seeking relationships have a series of short conversations with potential partners in order to determine whether there is mutual interest." (paraphrased)

Speed dating as a concept can be helpful in hiring as well. Let me relate to you a few examples.

Long ago when I was a graduate at Cambridge University, I was invited to attend a 'milk-round' series of job interviews for the investment banks (e.g., Goldman Sachs, Solomon Brothers, etc) where the evening before the interviews the companies typically sponsored an open-bar reception; while put forward as a reception it was truly the first interview, a speed-date of sorts. At the reception, I made sure to keep my wits about me and purposely meet all of the representatives from the sponsoring firms. I was invited to interview with additional execs from the experience at this reception. On the other hand, I also recall one student who had taken the open-bar too literally, who drank to excess, and fell to the ground in drunken stupor. I next recall one of the interviewers reaching over to look at the drunk's name tag, noted the name, and said, take him off my interview list. This simple reception provided a wealth of data not visible on a resume. Candidates should always be watchful that the entire selection process is part of the process.

More recently, I had a recent search where the CEO challenged my company to find a peculiar good-fitting candidate for their requirements. We spent a good deal of time in discovery creating a detailed requirements document, screening factors, and behavioral position description. We next set about to source a good number of candidates to enable us to have choice of candidates. We sourced 122+ candidates for this particular CFO search for a conglomerate that was operating nine business units; they company had particular cultural fit issues.

Our review team sorted through candidate files with resumes, cover letters, and answers to screening questions. We rank ordered the pool and phone interviewed the top 31 candidates. Following the phone interviews, we re-ranked the candidate pool and identified 21 candidates to move forward. We next psychometrically tested the top 21 with three tests covering behavior, motivations, and core competencies in the workplace. We subsequently mapped all of the candidates across several parameters to visually see the potential fit and opportunities to consider for each candidate.

Because goodness of fit was so important for this client, and their requirements were so unique, we proposed to hold one day of speed-dates with the top 21 candidates in increments of 15 minutes each. The interviews were attended in person and via Cisco Webex video conference. Members of the company were audience to the panel interview format provided to each of the candidates. The CEO remarked at how beneficial this format was to see back-to-back candidates to get a comparison and feel for them with the team. At the end of the day, I had each member of the company rank order the candidates to determine their top 7. I created a Fedex Cup type ranking, giving 10 points for 1st place rank, 7 points for 2nd place rank, and so on. It became clear from consensus that there were 7 candidates that most tightly fit the culture and goodness of fit requirements of the firm. With this guidance and insight, we subsequently conducted more thorough interviews, testing, and experience-based interviewing with the top candidates.

The result, after all of our search, selection, and screening efforts, the company found several great candidates that they felt could be deployed in various roles throughout their various business units. It's a wonderful thing when your clients are thrilled with the quality, cultural fit, and capabilities of their new hires. Following a system and using discipline in the process has led to consistent and valuable results. I suggest to improve your hiring results that you consider adding to your process a cultural speed-date with your candidates.

If this process intrigues you, ePraxis conducts executive searches, talent selection, and training for teams on improving your hiring processes.


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