23 Aug

Finding What Fits

Expert Tailoring

Looking for a job? Hiring someone?
Look for the suit.

No, no, not that kind of suit (though that might be helpful with some kinds of jobs).

I mean look for what suits.

When we craft our resumés, we focus on cataloging all the things we’ve done. We outline (via vague objectives rewritten for every new opportunity) what we want to do next. We list if and where we went to school, what we did there, what we’ve done since. We talk about bottom lines we’ve affected, changes we’ve made, and budgets we’ve managed. We talk about our skills, and what we’ve done—and, hopefully, what we can do—with them.

It makes sense. After all, the folks that hire us are looking for the ideal skill set, preferably ours. They want someone—us!—who’s already done what they’d need us to do. They want someone who can “hit the ground running” (like us!), someone with whom they can “fire and forget” (still us!), someone with deep experience in industry X (us!), or who studied Y (us!), or all of the above (us! us! us!).

Which is all fine until who we are isn’t “right.” Until we start hearing about “fit.” Until we start to hear, “be careful,” “tone it down,” or even “wear more lipstick.” That our way is not the way things are done around here (especially frustrating if we were hired to shake things up or bring outside perspective).

Or maybe it starts with us, after the first blush of excitement about being someplace new wears off, and we start feeling like an outsider—and not the constructive heretic kind. The kind that feels combative and lonely. Or bored. Or impatient.

And we wonder how it all went wrong.

It’s hard to admit that we’re not always the right person for the job. Harder still to admit that what makes us not right has nothing to do with what we’re capable of… and everything to do with how we’re wired.

We can be incredibly skilled at what we do, but it won’t matter a whit if how we do it doesn’t match up to the needs and values of where we are, or even who we are.

It’s information asymmetry, on both sides: You (hopefully) know way more about yourself than your prospective employer does, just as the person hiring you knows a heck of a lot more about the job and the kind of person that would thrive in it than you do. Is that a system you can game? Absolutely. You know how to make yourself seem like the perfect person for the job. You may even convince yourself it’s a job you really want.

The problem is, that game? It only has one player. You. So every time you win, you lose.

But we’ve all done it. We’ve all accepted a job (or hired someone) despite the warning bells, hoping somehow we or they would change shape, or the job would. (We didn’t. They didn’t. It didn’t.) We’ve taken a job because it seemed like a good match at the time, only to discover it just didn’t suit us. We hired the person with all the best credentials, only to discover they just didn’t fit.

In other words, we ignored the most important skill set of all, the one that comes from temperament. Ours. Theirs.

And yet, as I learned long ago, people hire for skills… and fire for personality.

So how do we get around it? How have you?

image credit: cuttlefish