Have you ever been someplace where you didn’t fit in?
- You were dressed for the wedding but everyone else was in jeans. And half as old as you. And all they talked about were video games. Or,
- Everyone in your work group was gossiping and you were left wondering what they said about you behind your back. Or,
- You like a work group that shares what’s going on and the people around you are tight-lipped. Or,
- You value accuracy and specifics and your boss wants quick corroboration of the status quo. Or,
- You think sales is about building trusting relationships and your boss wants you to promote this month’s product to everyone. Or,
- You like a really social work group and everyone around you is quiet, keeps their nose to the grindstone.
We know fit will make or break us in the job. And we will get a sense of whether we fit or not once we’re there. But can we get in touch with what fit means in a particular organization before we enter it? How can we help ourselves and our future employers know if and how well we will get along?
Fit has three aspects: shared values, style and interests. Values are strongest and need more attention when considering which organization to join, so that’s our focus here. But if style is an important part of the job (picture an art director of a small agency), then style is a strong value of that organization and will be an important part of the fit between a candidate and new employment.
Presumably, everyone around you in the Company shares interest in the work. Sometimes there’s shared interest in the outcome or goal, but the means of achieving it are open to question. Then it’s good if there’s a shared value for collaboration and discussion. So this essay focuses on help for assessing fit based on values. But you can use these techniques for the other aspects, too.
There are three ways to find out about your fit with an organization. The first way is to ask – Ask the people you are interviewing with and ask the people you can find in your network who know about the organization.
Ask about what you need to know: Do they pay on time and reasonably well. Do they have any advice for you about the things you’re needing (time off, ethics, your future security, how things work around here)? Do they have suggested questions they would ask if they were looking to be hired here?
You can phrase a couple of questions to ask about the values or items on your must-have list. (You do have this don’t you?) A couple of examples are:
- Being creative and taking initiative are important to me. Can you tell me how it works here when someone has a new idea?
- I’m coming from a highly ethical company and that’s really important to me. Can you tell me how it works here when there’s an ethical dilemma?
Tone of voice can make a difference if you are asking questions like the second one, that could potentially have a negative connotation. Your effort here is not to dig skeletons out of their closet, but to find out what their process and priorities are. Do they tell the customer or vendor? Do they set up a procedure to protect everyone from a lapse happening again? How did they decide what to do?
When you ask these types of questions, you will be screened in or out depending on fit. That’s the benefit of asking up front. When you hear their answers you will screen them in or out. For instance, my client who asked the question about creativity was told, “Oh yes, we get that from time to time, and they find out our way is the best way.” (My client turned this interview into a networking meeting after that.)
The second way to assess fit is to observe your surroundings and the people in them. When you are with your potential new employer, either in the interview or in the building in general, observe how people interact with each other. Do they make eye contact, smile, say hi with a person’s name? Do they introduce you? Do they ask each other questions? Are they rushed? Worried? What’s it like there – dirty, messy, bright and sunny? Is everything in good repair that you can see? Can you see yourself being happy and being yourself there?
Make sure you see your workspace before you accept an offer. The place you are stationed says a lot about where you fit in the organization.
A third way to help identify fit is to thank people for their actions that match your desired treatment and/or values in work-delivery. Thanking people lets them know what you see is important.
- Thank you for sending the information so promptly.
- Thank you for walking me around and telling me a bit about everyone.
- Thank you for allowing me to help you think through a problem.
What if something that is important to you was missing from your interaction? You can tell them what you would appreciate in the future. For instance, If collegial relationships are important to you and you didn’t get to meet anyone, you can say, I’m looking forward to getting to know each of my colleagues and learning what their individual interests are.
This way you are telling an employer what is valuable to you. They know their culture and they will screen you in or out depending on fit. That’s good for you.
Ask, observe and thank: Three ways to sort out fit before you make a commitment.
Good luck! And let me know how you find out about fit! You can post it in the comments below.
If you are a professional with experience and could use some help to accelerate your job search, let me know. We’ll set up a free, no obligation appointment to see if we’re a fit for your needs.