The Fallacy of the “3 Cs” in Hiring
There’s been a lot written about the “3 Cs” of effective hiring – character, competence, and chemistry. While these may be a good check-list, among other best practices for hiring, I believe one of these three can be misconstrued if we’re not keenly aware of the influences that affect its misinterpretation.
I couldn’t agree more about the priority of character in the hiring process. Whether it’s in a church setting or in a secular setting, character counts. No doubt, this is perhaps the most important trait to assess when considering a candidate for a position.
I also agree with the importance of competence. A candidate must have the necessary education, experience, and skills to do the job well. Many believe this is the least important of the three, because many jobs include skills that can be learned over time. Some, of course, require a deeper level of experience and skill and must be present from the beginning.
It’s “chemistry” that I believe is often misinterpreted in some ways. The misinterpretation comes when “chemistry” is used to define how well the pastor or the top leader “likes” the person. Do they have similar personalities, similar interests, or similar hobbies? I think this is where the “chemistry” criteria gets off track. I’ll call this “personal chemistry.”
Sure, it might be nice if two leaders who work closely together can play golf or go fishing together on the weekends. Or they can start every meeting talking about all the games from the previous weekend and the performance of their favorite athlete. But I don’t believe this kind of “personal chemistry” is necessary for there to be a good organizational fit.
Many organizations do reflect the personality of its leader, but most organizations should be more sophisticated than to only hire staff with whom the top leader can have a “high five” relationship. When a leader expects his closest team members to be too much like him, he misses an opportunity for some valuable diversity.
Perhaps the best interpretation of “chemistry” in the 3 Cs is when it’s used to refer to the candidate’s fit in the culture of the organization. Let’s call this “cultural chemistry.” Cultural factors in an organization can allow some leaders to flourish and others, while equally competent, to struggle or fail. We should closely assess whether the candidate’s values and their vision line up with those of the organization. We should determine if there are factors that would create a significant misalignment with the team with whom they’ll be working. We should focus more on the candidate’s identity and less on his persona.
God made us with different personalities, passions, and interests for a reason. That kind of diversity can be very healthy for an organization. Those diffeences can complement the others on the leadership team. They can provide balance, perspective, and accountability. If we’re all essentially the same, even in our “personal chemistry,” some valuable contribution to the team is likely to be missing.