What Does it Mean When an Employer Says You’re Not the Right Fit?

When employers interview candidates for jobs, they are trying to answer three questions: 1) Do you have the necessary technical skills to do the job? 2) Is your previous experience suitable for the job? 3) Are you the right “fit” for their organization?

The first two are easy to evaluate. Your resume and the interview will tell the employer if you have the right mix of skills and experience to make you successful in the job.

But the third one – fit – is much more subjective.

What does “fit” mean in the interviewing and hiring process? To me, it boils down to a few things.

Do you express enthusiasm for working there? Employers want to hire people who want the job. One way to do this is to conduct background research on the organization and industry. Show that you understand their key issues and explain how you can help them solve their problems. You want to demonstrate that you are already thinking like someone in the role, not just someone who needs a paycheque.

Do your core values align with the employer’s values? For example, suppose the employer values a collaborative decision-making process where everyone is consulted. But you prefer a top-down management style, where superiors instruct subordinates what to do. Clearly, in this case, you will not fit their organizational culture. Be prepared for interview questions that may ask you to describe your values and how these influence your day-to-day work.

Do they like you? Likeability plays a significant role in the selection process. While this list may seem obvious, you should never forget to do these things:

Be nice to everybody.

Smile a lot.

Listen well.

Show interest in what others are saying.

Do not complain about your past employers or bosses.

Always be positive – avoid making negative comments.

Stay relaxed.

Show you have a sense of humour.

Do you have a good work ethic? Employers will want to know if the effort and time you normally put into your work is consistent with their expectations. For example, if they have projects or activities that may require after-hours or weekend work from time to time, they will want to know if that works for you.

Do you have a human side? Employers often remark that the “real person” does not come out in the interview. They only find out later, when the person is on the job, what they are really like. To deal with this concern, employers are increasingly asking questions to assess your humanness and find out what you are like as a person. Here are some of the questions they ask: What are you reading these days? Tell us about some of the struggles you have encountered in your career. What are your interests outside of work? Tell us about your failures.

So, what should you think if an employer says you are not the right “fit” for them?

I know it is disappointing to find out you did not get the job, especially if it is the one you wanted. But if an employer says they do not think you are the right fit, I would accept their judgment and move on. They are the best judge of fit, not you. It is no different than a personal relationship. You want to be with someone who wants to be with you. Trying to make something work that was not meant to be will not work out in the end.