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Understanding the Message behind “We Don’t Feel You’re a Right Fit”

You are an experienced professional with a great track record and impressive qualifications. You spent hours perfecting your CV, tailoring it for that one job, and filling in all those online application forms. And you made sure you searched the web for all the interview tips you could find. Your CV gets you in the door, the interviewing tips get you past the initial stages, and then – it’s the final interview with one or more senior experts, someone who will be your future boss or a colleague. It feels like a nice conversation, you feel that you have “said all the right things”, and then – after a few days, or a week, or two – it’s a “no”. That’s frustrating. You are wondering what could have happened, to hear at the last moment “we don’t feel you’re a right fit” – and no elaboration as to what’s that supposed to mean. While we cannot get into the mind of your interviewers to get all the answers, it helps to understand that there are essentially 3 types of "No"-s that fall under the "not a right fit" umbrella. One: The Good “No” Sometimes – it makes sense to take it as a “gift of destiny”. Maybe, the person who interviewed you and who knows the company well actually sensed that you would not have fit in well in that company’s culture. It is also possible that you have taken a cultural fit assessment (more on how those work in another email) that showed that you would not enjoy being part of that team. All in all, no matter how frustrating it is, such a “no” is a positive thing, because no matter how unfortunate it may feel at the moment, a better opportunity will present itself. And when it does, you want to be ready, and not get the second type of "No". Two: The Communicate Better “No” Sometimes – you weren’t able to communicate your experience in a convincing manner. Feeling stressed under the pressure, jumping from point to point without a structure to your responses, not helping the interviewer understand what you specifically did versus what your team did. Or maybe you made an assumption about what the interviewer wanted to hear versus what they were looking for when they asked you that question. The remedy for that is to:

  • Understand better how interviews work and how it looks like from the point of view of your interviewer(s)

  • Make sure that you have a plan for how to best talk about your experience, in a way that is both structured (revise well!)

  • And sounds authentic (do not over-revise!)

Three: The Know Yourself “No” Sometimes – it is not about your actual “cultural fit” or about your experience, but about how you come across. Were you able to build rapport with your interviewer, come through as your authentic self, appear like you were interested in the job, but were not “trying too hard”? The main challenge here is to know your strengths (and your development opportunities), have clarity around what makes you – with all your unique skills and professional experience – a great and outstanding candidate for the job, and knowing how to manage the feelings of stress and anxiety prior to and during an interview. Remember: you want to focus on the things that are in your control, and not waste your time and mental energy worrying about the things that aren’t. While you can only guess which one of the three “No”-s you got when you heard that “we feel you’re just not a right fit”, what you will always have control over is how you take those news. There is no failure – only feedback. And knowing how to make use of feedback is what will get you ahead. Maybe, this team actually was not right for you – great. Maybe – you could have done better around how you communicate, fair enough – and that is something that everyone can improve.

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