What Do They Mean When They Say

“You’re Not A Good Fit”

Part 4 in a series

What Do They Mean When They Say You're Not A Good Fit?"

What Do They Mean When They Say You’re Not A Good Fit?”

Just what does “you’re not a good fit” mean?

Well, it could mean a few things and could depend on when you hear it: during the interview process or sometime after you’ve been hired. In any case, it could relate to any or all of the following as well as other dynamics:

• corporate culture
• management/leadership style
• perspective

My observation and experience is this can also be a code that companies hide behind when they don’t have the courage to hire someone that is qualified for a position.

When you are confronted with this statement, you are obligated to yourself to delve deeper and ask probing open ended questions.

Why?   Because if for no other reason, you want to know for your own information what is at the core of this statement and perception.

You also want the opportunity to discuss it for your own learning.  It may be something you can address and adjust. Usually I advise people that if you hear this in an interview process, be somewhat grateful. There’s nothing worse than making a career move and finding out it isn’t a fit in any shape, way or form. This usually occurs when the position or the roles and responsibilities are misrepresented. This recently happened to a colleague after relocating, no less.

So what should be your response when you hear “You’re not a good fit”? Assuming you are surprised and disagree:

1. Remain calm

2. Put on your “inquiring minds want to know” hat and ask probing open ended questions. Here are a few to put in your tool kit.

• I’m disappointed to hear that. Can you give me some insight into what specifically doesn’t fit?” or
• All of the conversations I had seemed to go well and I understood the challenges and expectations. Can you share what specifically is the disconnect?

Asking probing questions does two things:

1. It communicates that you do not agree and
2. You are not going to settle for a vague excuse of not being a fit without the “fit” being qualified

Now, if the person you are speaking with begins to stammer and squirm or breaks into a cold sweat, you know something they do not or cannot verbalize is at the core of this. Make it clear that you are only interested in learning so that you can address and adjust whatever it is, if possible.

Conversely, if you know it’s not a good fit, graciously agree and be done with it.

However, if you hear this after you have been hired and/or have worked for the company for a while, there’s another set of dynamics that need to be considered and explored. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories around this.

Women who have risen to VP only to be told in a performance evaluation that they are not a good fit for the company? Really? Then how did they get that far?

In another scenario, the corporate culture was abusive; they expected people to work 80 hours a week and from their sick or dying mother’s bed. For the individual that managed their time effectively and fulfilled their assignments on schedule, 80 hours a week did not seem necessary to say nothing about being unhealthy. The person was told they were not a fit; their unwillingness to work 80 hours a week was an indication of their lack of commitment to the company and the client.

In the first case, it seems pretty obvious it was just an excuse and perhaps a difference in style. In the second story, it wasn’t a fit, but the reason was unreasonable also.

In both cases, at least from where I sit, HR was ineffective in helping these women manage the situations they were faced with. Both women ended up leaving their respective positions.

So when you are told “you’re not a good fit”, don’t be so quick to give in or give up. Press for answers and clarity around what specifically doesn’t fit. You deserve to know.

Here are some tips to avoid being told you’re not a good fit :

• Don’t ignore those intuitive inklings that something isn’t right
• Conduct periodic check-ins in between performance evaluations
Be an effective team player
Become politically savvy


Make it a good and exciting week.

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Deborah Gray-Young, CPC, ELI-MP
Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Follow me on Twitter @coachdgrayyoung



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