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Not a "Good Fit"? What Does that Mean?

The Hiring Process The Local Job Market

Question:

At the end of my last interview, the interviewer said he didn’t think I’d be a good fit. What does that mean? I have all the skills they listed in the job lead, plus five years of directly related experience. How could I not be a good fit for the job?

Answer:

It could mean a lot of things. But it probably doesn’t have anything to do with your job skills or experience.

Usually when employers say someone isn’t a good fit for the job, what they mean is that their personality doesn’t match the company, or possibly the supervisor the person would report to. Every company, family and organization has a personality: their way of doing things, the values they appreciate (or don’t), their characteristics.

For instance, suppose you apply to a very laid-back company. They celebrate casual Friday with sweatsuits; deadlines don’t worry them too much; they appreciate efficiency but are not obsessed with it; customer service is paramount, not the bottom line; as long as everyone gets their work done, it’s not too big a deal if, say, they spend a little company time on Facebook. That’s their corporate culture. If you have a similar view of life, you’ll be a good fit for that company.

But suppose you are more formal than that. Suppose you like to go to work in a suit and tie (or high heels.) You live and die by deadlines; statistics and dollars and time sheets are very important to you; you see playing Solitaire on the company computer as the kiss of death. You would be miserable in the company mentioned above.

Neither of the above ways of working is wrong. They are just two different styles of business. The trick is to find a company that sees things the way you do, and get them to hire you.

With enough advance knowledge about the company, you could always answer in a way that makes you look like a better fit. But the company culture is unlikely to change. If you present yourself inaccurately, it is the job search equivalent of marrying someone under false pretenses.

The interviewer you spoke with knows his company. Assuming you presented yourself honestly, he got a pretty good picture of who you are, and whether you would be comfortable in his environment. He may actually have done you a big favor, keeping you from signing on to a place where you would have felt like you were wasting your life.

It’s not all about skills, or even about experience. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit.