The Three C’s of an Effective Hire

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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

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