Perfect fit Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2008

William Clapper likens getting the right people in the right positions to running a football team. The founder, president and CEO of MTI Information Technologies LLC says that if your team has good passing skills, you should-n’t try to force people to run the ball, and the same is true in business.

“Don’t do things or don’t give (employees) assignments or tasks or challenge them to do things they’re probably going to fail at,” says Clapper, whose $24 million company optimizes communications to physicians.

Smart Business spoke with Clapper about how to use the hiring process to find the right employees to fit in to your culture.

Q. How do you evaluate employees’ skills to see where they fit in the organization?

It begins with the hiring process. It begins with a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish. Then, implement that through having a singular focus of the kinds of people you think fit specific roles.

Again, the football analogy — you want to make sure that you’ve got a quarterback that has certain skills versus a line-man that has certain skills. So, you’ve got blocking and tackling people in the organization, you’ve got skill players in the organization, and you want to make sure they match up.

Q. How do you use the hiring process to find the right fit?

It begins with understanding what the job is all about and what you are trying to accomplish on that job. Now, I don’t mean so narrowly defined that you can scope out a daily activity for someone, but I mean a broad view, a strategic view, of what you are expecting from that position.

Then, you try to find people who do two things or two key things. One, they match up from the skill standpoint of what that job would require, and two, most importantly, that they fit in to the culture of the organization.

Q. How do you judge whether a potential employee will fit in to your culture?

Especially if it’s a senior manager, I like to talk to people in different environments. You might have one where there’s a formal environment the first time they come in the office. You might have another one at lunch, or something like that, to make sure you can see people at different times of the day and different days of the week, so you can see how people are over time. Because anybody can act at any given point, but it’s difficult to communicate a consistent view or a presence over a period of time.

The second thing is to get opinions of your associates. We like to do two things here. We always like to schedule interviews here where people can talk one on one with someone who they may be reporting to or who they may work with, so that maybe we get three or four different views.

Then, oftentimes, again depending on the level, we’ll bring people together for a group interview where you can see how that person interacts within that group that you’ve assembled. Pretty soon, these patterns begin to emerge.

Q. How do you decide whom to hire?

That depends on the position in the organization. There are some I don’t even see anymore who come in to be interviewed. The manager of that group, that team, the leader of that team would make the hiring decision.

But, generally, it’s a question of, if we look at middle management or senior management, where I would be involved. Oftentimes, we’ll even develop score sheets. They would say, ‘Here are the 10 characteristics of this position that we’re looking for,’ and give weighting factors to each one of those, and then have people fill those out independently and anonymously.

Then, assemble the score, and we see that, generally, we all think about this or we all think about that. Then, when you get some dissenting opinions, that’s when you really drill down and start to discuss the differences. Why do you see that differently?

Q. What advice do you have for leaders who want to make sure they are getting the right people in the right places?

The No. 1 thing that you could do is ... have a clear vision of what you are trying to accomplish. I think people tend to try to think about something in very general terms and then develop the vision on the fly.

I always had problems with that. I always like to think through, ‘How do I visualize this position working, and how does it fit in to the organization?’

Then, I like to think about who the people they’re going to interact with, and then you think about people that you know. Then I pretty much, by the time I’m ready to interview, have a perception in my mind of what I am looking for, and then I test against that.

HOW TO REACH: MTI Information Technologies LLC, (267) 569-2400 or www.mtiadvantage.com