Perfect Fit for the Position
I have heard it over and over about how you are a perfect fit for the position.
I hate to tell you that, if you are really a perfect fit for the position, you will almost always lose!
Do you actually believe that job description is accurate? If you do, you are smoking something and your inhaling.
Let’s start at the beginning of the hiring process with the creation of the job description.
Note: This post was originally published in November of 2014. It was updated in March of 2018.
I am going out on a limb to say that most job descriptions are badly written. The hiring manager uses the Internet to find a similar position and then modifies it to fit the position they want. They will put every possible qualification in the job description. This turns into a Purple Cow Job Description that is almost impossible to find a perfect fit.
How do I know? I have done it myself.
Most job descriptions are written by people who are completely unqualified to write job descriptions. I was a hiring manager and was I ever trained on how to write one? NO!
For More: The Purple Cow Job Description – Should I Apply?
If you are smart, you will customize your resume so that it highlights accomplishments, results and metrics (ARM) for each responsibility in the job description.
You will also look for keywords so that when you submit your resume into the black hole of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), the resume will meet enough qualifications to be selected. Remember you really have no idea what keywords were entered into the ATS for this position. If you say huh… read my post 5 Things You Will Never Know About the Hiring Process.
When a recruiter looks at your resume, they quickly scan for these ARM statements and decide whether to call you. Typically, if you meet six out of the ten criteria, you will likely get a call for a screening interview.
If you meet ten out of ten, well, they may determine that you are overqualified!
WHAT!! I am a perfect fit if I meet all of the qualifications! NOPE. You are overqualified.
You will likely get—at the very least—a phone interview.
For More: 5 Things You Will Never Know About the Hiring Process
You prepare for the interview by researching the company and the hiring manager thoroughly. You probe for pain points during the interview and simply wow them with your expertise. You can do this job in your sleep!
That is exactly the problem, you can do the job in your sleep.
You walk out of the interview thinking you just nailed it and wait for the call saying they will be making an offer.
Well, that call is simply not going to come.
You say to yourself, “I am a perfect fit. I can do this job. Who would be better?”
This is where you are suffering what I call MSU Disorder, (Make Stuff Up). The reality is you have no idea what they are really looking for unless you have insider information.
For More: 3 Steps to Walking Into Your Interview with Confidence
You are a perfect fit! That is the problem. There is nothing for you to learn. There is nothing for you to grow into.
The hiring manager is sitting in the interview saying to him or herself, wow this is one impressive candidate. Will they get bored in six or more months and then leave? Would I rather have a less qualified candidate who can grow into the role, possibly pay them less, and have them stick around for two or three years?
If you are a perfect fit, there is no room for growth! Why would you want to take a job that does not stretch your skills?
Let’s go back to the beginning. The job description is written with every qualification possible. Do they really expect to get every qualification? NO. Do they really want to pay for every qualification? NO.
They want someone who can do the job, learn what they need to learn and pay as little as possible.
This is an area where a lot of baby boomers get into trouble. Maybe they want to scale back and take on fewer responsibilities. They are a perfect fit for the position, but will anyone believe them that they will not get bored in a few months?
If you really are a perfect fit for a position, you will almost always lose.
What to do?
Stop applying for jobs that you will be deemed overqualified. More importantly, stop applying for jobs and leverage your relationships! This particularly true when you chase job roles targetted to the millennials. If you are unsure what I mean read my post Are You Discouraged Pursuing Millennial Job Opportunities
For More: Stop Applying and Work the Relationships Rant
Still Think You are a Perfect Fit?
I can not emphasize it enough, if the first time the hiring manager discovers you is via an application on the applicant tracking system (ATS), you will lose almost every time.
Look for positions that you can grow into or scale back your resume and how you present yourself. The problem with the 2nd approach is hiring managers usually figure out that you gaming the system.
If you are truly a perfect fit… YOU LOSE!
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Wow. Many pieces falling into place here. I AM a perfect fit for the job, because I only target openings that are perfect for my skill set, not those I can grow into. I have often wondered why I was not hired for the job that was the perfect fit, and now I think I know.
Maybe I should dumb down my resume a bit.
