Exploring “Fit” in the Interview!

Just what does it mean – we’re looking for someone that is the “right fit”?

The chances are good they are not talking about a skills fit, an experience fit, or an accomplishment fit! Those are a given by the time you pass the screening for the interview – or they are close enough that the organization knows that what it needs to check for now is “fit”.

The questions that interviewers are trying to answer about “Fit” include:

  • Do you have enough in common with and compatible with the people with whom you will be spending a lot of time?
  • Do you fit into the image that the organization wants to project to its stakeholders, to its members, leaders and staff members?
  • Do you share common personal and corporate values, educational background, work habits, work ethics, generational and cultural orientation, looks and outside interests?

People hire people and they view others through their preconceived notions of what make a “good fit” in their organization!

Do your homework. Keep your eyes open.

You can get a sense of what “fit” means by doing your homework –

  • Reviewing materials generated by or about the organization and its leaders on their website or in the press. Checking out the bios of the key leaders and executives; review press releases and other media information about who gets rewarded for what;
  • Checking out the conversations about the organization in places where employees might gather for lunch of after work. Or check with suppliers that you know provide the organization with a service or products. Is there respect among the various stakeholder groups? A good partnership between volunteers, staff and suppliers?
  • Getting info from social media sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor.com, or mentions in Twitter. From LinkedIn to get information on some current AND former staff – You can learn a lot this way and it may also lead you to introductions to those with an inside perspective.

Even on the day of the interview you can notice details along the way, in the offices on the walls that give you some clues about what is important to the organization.

Passing three levels of scrutiny:

The hiring manager and interviewers are looking at you from three perspectives:

1. What you have done based on past experience, job activities, accomplishments and education.

2. What you can do based on potential and aptitude for different projects and activities.

3. What you can do based on personal and professional goals, preferences, interests, and cultural alignment – in other words “FIT”.

So the interviewers have been applying their perception filters to this process of scrutiny. It is fair for you to put this simple, direct question about “Fit” on the table at the end of the interview:

Based on our interview today, what would be your single greatest concern about my ability to be successful in this role?

This gives you the ability to address misconceptions that may have come up during the interview process and to correct those perceptions before they become full fledged reasons why you are “not a fit”.

Perception and Adaptability

Finding a “fit” is not about turning yourself into a pretzel, as one of my colleagues described it! It is about getting the discussion about “fit” out on the table so that the perceptions about “fit” of all parties can be part of the interview. If “fit” isn’t discussed, perceptions can never be visible. If they aren’t visible, then neither party has the ability to let go of their perceptions and choose based on other evidence.

The interviewers may perceive that experience, accomplishments, aptitudes and underlying potential can carry the day. Or they may decide that there is a culture into the candidate must fit because the culture is the culture and it ain’t changing! Or the organization recognizes the need to change and is going through the painful process of letting go!

One way to move that along is to open exploration of both perspectives. And perhaps the interviewer will see that adopting a stance of adaptability can create synergies out of the disparate talents, abilities, and cultural attributes that people bring to the table, making the organization better able to anticipate opportunities and respond to challenges of this rapidly changing environment in which we find ourselves!

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