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by Natalie Fisher | November 14, 2017


Have you ever felt like a fish out of water at a job? 

You don't fit in, you don't feel the vibe, and you know that these aren't your people. Whatever you do, you don't feel welcome, and you can't do anything right. Your co-workers don't understand you. You don't enjoy most of the work itself, and you struggle to figure out how to do things (or who to ask for help). You feel like you're just biding your time until you can get out, and you spend a lot of time planning your escape. 

Of course, no one wants a job that'll just end up like this--but the problem is, how do you know (before you accept) if it's going to be a good fit for you or not? 

"The right fit" is a general term we use, but what exactly does it mean? 

In this post I'll share five key indicators that I use to determine fit, plus three tips you can use to tell if a company is right for you.   

What Does "The Right Fit" Mean in a Job? 

Here are my five indicators that I use to determine "fit"; some will be more important to you than others: 

1. The 80/20 Rule 

If you're in the right place, you like the work that you're doing. Maybe not every minute of every day, but you enjoy it at least 80% of the time. The other 20% isn't necessarily your favorite time spent, but you're capable of it, and you know it's a necessary part of the job. For sales people, their 20% might be filing their expense reports. Their 80% might be travelling, speaking to prospects and closing deals.

2. Your Boss 

Ideally, you'll have a good relationship with your boss, along with the support you need. For me, a solid relationship with my boss has been the key to a good fit, and this has overridden some of the other factors. If I had a boss that was moody or unpredictable, I wouldn't be a good fit. I'd be stressed out, always with my guard up, wondering what mood she'd be in. I wouldn't be able to focus on doing my best work. Some of the other factors I talk about here might be more or less important for you, depending on your personality and work style. 

3. Company Leadership 

Do the company's morals and values match up with yours? For example, at xMatters our CEO will often say, "We will go with the best idea, no matter who came up with it." This really resonates with me. It's things like this that make me certain that the company and the culture are a good fit for me. It starts with the company leader and trickles down to the rest of the organization.

4. A good rapport with your co-workers

 There's often at least one bad apple in every bunch, and the bigger the company, the more likely it is that you'll cross paths with at least one person you won't like very much.

But do you like the majority of the people? Do you feel the staff help each other out? Do they have that cohesiveness a team needs to be successful? Or do you feel like everyone is competing against each other? Are your co-workers people you would enjoy spending time with outside of work, going for beers or coffee? This is not a requirement, but it's a good indicator of whether the fit is there.

5. Do you have what it takes?

Are you able to get the job done? Not that you have to know how to do everything the first time, all the time, but do you have the general skills, abilities, and knowledge? Can you freely ask for help in pushing past roadblocks? Can you talk to your boss, ask your co-workers, and generally complete tasks without feeling like you want to melt down and cry from feeling overwhelmed or lost?


How to Tell if a Company Will Fit You

Now you know what "the right fit" means, let's talk about how to spot it before it's too late.

1. What questions are they asking?

When I was younger, I applied to be in the Canadian Military. I went in and took the computerized assessments first. After I passed them, I had an in-person interview with an officer. 

He said, "Tell me about a time you had to do a mundane task that you didn't particularly enjoy that took up most of your day. How did you handle that?" 

At that moment, I could tell that I wasn't going to like it if that's what I would be doing most days. 

When they ask you a question, keep in mind that there's a reason, and it probably relates to something you'll be doing on the job. 

2. What questions can you ask them to determine fit? 

There are some questions that you don't want to ask until you've got the job offer in hand, like benefit or discussing salary, but here are some examples of questions you can ask to help you determine whether you are the right fit: 

  • In the next year, what are the biggest challenges that I would be taking on as the new hire? 
  • How does your department communicate, and how do the other departments communicate with you? 
  • How does the senior leadership communicate with the organization?

 3. How do you feel about the interview experience + the opportunity? 

What does your gut tell you? This is one that I ignored, and kicked myself for afterwards. Are there any feelings or red flags that you sense? Pay attention to them and actively look out for them. If something doesn't feel right, chances are it probably isn't. Use the questions in the cheat sheet to guide you to find out more about whether these red flags you notice are legitimate or not. If the organization is transparent in answering your questions, that's a great sign. 

If you've ever ended up in a bad fit, that's probably motivation enough to want to never let that happen again. 

The keys are: 

  • Be mindful
  • Watch for signs
  • Do your research
  • And ask the right questions 

Don't accept a job offer until you've gotten a good feel for the culture and your questions answered. Get the information that you need to make the right decision for you. 

Natalie Fisher is an enthusiastic HR Generalist who loves her job. She's been on over 50 interviews and received 48 job offers. Click here to get her free Cheat Sheet of 35 questions that will help you get the job!