Earlier this year in May, Leicester City Football Club surprised soccer (football) fans around the world when they won the Premier League title, England’s highest level professional soccer league, with 5000 to 1 odds. To put that in context for those who may not follow the sport, winning the Premier League title is essentially equivalent to winning the Super Bowl in the NFL.
Leicester City’s victory was especially shocking due to their underdog status; they had done so poorly the previous season that they were almost bumped down to the 2nd tier league, and weren’t predicted to do much better in the upcoming season. They caught everyone off guard by stringing together an incredible season, culminating in their eventual status as champions. What’s even more surprising is that they did so without any “household name” players; players who are truly stand out stars and known far and wide for their skill. So what can Leicester City’s unexpected championship teach us about hiring?
Fit + Talent = Success
Leicester City won the Premier League title though a combination of talent AND fit. They didn’t have a Messi or a Ronaldo, but they still managed to beat teams who did have players around that caliber, so how was this possible? The reason that Leicester City won the Premier League title is because they functioned as a collaborative team. Their players and staff meshed together in such a way that, despite not having a top-tier, world famous team member, they beat teams that did. Their team was made up of individuals who fit well with their teammates, complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses in such a way that the result was a well-oiled, efficient machine.
It could be the case that even if someone like Messi or Ronaldo had joined the team prior to the season that despite being one of the best players in the world, they wouldn’t have meshed well with the team and would’ve thrown the others off. Even though they would’ve had some of the best technical skills, if they didn’t make a point to find and understand their role in the team, they may have done more harm than good. The culture and fit of the players on the Leicester City team, helped to bring out the strengths of the teammates which allowed those on the team to excel.
So What Does This Have to Do With Hiring?
The “underdog” victory of Leicester City shows us that meeting lofty goals and producing above average performances isn’t only about bringing in the person who scores highest on a skills assessment, or has the most years of experience in the field/area. If you have people who are a good combination of talent and fit, you will see other employee’s strengths being brought to light. Technical skills and past experience are great qualifications, but they alone don’t translate to superior on the job performance.
As important as skills and abilities are, it’s also crucial to consider how an applicant is going to fit not only with their co-workers or teammates, but also how they’ll fit in the physical environment, the job, and the company overall. If you’re hiring for a day-time manufacturing supervisor and find a great candidate with stellar experience, great references, and a high level of skill, but it turns out he only wants to work nights, do you think there’d be a lot of meshing going on between that candidate and the job? Sometimes it’s more about ensuring a good, mutually beneficial fit between the candidate and the role, as well as the organization and their policies. Technical skill and ability can only take you so far.
It’s often tempting to give extra consideration to a highly recommended or skilled applicant. And rightly so, workers with proven superior abilities and on-the-job skills are highly valuable. But if their talent for doing the work isn’t complemented by a good match in other aspects of the job, pursuing other candidates with a better likelihood of getting that true fit may be the best course of action.