Whats the most important element of the Job Interview?

The most important part of a Job Interview

Whats the most important element of the Job Interview?

What is the most important element of an interview? I’ve done lots of interviews in my time and I have been both sides of the table. People think the answer is very complex but its not. The most important element of an interview is ‘Overall Fit’. It is your scoring in Overall Fit that will often win or lose an interview. This is one of the main reasons internal candidates do so well in interviews. Its because the panel are very sure of their current fit in an organisation.

Don’t my Professional Qualification and Experience count most?

You have to remember you will have already provided details that show you are technically proficient in your area of expertise. You will have already provided a list of academic and job qualifications. You’ve shown this either in your CV or through an application process. What the panel are now looking for is someone who will work well within the organisation.

What does ‘Overall Fit’ actually mean?

Its very hard to qualify what ‘fit’ means. It is also very frustrating to be told you didn’t get the job as another candidate had a better ‘fit’. For the purposes of clarity though some examples could include:

  • Trying to move between the public and private sectors. These sectors work very differently and a move between them could provide a lot of difficulty for a new candidate.
  • Moving from different sized organisations. If you had been in a small organisation and are trying to move into a large one, they might feel you are too used to working autonomously. They may worry that you might struggle with a team. And if you were looking to move from large to small, they might feel you would need too much hand-holding.
  • Maybe you were trying to move from a traditionally run style organisation to a more new ‘hip’ style organisation. They might feel you would struggle with the lack of rules and flexibility or vice versa. Or moving from a corporate style organisation to a more not-for-profit style outfit.
  • Your personal working style just might not seem to fit the overall feel of the organisation. Maybe you are very meticulous with detail and they are looking for someone who can ‘roll with the punches’ so to speak. Perhaps you are a real creative who takes time to develop your work, but the role has a strict deadline style that is felt you wouldn’t work well to.

It honestly could be anything.

So how can I ‘learn’ Overall Fit?

Its very hard to know what they’re looking for without an inside scoop so see if you can find someone in the organisation to give you some feedback. They will usually be able to tell you pretty quickly what they feel your ‘fit’ might be missing. Remember, its not your ACTUAL fit; it’s the fit that you have communicated to the panel. Conveying overall fit is simply a communication skill.

Some other practical things you can do include:

  • Consider hiring a Career Coach to analyse your own personal skill set and how you’re communicating this. Practicing for your interview can be key to getting a good impression across
  • Volunteering (again!) is a great way to practice working within many different organisation styles, and that will help maximise your chances in a new Organisation.
  • Find out as much as you can about the organisation. If theres something you know you’re missing be prepared to answer to the panel about how you would address this. If the panel has called you to interview it means they are prepared to hear your case, be prepared to make it.

How does the panel measure Overall Fit?

There would be certain practical things like previous experience they will be looking out for, but mainly it would be your own style. A 45-minute interview can give someone a lot of time for their own personality to come out. This is great, but you should be careful about how you come across to the panel.

On one panel I know of, a candidate accused one of the panel members of downloading her presentation incorrectly. It was a basic Mac/PC error but she would not let it go. She started explaining to him how he could do it ‘for next time’. Needless to say, even though she was a great candidate on paper, no-one thought she was getting the job after that.

In another interview a panel member asked a question and the candidate said he wasn’t finished answering his last question. He said if she’d let him finish that first he’d ‘get to’ her question then …

EVERYTHING you do and say when at an interview is being analyzed, scrutinised and judged. Please be mindful of this at all times. A lot of the time the panel will be using basic human skills and ‘going with their gut’. Try not give them any reason to doubt you. Even how you dress is important. I was interviewed about this recently, you can see it HERE.

In many cases organisations weight Overall Fit higher than any other section of an interview matrix. So Overall Fit alone can win a job.

Is Overall Fit really that important?

100% yes. Overall Fit was crucial in every interview I was ever involved in. In some cases Overall Fit even trumped Academic Qualifications and Experience. In those cases, it was felt that the candidate could learn the technical skills but that the Fit they would bring to the organisation would be immense. They’re usually right.

When you look at situations where organisations are having to remove staff its very rarely due to lack of work. Its usually due to someone just ‘not fitting into’ an organisation. Someone who doesn’t ‘get’ the organisation, or who just doesn’t fit in, can cause companies a huge amount of distress. Firing people in Ireland is very, very expensive so making sure you put the right person in from the start is crucial!

So in closing…

Overall Fit sounds a bit flaky, but it is the most important element to a job interview.

Remember a good Career Coach can help you explore your own skills and communication style when it comes to this so it’s a great investment to your Job Search.



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