COMMENTARY: Suitability Versus Capability

A critical maxim of management is: “Suitability is as important as capability.” Capability asks, “Can they do the job?” Suitability asks, “Are they right for the job?”

If the job isn’t a good fit, it’s not a good job.

Yes, an employee has to have (or be able to readily acquire) the skills and knowledge required for excellent job performance, but compatibility can be more critical than capacity.

There are three aspects to suitability: intellect, temperament, and objectives.

Intellectually, will the employee be challenged but not overtaxed by the job? People who are overqualified usually fail or leave because they get bored or hate being underutilized. On the other hand, employees who must stretch mightily to do a job often find it too stressful to do so continually.

Temperament and personality are also important. Some people flourish while others wilt in particular organizational cultures. Some need more authority or autonomy than a job entails while others want closer supervision and more direction. Some love and others hate detail work. Some rebel against too much structure while others need orderliness and predictability.

Fit involves integration with existing people and practices and compatibility with the style and values of their boss. An organization should encourage fresh ideas, creativity, innovation, and a willingness to challenge assumptions and approaches, but there’s a significant downside to employees who spend too much energy trying to change their coworkers and the way things are done.

Finally, does the job make sense given the applicant’s financial and career objectives? Despite pledges and protests to the contrary, employees who think they’re taking a step backward in pay or prestige often find easy excuses to leave. In such cases, it’s like hiring a temp but without the control over timing.

A responsible manager must be perceptive and prudent. Just as job applicants tend to say whatever they think the employer wants to hear, employers who need to fill a job tend to believe whatever they want to hear.

There’s no lasting benefit when suitability gaps are filled with wishful thinking or rationalizations.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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