Not too long ago, much-respected blogger Tim Tyrell-Smith of Tim’s Strategy conducted a survey, clearly finding that interviewers’ number one concern is “fit with the company’s culture.” From other articles on that subject, too, it seems as if the old-fashioned “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your key accomplishments?” questions—even when answered well—are apparently less important than newer questions such as, “What movie did you see lately?” or “What apps have you uploaded lately on your smartphone?” Another article compared job interviewing to a first date, when you’re trying to find out the other person’s more-general likes and dislikes and not assessing skills.
Years ago, I attended a one-day workshop held by the Disney organization; and the only sentence I remember about the company’s hiring policy was, “We hire for personality and train for skills.” It’s such a simple and yet profound philosophy, and in fact, it obviously works well, because Disney is among the most admired employers.
Glassdoor, a jobs and career community Web site, emphasizes that a pleasant and homogeneous work environment is almost as important to employees as compensation is. Sometimes I ask job seekers the question, Which would you prefer: an intolerable and toxic boss? or $20,000 less and a pleasant work environment? Invariably, the answer is less money and a great boss.
Work environment is a very important commodity. And that’s precisely the reason interviewers are paying more and more attention to whether new hires would fit into their organizations. Unfortunately, in most cases employees cannot change their bosses; but bosses can at least try to hire people who would work well together. And how very logical that is when today’s work environment is so stressful and every employee is expected to perform outstandingly. Additionally, nowadays many company and department goals are being accomplished via teams. And if a team member is not well liked—for whatever reason—the team’s output in its entirety will suffer.
In practical terms, the word fit—when it involves the hiring process—covers such concepts as, Do I like you, and would I enjoy working with you in the future? Would your future peers tell me how much they enjoy having you as part of the team, or is the opposite true? Is my boss going to compliment me for selecting you, or will I hear negative comments about my choice?
So, with the understanding of the importance of fit—in the hiring manager’s mind—how can a job candidate tilt the pendulum favorably? First, appear congenial. Next, stay away from controversy and ambiguity to the extent possible. Next, actively engage the interviewer from your own perspective. In other words, don’t let yourself be positioned as an “accused” in an interrogation wherein you are there to just answer questions; ask questions of your own. And above all, smile. Smile a lot!