On the one hand, digital tools make it easy to find more information about potential new hires. On the other hand, the quantity of information is overwhelming. To evaluate fit, you need a framework to help you decide what things to dig into across behavior, relationship, attitude, value and environmental preferences and norms at work or in their whole lives as appropriate.

As I’ve said throughout this series of executive onboarding notes, executive onboarding is the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. People generally fail in new executive roles because of poor fit, poor delivery, or poor adjustment to a change down the road. They accelerate success by 1) getting a head start, 2) managing the message, 3) setting direction and building the team and 4) sustaining momentum and delivering results.

The Zion School District recently decided that its newly hired principal for the Beulah Park Elementary School was a poor fit after the new principal had signed a contract but before they started; and, according to the Chicago Tribune, paid $15,000 for their mistake. This would have been less painful for all involved if Zion had figured this out before signing the contract. As the Tribune points out separately, everything they needed to know was “easily found through an online search of the job candidate’s name.”


In today’s digital age, everything everyone says and does is captured 24/7/365 forever. Mistakes, quotes, videos don’t go away. The issue is not information availability. It’s knowing what information matters and how to sort through it.

Fit is all about the overlap of a person’s preferences or character and the organization’s culture. The closer the overlap, the higher the likelihood of a strong fit. For some jobs in some organizations, all that matters is on-the-job overlap. For others, it’s whole-life overlap.

Look at candidates’ behaviors, relationships, attitudes, values and environment.


With regard to behaviors, you’re looking for how their behavioral preferences and habits will align with the way people in your organization normally behave. Consider looking at preferences across discipline (stability vs. flexibility), ways of working (independent vs. interdependent), or order (order vs. enjoyment.)


Relationships are about how people interact. Look at where you and your potential hire fall on scales like decision-making (hierarchical vs. diffused), communication (formal vs. informal), authority (follow those in authority vs. be purpose-led.)


Attitudes are about choices. Look at where you and your potential hire come out on areas like strategy (minimum viable product vs. innovation leaps,) manager (responsive vs. proactive,) safety (bias to safety over learning vs. bias to learning over safety.)


Values get at what really matters and why. Understand your organization and potential hire’s preferences on purpose (as written vs. as intended,) learning (directed vs. open/shared,) and results (results-driven vs. caring.)


Our work surroundings choices say a lot about us. Look at similarities and differences across things like office layout (hierarchical/closed vs. collaborative/open,) office décor/dress (formal vs. casual,) facilities (work-focused vs. work-life integration.)

Work vs. whole life

For some organizations it’s enough to compare your work culture and your potential new hire’s work preferences. You can be transparent about this, sharing your culture and asking the potential new hire to help you think through the fit. It’s important to both of you to get this right and, in general, your potential new hire should have relatively little to hide.

For others, it’s whole-life overlap. The Zion school principal is a great example of this as the principal was going to be impacting students’ lives well beyond the classroom. In these cases you need to go well beyond work preferences to fundamental character. If your potential new hire does have something to hide, like a conviction for selling drugs, they may want to keep it hidden. It’s your job to make sure someone uncovers and evaluates that information.