cultural fit

What Does It Mean When a Company Says I'm "Not a Cultural Fit?"

This should fit, right?

This should fit, right?


This has happened to many of us: You've interviewed for a job. You know you can do the job - well. Damn well, as a matter of fact. You know the duties of the job inside and out.

Then the recruiter calls you to tell you didn't get the job.  The reason? You're "not a fit for the job."

What does that mean?

It means that something you said or did gave the interviewers pause. True, your technical background and work history contain everything they asked for.

But there's more to being a fit for a job than just having the right skill set. It's often a matter of whether the company feels you're going to fit their idea of the kind of person who can not only get along, but thrive, in their environment.

"Applicants can come to the table with a record of past successes but the company culture needs to be compatible with what the candidate values as the way they are comfortable getting things done in an organization," says an SVP of HR I spoke with on the topic.

Translation? It's just as often not about what you get done, but how you get it done.

Imagine you are selecting a new employee to join your highly productive team. Let's compare the profiles of two potential employees:

Employee 1: Meets most of his/her productivity goals. Is described by his/her peers in references as, "a team player, a pleasure to work with. Understands what it means to work well with others."

Employee 2: Exceeds all of his/her productivity goals - in fact, was a top producer for their company last year. In reference checks, is described as, "a real Machiavelli type. Will step on anybody to get what they need. Two team members cited this employee in their exit interviews as a major reason they left the company."

Who would you choose as the newest member of your team?

Granted, Employee 2 could make a tremendous financial impact for your team this year. But is he/she worth the amount of time it would take to referee disputes on the team, or replacing the people who leave because of this single hire?

Cultural fit comes in many different forms, this is but one example. Employers can evaluate people for cultural fit based on their energy level, teamwork abilities, work ethic or a variety of other factors.

A more realistic example might be one of the work environment itself. A certain employee might fit better into a slower-paced, more established company, while others may have the skill set to adapt on an ongoing basis to faster-paced, constantly changing environment.

"I evaluate fit by understanding when a candidate has been happy and most engaged in a past job/company and when a candidate has been most frustrated or felt least successful," says the SVP. "Identifying the environment of both scenarios will help both parties realize best culture fit."

It's also incumbent upon job seekers to find the best fit for themselves. Not every company is a fit for their own personality and values. The SVP quoted here recommends that job seekers askinterviewers how they would describe the culture in their organization.  The more people the ask, the more they will find the commonalities that define the culture within that organization.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).

Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at, or via the website,