How often have you heard something like this when you've been rejected for a job: "We found someone who we feel is a closer fit."
When you know in your heart that you have all the skills, experience and education that the employer seeks, it is only natural to ask: "How can they say that I'm not a right fit?"
You might reprise Tina Turner's song with modified lyrics: "What's fit got to do with it?"
Using "fit" can be a fudgy kind of excuse that employers give when they don't want to risk revealing the real reason someone else beat you out for that prized opportunity. Employers aren't under any obligation to reveal the reasons that they reject any given candidate. And, they are reticent to do so lest it open them up to unwanted protracted discussion, or even to a lawsuit.
"Fit," however, often really is the issue. Employers are rightly concerned these days about more than just melding a candidate's skills and a job's responsibilities. In a landmark survey, Leadership IQ determined that a shocking 46 percent of newly hired employees will fail within 18 months, and that technical competence was only related to 11 percent of those failures.
Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, contends that the managers who fared significantly better than their peers in their hiring decisions focused their emphasis on interpersonal and motivational issues. The survey suggests that the key elements of fit that make for long-term employee success include "coachability," emotional intelligence (or "the ability to understand and manage one's own emotions, and accurately assess others' emotions"), motivation, and temperament, which includes one's attitude and personality.
So what is a job hunter to do?
1. Search for a great fit, not just a great job. While the need for an immediate paycheck can be very real and pressing, remember that signing on now to a job with a poor fit can be very costly for you later on. Each time you apply for a job you'll likely have to explain all the transitions from one company to the next on your resume. If at all possible, you want to avoid in future job hunts having to explain why the job you take now just didn't work out. Even if you're successful in obtaining and taking an ill-fitting job now and becoming one of those 48 percent who fail within the first 18 months, you can create a red flag in your own future.
2. Look for companies that fit your personality and work style. Rather than randomly applying to a large number of jobs at many companies, look beyond job descriptions. Slow down and take the time to learn something about each company to which you want to apply. What do current and former employees say about its corporate culture? Does the company encourage teamwork and camaraderie, or is it every person for him/herself? It is a company that cares about its employees enough to have mentoring programs, and are you open to them? Are managers hard to access, likely to be available when you need them, or are they ever-present micro-managing one's every movement? Which management style do you need to be successful? Learn about these and other fit issues on sites like Glassdoor.com, Vault.com, etc.
3. Use your interview to demonstrate your fit. You can do this in a couple of different ways if you're well prepared. First, weave in things that demonstrate your fit into your interview. For example, if you know that a company wants to mold their employees through mentoring, you might talk about how much you appreciated being mentored in some past experience and how it helped you to grow professionally. This can be especially powerful if you can use it in answering a question, "Tell me about an area of your weakness."
Second, if you haven't had an opportunity to weave your fit stories into the early part of an interview, use your research when you ask your own questions at the end. You might pose something like: "I thrive in an environment where [fill in the blank with something about yourself that matches with the company's culture]. If I were to work here, is that what I would likely experience?"
Sometimes fit really is a wimpy excuse used in rejection letters. Yet, if you can demonstrate your fit for a role in addition to showing that you have the right skill set and experience, you increase your chances of hearing: "We think that you would make a great addition to our company, and would like you to start within the next two weeks."
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.