Fit vs Talent

May, 2014


In a hiring decision, does your fit for a job, an organization, a boss outweigh your talent and qualifications?  Most likely it does.  So what is fit?  It is your interpersonal compatibility.  In April, 2013 I created a blog entitled Pursuing Your Next Job Like They Do In Hollywood. When I shared this blog recently with a class at the University of Minnesota, the students offered a fresh perspective on this question.  This is my update to that blog based on those student recommendations.  As you will see in the original version, I referenced a Hollywood producer who suggested that getting a job in Hollywood takes four things, in this order of importance: perseverance, connections, being fun to work with (a good fit) and talent.  
That U of M class didn’t recommend changing these four factors or even their order of importance. They did, however, suggest that the first two, perseverance and connections, will get your foot in the door, and the second two, fit and talent, will get you the job.  They really understood how this process works, and described it better than the first blog did.
Why might fit be more important than talent or qualifications in getting the job? Simply put, you may have the capabilities listed in the job specifications, but the way you apply those talents will need to fit the preferences of the organization and the boss.  I have videotaped countless practice interviews where the job candidate has been laser focused on communicating his or her qualifications, but did so looking like a stone statue, with only the lips moving and sounding like a robot (one of those bad 1950’s movie robots). They were so focused on communicating their qualifications that their possible fit and connection with the interviewer became a big question mark. Experiencing those recordings drove that point home, and much improved interviews would follow.
There are, of course, exceptions to the fit over talent theory.  In the early stages of one’s career, or for an individual contributor, the interpersonal fit might be less important than at the higher levels. Younger, high potential employees can be molded to the culture. Individual contributors and specialists often have fewer interpersonal demands with less emphasis on fit, and more on their talent and expertise.  The vast majority of work today, however, is highly interdependent. 
If you don’t believe me on this fit vs talent question, ask any recruiter or hiring manager. They will likely concur: fit trumps talent just about every time.  When there are several talented, qualified candidates to choose from, as there usually are, fit finalizes the hire. 
Take a look at what I wrote last year about all four of these factors.  In seeking a new job, be perseverant and leverage connections to get in the door, then communicate how well you have fit in the past. Show how you will fit in the future, as your talents are applied to the challenges and opportunities your target company faces.  Be authentic in your presentation. I am not suggesting that you become a chameleon, an actor who plays the part of the perfect candidate.  If you are a fit as your best and most authentic self, and your talents and experience align with the prospective employer’s needs, you have a very good chance of getting the job.  Good luck in your pursuits!