Ben Baldwin believed so strongly that finding the right fit between an employer and an employee is essential to a company's success, he developed a patented software program to prove it.
Aimed mostly at small to medium-sized businesses, ClearFit finds potential job applicants through partnerships with candidate sources such as Monster.com and Craigslist and matches them with the right jobs. For the employer, ClearFit streamlines the recruiting process by providing clients with the best people, adding an interview guide with tailor-made or personalized questions geared at individual applicants.
ClearFit is an automated recruiter that uses technology to draw out hidden behaviours around the hiring process. The software helps employers better understand the person applying for the job.
And according to Mr. Baldwin, the right person is not just a sum total of their skill set. It is something more nuanced, and often not easily quantifiable: "Fit is personality, it's motivation, how they integrate with a team, and how they can help your culture."
But the onus, he says, is on the employer to make that fit happen. Clients of ClearFit need to know what their core values are in order to avoid what Mr. Baldwin calls "bad behaviours."
"When an applicant doesn't align with your company's values, then that could be construed as bad behaviour," the 40-year-old recruitment entrepreneur says. "The software can often predict that in advance of the client meeting the candidate. We use the résumé, experience and some free questions to provide the right information for a good hire to take place."
But not everyone's a convert to new recruiting techniques. Leading Canadian fashion designer David Dixon says that in a creative industry such as his, technology can be effective, but it's no replacement for old-fashioned intuition and word-of-mouth endorsement. When he's trying to find someone to hire for his growing 18-year-old business, he looks at the details, among them hand-delivered letters of solicitation, which technology just can't measure.
"I have always been a fan of the personal touch, and if a résumé is mailed to me as opposed to e-mailed, all the better," says Mr. Dixon, whose elegant clothing is sold under his own name across Canada, the United States, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
"Often when I receive résumés via e-mail they seem distant, or they have a copied-and-pasted feel about them," adds Mr. Dixon, who conducts face-to-face interviews himself. "Having a hard copy in hand tells me that the applicant also values the personal touch, and is someone I could feasibly work with. I understand that e-mail is efficient, but it's not special.
"I am looking for someone who genuinely wants to be part of a growing business and not someone who just wants to hang their hat until something bigger comes along."
Other industries – many of them far removed from the rarefied world of high fashion – also emphasize the human factor, eschewing technology in favour of tried-and-true, word-of-mouth hiring practices to ensure they get the right people for the job.
Long & Morris is a janitorial company whose employees often don't have access to computers and so technology necessarily takes a back seat to more socially based forms of hiring, among them church bulletins, president James Long says.
"As a small janitorial services contractor with 100 employees we are focused on stability and rely on good hiring practices and human-resources policies that enable us to retain people for the long term, which is a challenge in an industry that sees quite a bit of turnover."
Consequently, Mr. Long relies on clergy who typically have a good handle on which parishioners are looking for work. It's the kind of endorsement money can't buy.
"We stick to a firm practice of always assessing relevant experience and calling references from both employers and character references," Mr. Long says. "Casual absence is a key indicator. We ask them and their previous employer about how much time they've taken off in the previous 12 months."
Face-to-face interviews are essential, Mr. Long says. "It's key to judging character and assessing reliability – did they show up on time for the interview, did they look directly at the interviewer when providing answers, or were they evasive?"
Fernando Tito, managing director of SKYGRiD Construction Inc., has tried different recruiting avenues. His Ontario-based company has hired almost 40 people in less than two years, and it is looking to hire an additional 50 by next spring.
"We tried recruiting agencies, but that was a mediocre experience resulting in high employee turnover," he says. "We also tried social media sites like LinkedIn, where applicants had international experience that was not relevant to the work we do here in Canada."
Old-fashioned networking ended up being the best way for SKYGRiD to hire. "By far it has been our most reliable and most comfortable route for hiring staff," Mr. Tito says.
"It might be a much more time-consuming process than using the available technologies, but the individuals we get come to us from a familiar background, and quite often are already known to the principals of SKYGRiD."
But that doesn't mean the new technologies aren't efficient. It just depends on how you use them, says Dave Kaiser, a McDonald's Canada owner-operator in Cranbrook and Fernie, B.C.
"In my restaurants, we try to reach potential applicants through as many avenues as possible. While we use traditional advertising from time to time, I definitely utilize online employment sites in my hiring strategy," Mr. Kaiser explains.
"We also ensure our restaurants have signage and posters. I'm fortunate that the company also works with its franchisees to put on job fairs, such as national and regional Hiring Days, where restaurants from across the country invite job seekers to learn more about a position with McDonald's."
But even when the Internet streamlines hiring practices, the human touch still rules.
"For my restaurants, I utilize our refer-a-friend or family member program," Mr. Kaiser says. "What better way to reach great people than to have those who are already a part of the team recommend candidates they know would be an ideal fit?"
When it comes to hiring, employee fit can be subjective, of course. ClearFit aims to make the process easy by taking out some of the guesswork. The results are so revealing that within the recruitment industry its software is sometimes known as the lie detector test. The idea is to give employers more confidence in their recruitment process and to date more than 10,000 businesses have started using ClearFit since its launch in Toronto in 2006.
"ClearFit helps find applicants who will succeed at the job," Mr. Baldwin adds. But in the final analysis, employers must still rely on gut feeling.
While that instinct remains more important than technology in some cases, ClearFit has carved a niche for itself as a useful recruitment tool.