The Three C’s of an Effective Hire

Many years ago I solicited the insight of my boss regarding a difficult choice for a hiring decision. However, instead of giving his input, he provided me with a principle by which he expected me to make the decision (for more on principle related decision making read Do You Adopt or Adapt?). He referred to it as the three-C’s of a hire:

  1. Competence: Does the individual have the ability to do the job? In some cases, this refers to competence which can be developed based on demonstrated abilities.
  2. Character: Does this person have character which aligns with organizational expectations and is ethically sound?
  3. Chemistry: Does this person have a demeanor and style which fits with you and the team they will be working in.

I have used this principle extensively. When making difficult decisions, I can usually isolate my hiring concerns to one of these three areas. This simple rubric has also helped me change how I interview. I believe that 80% of interview questions only focus on competence! Therefore, I have had to develop questions which help me understand chemistry and character. Here are two great examples of how this can be done. While interviewing for an organization in Southeast Asia, I was asked, “When is it OK to break the rules”. That is a great character question in a region where bribery is normal! When I was a finalist for another job, I was taken out to lunch with the team. After my reply to a comment brought the entire table to laughter, I know that they had a pretty good insight into team chemistry.

One of my students recently taught me a more sophisticated version of this concept (thanks Jeremy!).

  1. Person-job fit: does the individual fit this vocation?
  2. Person-supervisor fit: does the individual fit the supervisor they will report to?
  3. Person-group fit: does the individual fit with those they work with on a daily basis?
  4. Person-organization fit: does the individual fit the company?(Kristof-Brown)
  5. Person-culture fit: does the individual fit the culture of this organization? (O’Reilly)

A bad hire is costly! I believe that many poor choices are a result of inadequate consideration of the three C’s. Interviewing for character, competence and chemistry is one way to decrease the risk.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Kristof-Brown, A. L., Zimmerman, R. D., & Johnson, E. C. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit. Pesonnel Psychology(58), pp. 281-342.
O’Reilly III, C. A., Chatman, J., & Caldwell, D. F. (1991). People and organizational culture: A profile comparision approach to assessing person-organization fit. Academy of Mangement Journal, 34(3), pp. 487-516. doi:10.2307/256404

Fear This, Not That! You May be Afraid of the Wrong Things

Misdirected fear.

When our minds focus on the wrong issues, our misdirected fear can keep us from working on the things that matter. For example, in the weekend LA Times Parade magazine, Maura Rhodes provided a short list of what we tend to focus on versus what we should really be fearing (see graphic).Fear This Not That 2

Organizations also encounter this same problem. When we focus on the wrong thing we attempt to fix the wrong problems with misguided efforts. Here are three ‘Fear This, Not That’ scenarios that I bump into as I work with organizations.

1. Fear a faulty hiring process, not problem employees! No one enjoys a bad employee. However, if we aren’t careful with who we let in the front door, we can expect a busy back-door! I have inherited more than my share of bad employees. I’ve also hired a few myself. A consistent pattern with problem staff is that they provided early warning signals about poor performance (usually in the interview or during their probation period). If your HR office is not a strong collaborator during the hiring, probation and evaluation process, you can expect problem employees. When you are supported by a robust interview (which must include the three C’s – character, competency and chemistry), you will generally make good decisions. When we don’t, low performer employees cause leaders to develop a defensive leadership style. We create better leaders by hiring better employees.

2. Fear your strategic planning process, not the future! As a futurist, I consistently speak with people who hear what I do and say, “Oh, we need to understand the future better”. Then they go on to tell me about the many challenges that an uncertain future brings. Usually their focus is on what they don’t know. Very few speak about what they do know or how they can know more. If your strategic plan is not using the tools of strategic foresight as a means to proactively engage with the future, you have reason to fear it. As we equip ourselves with future knowledge we enable ourselves to build and activate better strategy. When we don’t, we fear the future.

3. Fear organizations who focus on leadership development rather than the development of good leadership. While this phrase may seem like I am splitting hairs, the difference between leadership and good leadership is immense. Leadership development focuses on what leaders do. While what a leader accomplishes is important, it is insufficient. Bin Laden, Hitler and President Mugabe (Zimbabwe) were effective leaders who left a path of destruction in their wake. Instead, when we focus on good leadership we discuss the hard issues – why are we leading, what is good and how do we improve our collective well-being. While that statement contains a throwback hippy sentimentality, the current rise of ethics, morality and ends-focus (not just the means) is also increasing in our business literature.

As we examine our fears, we need to ensure we are afraid of the right things. This requires us to challenge our assumptions. Learning to question our fears and identify the important ones can mobilize us from inaction to action.

I’d love to hear your own versions of misdirected fear in the workplace. ‘Fear This, Not That!’.


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Rhodes, M. (2015). Fears 2015. Parade Magazine via the LA Times. Sunday, January 18, 2015.