Gil Roberts: What is a “Good Fit”?
I have been asked many times what it means when an employee is a ‘good fit’ for a job. This is particularly true after recruiters have informed an interviewee that they are not being offered a job because they were not a ‘good fit’. In looking at a ‘good fit’, let’s discuss job skills, company culture and the fact that this should be a 2-way street.
Job Skills: First, let’s start with the premise that to even be asked to interview for a job, applicants must demonstrate up front that they have the skills to do the job. Thus, it is seldom a lack of job skills that signals a bad fit. I am often asked questions like, shouldn’t job qualifications be the deciding factor? And if I am qualified to do the job, why isn’t it a ‘good fit’? Frankly, fit is more about company culture.
Company Culture: What is company culture? Wikipedia states, “Organizational culture encompasses values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization.” That is about as clear as mud. For me, company culture is about the environment in which employees work. Said another way, it is the values of the company expressed in how employees interact with one another. It is all of the elements that make up the company’s work environment. Fitting in is all about how well an individual meshes within the company’s culture or work environment.
2-Way Street: A ‘good fit’ should be a 2-way street. While it is often the recruiter who tells you that they feel you are or are not a ‘good fit’ with this job, you should also be evaluating whether you believe this job and company is a ‘good fit’ for you. This is your career. Take ownership. Just because you receive an offer does not mean that this job and company is a good place for you to work.
Interviewees need to know what work environments and company cultures are better for their personalities and work styles. Questions you might ask yourself in advance of an interview include:
- What are my personal beliefs and values?
- Do I prefer a more casual, less structured environment with open space work stations or do I like a more formal, structured environment with cubicles and offices?
- Do I prefer a quiet work space or do I like hearing conversations and maybe music?
- Do I like to interact often during the day with others or do I prefer to work alone?
- Do I prefer a supervisor spending time managing me or do I like more self-management?
- Do I want to have a well-defined career track or am I more comfortable in a more flexible environment for career progression?
We are all different and what we prefer in a company culture and work environment is often different. Thus, when interviewing for a job, you should be very attentive to the culture of the company from the first email and phone call to checking in at the front desk and through your meetings at the company. These observations will help you get a sense as to whether this is a place you would enjoy working, a place you could fit in or not. Here are a few questions to get started.
- Are the company’s values consistent with my personal beliefs and values?
- Are the interviewers and, especially your potential supervisor, walking the talk?
- Does the office have lots of cubicles and offices or is the floor plan open?
- What is the mood of the office and what kind of interactions do you experience in the hallways?
- Is the office environment and the interview process itself formal or informal?
- What are the people in the department like where you will be working?
I believe that the candidate and interviewer will never look and act better than in the first interview. It is like a first date. You both have only one chance to make a great first impression. What I have discovered is that if there is a small issue in the interview, this small issue will often become magnified when the candidate starts a job whether the issue is on the side of the candidate or the company. Thus, small issues should always be further probed and understood before moving forward. It is worth the time.
Summary: Being a ‘good fit’ is more about how you fit in the company culture and the work environment. It is seldom about job skills. Finding a ‘good fit’ should be the goal of both the interviewer and interviewee. It is a 2-way street. When interviewing for a new position, proactively evaluate whether the company is a ‘good fit’ for you. In the end, if it is not a ‘good fit’, then it is seldom good for either side, meaning there will almost certainly be a break up down the road.