It’s not you, it’s us (but it really is you)

Organizational Fit

What does this really mean? It’s a well-known paradox around the HR table.
I’ve considered many angles to explain it, and have yet to come up with a trajectory that doesn’t violate some logic or moral principle. In my view, it’s a term that can take on so many meanings that to use it at all can, in some circumstances, be irresponsible. Organizational Fit can be suitably used in a professional context, only it’s best done so when all the variables are considered, and certainly never as a blanket term for why an employee doesn’t belong.

If a company looks to hire someone, quite often they will wade through dozens of interviews, only to determine that none of the candidates make for a good “fit”. Why is this? Have the specifications been set so narrowly that the candidate bank is run dry of a suitable sample?
Or perhaps the bar was placed so high that nobody appears to reach it, making the job description into a lofty wishlist.
It could be that the company is highly risk averse and unwilling to invest in new talent unless it is guaranteed to provide a sizeable return.
It is for these reasons, and many more, that even when recruiters go about using scientific methods, determining the required KSA’s, education and so forth that should yield the dream employee, the daily catch often fails to meet all expectations.
After all, at the end of the day, it will be future coworkers filling that slot. What if they turn out to be awful? Maybe it’s the daunting potential of working with someone who whistles the Flinstones tune all day long, or sitting next to someone who loves burritos (and then “hums” a different type of melody).
Perhaps the mountain of articles profiling the pitfalls of a “bad hire” have management spooked. In fact, I’ve witnessed this term (org fit) used as a way of “gently” letting an employee go.
Whatever the case, citing a bad “org fit” as a reason for not hiring someone is the relationship equivalent of “it’s not you it’s me”. It rings a rather hollow bell.
Rejecting an employee with this reasoning will ultimately harm the company brand, and fails to create a sense of goodwill. If said organization works in a tight industry, the employee in question may one day be a supplier, or worse, a potential customer. Moreover, people talk, and with social media spreading news faster than ever, a sketchy talent acquisition strategy could be why quality employees aren’t forthcoming. It’s better to lock down a lawyer approved disclaimer preventing any lawsuits, which someone receiving feedback can sign in exchange for personal feedback than leaving that person struggling to find answers, and what they could have done differently.

Beyond that, this long outdated buzzword can be redefined, in which case it would be entirely appropriate. Organizational fit is the flip side of workplace culture. It’s something an organization should work towards, and create with carefully placed perks, goals, values, policies and anecdotal stories.
In doing so, management can carve out a place for new employees to sit, and mold them into the culture; Change management, succession planning, strategic networking. These are the factors that will shape a company, and the employees, new and old, along with it.
Naturally, if a company’s defined culture is contrary to someone’s personality type, then they will likely not succeed in that given role. On the other hand, when a candidate’s character is a near match, it should be up to the organization to pursue it further. No candidate is perfect, and unfortunately, there is no airbrush equivalent. Thus, any skill or knowledge gaps can nearly always be addressed with training and investment in building a profitable long term relationship. After all, leveraging employee strengths vs their weaknesses in a teamwork environment is often what sets a company apart.
Otherwise, as George Costanza puts it… “You’ll never know”




  1. April 22, 2014 at 3:27 am

    If I may, I think it has to do with fact that employers are 100 times more choosy then they were. There is so many more resources for them to get resumes from. they can nit pick. Oh this guy drinks gin, not a good fit. Oh this guy has a Facebook that shows he goes camping a lot, not a good fit. etc etc etc. In a digital age, we are all scampering and clawing for those few jobs.

    When you get 100 plus resumes you can be picky to find that right person. Unfortunately, resumes do not tell everything or they are filled with lies.

    Ps I hope it is fine i post a comment 🙂

  2. hrslinger said,

    April 24, 2014 at 2:53 am

    Hi Mike, yes of course! I welcome comments.
    I completely agree. Funny, I don’t think the “me” generation is helping with that either- just a matter of adjusting I hope.
    Except now that we have all this technology to help employers wade through the mess, I believe that some have taken it too far. They have the impression that now with these new tools, they can really fine tune the hiring process. But I believe those particular employers are for the most part, finessing the wrong area of their business.
    Focus on what you’re (company is) passionate about, market your true “self”, and the rest will follow. If you push things from the other end, what exactly are you pushing towards? How do you know the employee will be a good fit if you haven’t done the work to find out what the gap is?

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