Hiring for alignment ... Why?

If you could make one single change in your business, hiring for alignment will make the biggest impact. Over my two decades of experience hiring front line, district, regional and senior executives, the alignment pieces have made the biggest impact. Having an aligned team with people who are connected to the mission and values of the organization can drive performance beyond your wildest expectations. You spend less time convincing people when they are aligned with your companies’ goals and objectives. As Jim Collins writes in “Good to Great”: “The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up: they will be self-motivated by inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.” Every time in my career I compromised on this practice, I lived to regret it. Great example: I had just taken over a very difficult group of stores and was in need of five district managers. Working with my HR manager I interviewed like a mad man, five to eight interviews a day.

We needed people (what got us here is a story for another day) to rebuild an entire region of 90+ stores.   

I consider hiring people one of my strengths and enjoy the challenge. It was a sunny day, and I was hopeful based on the lineup for the day that we would find some great people to join our team. All this was happening during the 4% unemployment days. The first interview was a home run and I knew we would make an offer … hooray! The second must had lied on his resume and was a short interview. The third, the most impressive resume of the day, quickly became the biggest disappointment to me ... very rigid, mechanical with limited interpersonal skills, clearly not aligned with our culture in the least … after all I was trying to change the face of retail, creating something that did not exist in retail America! This person was not going to work. My HR manager was shocked and encouraged me to consider looking beyond the interview, focusing more on the resume and skills the candidate brought to the table.   

After much prodding from my HR manager, we made an offer and this person joined the team but never really "joined the team." Bottom line, I compromised and had the words of one of my mentors, Max, ringing in my ears ... "There are only three guarantees in life: death and taxes and if you compromise your standards you will fail." Max could not have been more correct. Don't get me wrong, this person put points on the board and had an impact on the business but was never truly aligned with our mission and values. Because of this we eventually parted ways.   

Turnover is expensive, and change in leadership creates ripples that are lasting. So the resume is the ticket to the interview, but the questions around alignment and getting to know a person’s true being will yield the best results.

Always follow your instincts and never, ever compromise.


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    Tim Winner has more than two decades of business and executive management experience, including working with start-up companies, holding  leadership roles in operations and HR, and serving as the chief operating officer in both for- profit and non-profit companies.

    View my profile on LinkedIn


    November 2013
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    February 2012