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

iStockphoto.com |  mucella

iStockphoto.com | mucella


You interviewed for a job and know you can do it well. Damn well. It's a cakewalk.

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

Something you said or did gave the interviewers pause.

Your technical background and work history contain everything the employer asked for. But there's more to being a fit for a job than just having the right skill set. It may be a matter of whether the company feels you can 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.

In other words, 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 what has been, to date, a high performing team. Your staffing decision comes down to two candidates:

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?

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

Other potential factors which play into a candidate's "cultural fit" can include energy level, teamwork abilities, or work ethic.

The work environment itself can be a key determinant. Certain individuals might fit better into a slower-paced, more established company, while others may better adapt on an ongoing basis to a fast-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 quoted earlier. "Identifying the environment of both scenarios will help both parties realize best culture fit."

It's often incumbent upon job seekers to find the best fit for themselves. Not every company is a fit for their own personality and values. Ask interviewers how they would describe the culture in their organization, and take a look at the commonalities between the employer's perspective and your own.

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