Janine Zaim | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Janine Zaim


Zambezi is an independent creative advertising agency based in Los Angeles. Its clients include The Coca-Cola Co., Footlocker Inc., The Honest Co., Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Cox Automotive. Zambezi also made the list of the 100 Largest Woman-Owned Businesses in Los Angeles County by the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2016.

The Mistake:

I was pressured into hiring someone regardless of cultural fit. 

Early in my career, I was working to fill a creative position at an advertising agency. One of the candidates had a beautiful portfolio of work and a bunch of high-profile industry awards.

However, when I met this person, I felt like they didn't have the right personality for us. The candidate was introverted and liked to work by themselves.

The culture of the agency was very extroverted and collaborative.

But, the hiring manager was very impressed with the candidate on paper and so I was pressured to move forward with an offer regardless of cultural fit and without further vetting.


I realized culture fit is as important as skill fit.


The Lesson:

I should have fought harder against that directive, but I guess you live and learn.

In the end, this hire turned out to clash with fellow coworkers and was unable to deliver the level of work we had seen in the portfolio. We simply had not set them up for success and we saw the results of that.

That was the issue. It's very possible — and I've seen this time and time again in my career — where someone looks amazing on paper, and they just don't blend in with the personality of the company that they're working at. And, you know, it just comes down to not being able to translate the skills that they have in that particular environment. ...

I would say the biggest lesson that I've learned from that is just stick to my guns, trust my instincts and evaluate candidates from all angles.

I realized culture fit is as important as skill fit, and just because the resume says the person can do the job, it doesn't mean that they’ll be able to perform if they don't fit the company's DNA. 

Follow Janine Zaim on Twitter at @zambezi_la.

Photo courtesy of Zambezi.

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