If there was ever a fuzzy term in the interview business, “fit” has to be near the top of the list. While different folks define the term in various ways, there is a wonderful scene in a Diane Keaton film called “Baby Boom” that I believe illustrates “fit” in a way most people understand immediately. The main character, played by Diane Keaton, is interviewing a number of apparently qualified but otherwise “fit challenged” nanny candidates to care for her newly acquired baby niece. If you missed the movie back in the late 1980’s or just don’t remember the scene, please take a minute to check it out the first minute or so of the clip on Youtube:
It’s funny in its exaggeration, but the concept illustrated is clear. “Fit” asks the following questions:
“Does the candidate’s confidence level, interpersonal skills, communication style, professional aspirations, appearance and demeanor dovetail with the job’s requirements, challenges and the people that this candidate will be working with on a daily basis?”
That’s not the same question as, “can I see myself becoming friends with this person?” or “do I personally like this person?” This is not about being friends. “Fit” is about having a clear concept of what “kind” of person would likely do well in the role, considering what this person will be required to do and who that person will likely be doing it with.
If you accept this definition of “fit,” you might have come to the realization that there is actually no way to authentically communicate “fit” with integrity except to be yourself throughout the interview process. To that, I would say you’re right! In fact, as a candidate, if you accept a position that doesn’t resonate with you personally, you are not long for “the door,” whether voluntarily or otherwise. Nevertheless, during your interview you should strive to authentically communicate that part of yourself that is professional, capable, appropriately motivated and socially engaging. Fail to do that, and you will take yourself out of the game well before the offer stage, when the power shifts to you -- the candidate (i.e., “I accept the offer” or “I decline”). Here is what you need to do to authentically communicate “fit:”
Be Enthusiastic! If you have done your homework before your first interview, you should have a pretty good idea as to why the opportunity would be professionally exciting for you. Don’t be afraid to show it! Employers want to hire those individuals who want them. Your enthusiasm during the interview sends a clear message: “I think this is a great organization, and I really want to be on your team! I will be a pleasure to work with because I will come to work each day with a smile on my face, happy to be here.” Even if you do not have all perfect experience for the role you are interviewing for, it is likely that your positive disposition and enthusiasm for the institution will cause them to remember you for alternate or future positions.
Smile. Next time you are greeted warmly by someone with a smile, try to notice your initial impression of that individual. Similarly, next time you are greeted by someone with a frown, try notice the difference in how you perceive the individual. If you are like most professional people, you have already made the following observation: people who smile when greeting others for the first time, at the close of a meeting are generally viewed as more likable, genuine, trustworthy and even more intelligent. So smile to everyone you meet during the interview, including the receptionist and those entering and leaving any waiting area. You would be surprised at how many people may have a say in deciding whether you are the best candidate for the job, and many times those people are walking in and out of the very office area where the interview is being held.
Make a Warm Personal Connection. Certain folks have “the gift.” Others, not so much. Some folks can do it only if their “in the mood.” Others can “turn it on when needed.” Wherever you fit in this general description, during your interview process try to employ that part of yourself that is able to connect with other people on a human level. If something is funny, laugh. If there is an awkward moment, roll with it. If a nice complement is paid, be gracious. If the conversation goes in a less formal direction, embrace it without compromising your professionalism. Most people don’t want to work with an android or someone who is uncomfortable in their own skin, so don’t try too hard. In the end, what will be, will be. Try and just relax and explore. If you decide not to make the job interview the “end of the world,” chances are you will settle in nicely and really connect.