,   |  January 3, 2013

What does fit mean in the job search and interview process?

During your job search, you’re probably not going to get a ton of feedback on why you weren’t hired for a particular role (here’s why). However, one of the most common reasons for not being selected is about “fit”.  I myself have heard plenty of times that something “wasn’t the right fit” but it’s still a confusing statement. So what does fit mean in the job search and interview process?

Though I’ve tried not to use this reason during my years as a recruiter, I do now understand what it means.  Here’s some insight…

There are a few factors that go into deciding whether someone is right for a job:

reasons why candidates get hired

  • The first two parts are initially judged by the resume but then further pressed on during the interview.
    • For example, if I am applying to an Executive Assistant role and one of the daily tasks needed is “calendar management through Excel” and I have on my resume “Managed the calendars of multiple executives on a daily basis” then it appears as though I’ve checked the box on that.  When I go into my interview, a good interviewer would probe further – “how many meetings per day would you schedule?” or “have you ever booked and schedule business travel?” Questions like this will allow the interviewer to understand the amount of depth I’ve done what I say I’ve done and if it translates across industries, companies, etc.
    • It’s the same things with skills.  If I say I am proficient in Excel in my “skills” section of my resume, an interviewer might ask me “what type of formulas have you used in excel?” or “what types of models have you built?” They’re just going into more depth.
  • Now for the pesky quality known as “fit”…  
    • It’s not so black and white. After the interviewer has gauged that you can do the job (per the above questions) they want to assess how you will go about doing the job.

So, what does fit mean?  Fit (when it is used during the job search/interviewing process) really boils down to a few things:

what does fit mean in the job search

  • Work “style” or approach
    • Do you get things done in a way that is really intense or more laid back?  Do you like to get a lot of input from others or work more independently?  Do you take a more creative approach or do things “by the book”?
    • Each company has a unique culture that dictates the preferred “approach” to work.  Based on all the questions the interviewer asks you, they will make a judgment on if your work-style and approach will fit in with the way things are done within the company.
  • Personality fit/like-ability
    • This can be a bit arbitrary but it really does boil down to “does your interviewer like you”?  Would they want to sit at the desk next to you?  Would they want to go to lunch with you?
    • This isn’t something that interviewers readily admit to but it can influence their decision.
  • Company alignment
    • Does your attitude towards the company and what they do align with the attitude your interviewers have towards the company?  Think about interviewing in the entertainment industry – say at HBO.  Pretty much every person there has watched every HBO original series and is psyched about it.  They probably want to hire people who are also really excited about them.

When it comes to fit, I don’t think you should ever try to “play the game”, figure out the right answers, and feed them to your interviewer.  First of all, it’d be nearly impossible to figure out what the “right” answers are.  Secondly, you want to work at a company that is the perfect FIT for you.

why you should be yourself in an interview

Honestly, that takes a ton of energy and doesn’t feel great.  So if you get turned down based on fit, try to remember that it’s for the best.  Just like in any relationship, you want to be with someone who wants to be with you.  Take my word for it, you also want to be on a team and with a company who wants to hire you for exactly who you are.

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