It is not about dumbing down your resume. It is applying for jobs that you will allow you to grow.
in reality companies (hr stuff) don’t care about your growth (they are only so stupid and self absorbed to believe that they know what makes employees happy and most of the time they are wrong) but only care for paying as little as possible and keeping employee as long as possible (in order to save money of course),
in the same time it is also natural that most of employees (at least those that are not stupid enough to sell off cheaply their health) don’t care about “growth” rather they want as much money as they can get without too much of stress… and “growth” is 99% of time about STRESS …
so no, the best option is downgrade resume a little, unless you want to wreck yourself
Terre Leveton says
It doesn’t always pay to be you job specific when applying. Allow the interviewer enough time to fully explain the job before you commit too many specifics or you may be cutting yourself out of the running before you even start the race.
Fascinating post. My role as a corporate ethicist wonders about integrity – all the time. With this kind of advice, it seems readers are encouraged to be “less” than they are in hopes of snagging an interview. This authenticity gap, sourced by hiring personnel who lack the ability to balance ego with optimized resource applications (hiring the best people who really want to work for a company), marks the source of a never-ending cycle of failure(s) both for the hiring side as well as the applicant side.
No wonder more and more people are stepping up to become self-employed! Less corporate games, more rewarding gains.
Matt Linden says
As a hiring manager and employee I always believed a 70 to 80% fit was great. But my experience is that most companies want the “purple squirrel” and don’t share my perspective. My thinking was that I really want to hire for personality and work ethic first, and then for specific experiences. Can that ratio of perfect fit vs. non perfect fit strategy be quantified?
You ask a really hard question. I still believe most hiring is done subjectively with little real rational thought. So putting percentages to these kinds of problems is difficult.
Charles Gaskell says
Do you think that this applies just to permanent jobs, or to contractor / consultant jobs as well?
There is no question that there is a much lower threshold for hiring when we talk contract work. I would say this applies primarily to permanent jobs.
Shangey McD says
“Will they get bored in six or more months and then leave?”
That is called projecting. And it’s negative thinking at that. Don’t worry about my happiness on the job. I’ll be happy getting a check to pay for things like my car, mortgage, my vacation, etc. That is where I find my happiness. I read a stat one time, and it said that 80% of all workers were unhappy at their jobs.
Happiness may never come from a persons job. It doesn’t mean you go to work angry, and make rude and inappropriate comments to colleagues. And it doesn’t mean you have a bottle of pills on your desk at the ready to gobble down if you can’t take it. It just means that i should not be required to go to work with a smile from ear to ear, with a fake laugh and everything is happy! happy! happy! I’m one of those weird people that don’t do Starbucks or coffee. I’m more sedate when i work. But i do exceptional work.
Managers shouldn’t be concerned with a workers “happiness”. That’s my business. Not yours.
Further more, it’s very “top-down”. What if i’m gauging your happiness? Can I let you go?
If I honestly hated working at a job, I wouldn’t be there. And if I got the whiff I wouldn’t like the job, or the work environment, I wouldn’t apply to the job in the first place! Wasting your time and my time! Don’t try to read minds if workers are happy!
I understand where you are coming from but employers want people who want to come to work for them. I sure do not like working with people who are unhappy being there.
So I disagree with you that employers and your co-workers should not be concerned whether you are happy at work.
I stopped working for companies and work for myself. Corporate America has changed. Business and humanism are like oil and water. They don’t mix very well. Business has become colder and less interesting. When we go to work we put on our best face and our acting gear. We apply the skills we know to our craft and take joy in learning new skills. So, for me, I’ll continue to do my job and enjoy life as much as possible.
You nailed it!! This is right on. As an aside, can you write an article on at will employment. That is a very, very pro employer doctrine. I think people need to know much more about it and how it works!!
What about at will employment would you like me to write about? History, future, rules,….?
All Im ever placed into are jobs that are a perfect fit. I turn them down because there is no growth. is the software development field, HR and recruiters seem to be trying to feel each keyword/skills on a job description. The ones that want to bring me into an in person interview, are jobs that I can do no problem and have been doing in my previous role. Its very annoying.
Great article, Marc. The whole job application system seems to be very dysfunctional and not geared to finding the best person for the position. There seems to be a lot of “mind-reading” and “guessing” on both sides of the table? I think time spent refreshing and updating my resume to highlight my natural talents and skills would be a good investment of time. Easier said than done, though, for those of us with years of experience. How do you write about “soft” skills, such as leadership, collaboration, working well on teams or building relationships, using words that HR robots will recognize??
Here is the problem, as someone in the 2nd half of life, your next job will not come from applying for a job but through a relationship who already understands about your “soft” skills, such as leadership, collaboration, working well on teams or building relationships.