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How to assess 'fit' in a job interview

Travis O'Rourke President, Hays, Canada


How often have you heard about someone leaving a position because they felt like the company was the wrong “fit”? Maybe it’s something you’ve experienced first-hand. Either way, I’m probably not the first one to introduce you to the idea of workplace fit.

It’s an exceedingly important part of our working lives, which is one of the reasons we have gone down the path of understanding what the term means to people and organizations, and by putting together our own ‘Fit Series’.

Changing the recruitment lens


I have worked in recruitment for over 20 years and, in that time I’ve watched how employers have changed their approach to hiring and how we’ve evolved as a recruitment firm. Technology has revolutionized our business. We’re faster, more efficient and have the ability to make more informed decisions. What never seems to change, however, is how critical it is to make the best employer-employee match and our recognition that fit can have a profound impact on businesses and individual success.

We know very well that there exists a high proportion of employees and employers for whom fit has been a challenge. The unfortunate result is a team member who either quits or they’re let go. When we’re asked for help, I often challenge clients to look back in hindsight and carefully consider whether they assessed fit and if they know what their ideal fit looks like. Too often, the answer is no.

Our CEO Alistair Cox comments, “With an emphasis on up-skilling specific expertise in recent years, a lack of focus on vital inter-personal skills and a dearth of good training in this area is now apparent within many businesses”.

Rather than gauge the person’s potential to ‘click’ with the workplace culture, many employers only scrutinized qualifications or the candidate took the role purely based on the job description and pay rate. The truth is that the majority of us, both employers and candidates, don’t properly evaluate fit.

Focusing on fit


As professionals, it is not a common thing for us to factor in things like fun or social interaction when considering a new job opportunity or a potential hire. What is interesting, however, is that when asked why someone didn’t work out, both employers and candidates unanimously agreed that social interaction and communication style — major components of fit — were to blame. Despite its importance, both groups also admit they wrongly assessed fit during the interview process.

My question therefore is, could we all be putting too much emphasis on professionalism as a society? Why don’t we assess whether we’ll get along socially with the person we’re about to hire, or the team we’re about to join? Is it because we’re a society that is trained to think of work as work and that time for fun is outside of the office walls?

Prioritising personality in your hiring process


As an employer, if a significant portion of your workforce doesn’t believe they are a fit with the organization, ask yourself what impact this could have on retention, productivity or workplace happiness. As a candidate, if you don’t fit in, how can you enjoy work and in turn, achieve your full potential?

Here are three points for each of employers and jobseekers, to help both properly assess fit during the recruitment process:

Employer insights


1. Define your company culture


Define your working culture fit. Understanding the key components that make your team successful from a work ethic, social interaction, team reliance standpoint will help you better screen potential candidates.

If your organization is still developing its ideal work culture, don’t be afraid to hire the type of individual who can drive cultural change. This may force you into making some hard decisions, but knowing what type of team culture will drive.

2. Soft skills matter too


Aim to put less weight on the technical requirements. By broadening the job spec to include factors such as social behaviour will help ensure you make a better match.

The proof is in the pudding. Bring your final one or two candidates into your office setting. See if they actually fit with the culture and team. Involve your team in the process. They can help provide insights into the candidate that you may have missed during the interview.

3. Do your homework on the candidate


Cover all bases. Things like psychometric testing to searching someone online will help you paint the full picture of the individual.

However, don’t just rely on technology. Tools such as psychometric testing are great aids to help you screen candidates during the interview process, but relying solely on these mechanisms won’t show you how the individual will interact with your team and respond to your current working culture. Technology won’t substitute human interaction.

Candidate insights


1. Define your personal brand


Define your personal brand, then assess what your ideal fit will be. Understanding the key elements that make you not only happy in your day-to-day work, but also successful, is paramount to being able to effectively assess your fit with a potential employer.

When assessing your fit, look beyond yourself. What characteristics or attributes of others do you work best with, that compliment your strengths, and that you have fun with. When assessing fit you must include what will make you successful and what will enable you to have some fun along the way.

2. Ask plenty of questions


The interview process is a two-way street. During the interview(s) make sure to be prepared to ask your potential manager what it’s like to work at the organization, what the culture of the business is versus the team, and how the team interacts – here are 15 great questions that you could ask. This will help you paint a picture of whether the opportunity is right for you or not.

Use behavioural based or situational based questions as well. The interviewer may use these tools to assess you, but you too can use them to assess if this is a manager you want to work for or not.

3. Scratch beneath the surface


Look beyond the obvious. It is very easy to be swayed by a powerful brand or product, an attractive compensation package or the job requirements. All of these elements are important factors, but your decision shouldn’t be based fully on these elements. Make sure to assess fit in your decision.

Ask questions about what the day-to-day is like in the office, and pointed questions around work ethic, social behaviour, flexibility and team work. This will help you not be distracted by a monetary gain, and assess if you’ll be happy in the role.

Bringing it all together


‘Fit’ is not just a nice-to-have in an employee or an organisation, it’s crucial to the success of both the individual and the business. Don’t dismiss work relationships and company culture as ‘soft’, and somehow optional; make sure you assess them with the same importance as you would technical skills during an interview.

Do you have an interview coming up? Read our interview tips to ensure it’s a success.

Related blogs

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Travis O’Rourke joined Hays 9 years ago after holding various leadership roles elsewhere in the Canadian staffing industry. Travis setup and established Hays’ outsourced talent solutions business and played an integral role in building Hays’ temporary and contract divisions throughout Canada. Initially joining Hays with a deep background in Technology, he holds extensive cross functional knowledge to provide clients with talent solutions in Financial Services, Energy, Mining, Manufacturing, Retail, and the Public Sector.

Travis is the Toronto President of ACSESS (Association of Canadian Search, Employment, & Staffing Services) and sits on the board of directors for the National Association of Canadian Consulting Businesses (NACCB). He has been featured in segments with CBC On the Money, BNN The Open, CTV National and other news outlets. Like Hays, Travis is also passionate about corporate social responsibility and is an avid supporter for Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto.



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