Most Qualified vs. Best Suited Team Members?

Everyday, business owners and leaders in all kinds of industries are responsible for recruiting and hiring new team members. Making a good match is critical because it impacts multiple aspects of business and performance. So it’s easy to get confused as to whether you should hire the best suited team members or the ones most qualified for the position. Let’s explore the idea of most qualified versus best suited team members, because getting it right — or wrong — has far reaching effects.

Actors vs. Actual Customers

In 1973 a regional brewing company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was on the verge of capturing America’s attention — and a huge base of new customers at the same time. Little known Miller Brewing Company carved out a lucrative market niche by introducing a reduced calorie beer — originally named Lite Beer by Miller — but later — simply Miller Lite.

Now I’m not a beer drinker myself, but beer drinkers around the U.S. stopped and took notice. Why?

In part, because in 1973, the advertising agency, McCann-Erickson Worldwide created a unique marketing strategy for Miller’s new Lite beer. Over the next 17 years, dozens of Miller Lite commercials featured beer-drinking retired athletes, coaches and celebrities — or what one advertising exec referred to as “clowns, rebels and has- beens.”

These were definitely NOT qualified professional actors. They were beer drinkers — plain and simple.

And as such, exceptionally well-suited to convince other beer drinkers that Miller Lite — tasted great, was less filling — and therefore — “Everything you’ve always wanted in a beer. And less.”

Years later, the Miller Lite ad campaign was named the 8th best in advertising history by Advertising Age! Oh, and by the way, Miller Brewing Company also made a lot of money! 

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Most Qualified vs. Best Suited Team Members

Considering a most qualified team member versus a best suited team member is important. And if you, as a business owner or company leader, get it wrong, it may have serious repercussions on team dynamics and overall business performance results.

Early in my career, I spent a lot of time recruiting, interviewing and ultimately, hiring and promoting team members and associates. It was one of the more daunting tasks I’ve ever had. A lot was riding on the outcome.

After interviewing and placing hundreds of individuals, I came to realize that as important as formal qualifications are, finding someone who is uniquely the best suited for a position is even more important still.

Now please understand, I’m not advising you to completely disregard a candidate or prospect’s qualifications. But I am advising you to examine closely whether or not a potential team member is best suited for success in a position regardless how significant their qualifications may initially seem.

4 Factors for Hiring or Promoting Team Members

To make it a bit easier for you, I’ve identified four key factors to keep in mind as you hire or promote that next associate. (Considering a senior team member vs. a promising junior associate? Read this.)

1. Proficiency for and ability to do the work.

This one’s a no-brainer. If the candidate can’t do the job — or eventually learn to do it — keep looking. There’s no sense wasting more of their time or yours. Someone better suited is out there. Go find them.

2. Interest in doing the job.

Be careful with this one, don’t let it slip by you. Just because someone can do the job, doesn’t mean they want to. And we know that someone who doesn’t want to do a job is destined to doing a lousy job. Again, this is regardless of the qualifications they may have.

3.  Their ability — and willingness — to adjust to the work environment and the people.

Remember, every workplace is unique. Also remember that people are creatures of habit. Do all you can to determine whether the team member or associate can and will adjust to the work environment and those they work with.

4. Their potential for future advancement and performance.

You should be absolutely convinced that every new team member hired or associate promoted possesses the potential to make your organization better. Otherwise, why would you even consider hiring or promoting them in the first place? Not only is your professional reputation on the line, so is the ultimate performance of your business. Never settle for less than you have to.

Then — to paraphrase the Miller Lite tagline — you’ll have “everything you’ve always wanted in a team member… and more!”

Anticipate Pushback

Get ready for it. You may get pushback from those who think the best qualified candidate is always the best choice. To get you thinking ahead, what are the most common objections and your responses to selecting the best suited team member over the most qualified candidate? Please share your responses in the comments below — it will help others be better prepared too.

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Phillip Van Hooser
Author: Phillip Van Hooser
Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by building engaged employee relationships. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on leadership, service and communication. His popular book, “Willie's Way: 6 Secrets for Wooing, Wowing and Winning Customers and Their Loyalty” recently hit #1 in Customer Relations on the Kindle store. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn and Facebook.

2 Comments

  • Avatar
    JD Dillon

    First of all, I 100% agree with you. Qualification and experience can often incorrectly overshadow suitability and potential. A “generic” way to overcome the objection is challenging. I typically point to successful people in the organization who were suitable, but not highly qualified (at the time of taking the job). At my first company, I was literally hired over three “no hire” assessments from the interview team — for precisely that reason. I like to think that I have had a modicum of success.

    • Phillip Van Hooser

      JD, thanks for the response. As you said, we agree. There is rarely a “standard” way of determining the “best suited” or the “best fit” for a position. So a better idea is to invest adequate time in the interview process to really get to know the candidate(s) being considered — their skills, abilities, and proficiencies; their goals, objectives, and aspirations; their fears, concerns, and inadequacies, etc. Overlay the information you gather against the needs and expectations of the position to be filled. By the way, since the best predictor of future performance is always past performance, ask candidates to describe their greatest past success. Their answer may tell you a lot about what you have to look forward to, one way or the other.

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