Interview for “Fit”

Employers generally acknowledge that technical skills account for only 25% of any new professional’s success at work. The employees who thrive possess a series of soft skills—communication, networking, time management, teamwork—and they naturally “fit.”

“Fit” relates to how well a potential new hire syncs with the culture or the core values, behaviors and personalities that make up an organization. Where fit occurs, new hires comfortably slide into positions. They share the beliefs, attitudes and priorities that drive the organization. Frustration is minimized. Retention improves. (For more on “fit,” click and view business psychologist Natalie Baumgartner’s TED Talk.)

So it should come as no surprise than many interviewers ask questions attempting to evaluate “fit”.

Many “fit” questions sound like the queries James Lipton might pose to a guest of Inside the Actors StudioStar Wars or Star Trek? If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be? What motivates you the most—money, power or fame? However, a blog entry posted on lists five “fit” questions that your on-campus recruiters should consider, including:

Describe your ideal work environment. What is the single most important factor that will help make you a success?

For me it’s independence. I only lasted six months in a position, because my management team insisted on micro-managing every aspect of the job. For me, that was a bad fit. I wasted everyone’s (including my own) time, because I should have determined the management style during the interview process.

How do you feel about working as a member of a team?  If you had complete control of your time, what percentage would you prefer to allocate to teamwork vs. solo performance?

While most jobs require employees to work solo and participate in team activities, most individuals have a preference for one form of work over the other. Be honest about this.

What management style brings out your best performance?

You have likely observed a variety of management styles at work, including paternalistic, authoritarian, collaborative, agile, etc. While each style can succeed, much depends on the receptiveness of associates to a manager’s/partner’s particular style. For example, an authoritarian manager is unlikely to sync well with a new hire who prefers a collaborative management style.

When working on a team, what role do you typically play?

Many of us have roles that we play through the entirety of our lives: leader; implementer; compiler of data; pleaser. Ascertain what role the employer is looking as well as his or her ability to discern others’ wants and needs.

When working on a team, what relationship do you prefer to develop with other team members?

Some organizations place a high level of importance on the interpersonal connections employees develop and maintain. Others expect employees to come to work, do a job, and go home. The job candidate who seeks a clear separation between their professional and personal lives is unlikely to feel comfortable in a work atmosphere in which employees are expected to work and play together.

Job candidates should keep in mind that there is no right or wrong answer to a cultural fit question. However, to the extent you do the following, you can help ensure “fit” with a prospective employer:

Long before you head to an interview, try and discern an employer’s values. Incorporate references to specific values in your answers to interview questions.

Prepare questions that elicit information regarding an employer’s ability to sync with your own core values and needs. If you genuinely value high-pay and individual recognition, seek out an employer with a generous bonus structure.

Ask questions that help you understand how people work together within the organization. If you are a collaborative team builder and the prospective employer only rewards individual performance, you may wish to look for a better fit.

Reprinted from the Mary Crane & Associates Newsletter