When Goldilocks visited the Three Bears’ house, she tried three different rocking chairs. Papa Bear’s was “too big,” she decided. Then Baby Bear’s broke into a dozen pieces under her weight. “Too small,” she declared (ya think?!) But Mama Bear’s felt “just right!”

Goldilocks could tell pretty quickly whether a given rocking chair was right for her. But job-fit is not so easily determined. In part, that’s because there are countless subjective factors at play. But there are also two vastly different perspectives evaluating job-fit: the employee’s and the employer’s. What seems to work for one party may not work for the other. The employee assesses “fit” against his/her own self-interests. The employer assesses “fit” against the objectives and needs of his/her enterprise (which, in an Executive Pastor’s case, is a church).

Either way, how can you tell whether a given person and a given position “fit”? Here are a few ways to evaluate it.

Hallmarks of Good Fit

If You’re the Employee

  1. Energy and enthusiasm. Do you wake up excited to get to work? Do you throw yourself into the task with energy and enthusiasm? Do you wake up in the middle of the night solving “problems” at work and imagining yourself excelling at the task? Those are tell-tale signs of a good job-fit. Consider yourself very blessed.
  2. Results. If you’re truly gifted to the task, you’re seeing results that you regard as important and/or significant. The ideal job pulls you into the work with the conviction that “this job has my name on it.” And you consistently come through with good results.
  3. Affirmation. You receive obvious indications from others that they regard your work as good and adding value. Could be an “attaboy,” a raise, an award, or just a personal word of praise from your boss. Some people require no recognition for their efforts. But whether you need it or not, you’ll know whether you’re fulfilling the expectations of a job if other people—especially above you—are praising your work. (Attention supervisors: do you know what sort of recognition each of your reports needs when they satisfy your expectations?)
  4. Improvement. You enjoy getting better at your work. People develop within their strengths (not their weaknesses), so when you’re in a good fit, you instinctively seek ways to develop your proficiency. You take pride in doing the job well, and over time in doing it even better.
  5. Satisfaction. One of the primary hallmarks of employing your giftedness is deep satisfaction and joy. When was the last time you said/felt, “It was worth going to work today. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow.” If it was today, you’re in a great job-fit. If it’s been years—pay attention! The fit is not very good. Some people can’t imagine that anyone in the workplace feels that way. I can assure you with absolute and firsthand certainty that some people really do—namely, people who are in a great job-fit (I’m one of those people). If you’re a doubter, I can assure you with almost absolute certainty that you are in a poor job-fit (in which case, see below).

FAQ-1: Notice that I’ve said nothing about pay or compensation

Some people mistake a good job-fit for a job that compensates them more than they would have expected. Pay has nothing to do with job-fit. Pay is about value: someone is willing to part with money and other incentives to acquire what you as an employee provide. Whether you fit the job has to do with your giftedness—the God-given, inborn core strengths and natural motivation that you use to do anything that you find satisfying and productive—and the degree to which your giftedness is what the position calls for.

FAQ-2: Job-fit is not static, it’s dynamic

You can start out in a great job-fit, but over time, the fit can change, and then it’s no longer a good fit. That happens all the time. In fact, it probably happens in most jobs. When it does, the thing to remember is this: no one did anything wrong. You, the employee didn’t change (that is, your giftedness didn’t change). Nor did you do anything wrong that changed the job-fit. But your employer didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, either. What changed was the job itself. Maybe not the job description (that’s a set of tasks). But the nature of the job—which includes its tasks, but also its environmental conditions, its supervisor, its roles, its team, its expectations within the employer’s needs—those things will almost inevitably change. When they do, the job won’t fit your giftedness as well.

If You Represent the Employer (e.g. as a Supervisor or XP)

  1. Expectations met. Organizational effectiveness demands that you ask: Is the work getting done according to our organization’s expectations? If it is, you’ve got a “good fit” (although see FAQ-6 below). If not, you likely have a poor fit. Let’s be clear on this point. The organization’s first concern—and therefore yours—is (or should be) with the position, not the person. The organization has mission-critical work that needs to be done. The position exists for the purpose of getting that work done. You need a person—the “right” person—to do that work. But the organization does not exist for the person, but rather to get its mission accomplished. Certainly the organization needs to care about the worker, but that concern is secondary. At the end of the day, the organization doesn’t really care whether the person loves the work, likes the work, just tolerates the work, or hates the work. It just needs the work done. That’s why it’s so critical to pay attention to the expectations of the position. Hiring is all about expectations. You can never make those too clear. And you can never be too honest about what the position really requires. Many employers are not. It really doesn’t matter what the expectations are (as long as they’re EEOC-compliant)—just be honest about them. Don’t hide them. Be straightforward about what you expect in terms of how the “right” person will satisfy your expectations as the employer/supervisor. That way, candidates for the position can be more honest about whether they truly are a good fit for the position.
  2. Improvement from below. The employee is coming up with ideas for improving performance. Some of those ideas may be great; some of them may be turkeys. It doesn’t matter. If the person is paying attention to how to get the job done better—more effectively, more efficiently—pay attention to that! It means their motivation is engaged and they are doing the best they can to give you their best stuff. What employer doesn’t want that?
  3. Confidence in the hire. Maybe the simplest way to know that an employee is in a great job-fit is when you, the employer, find yourself saying, “I’d hire that person again in a heartbeat.” If you can’t say that, the fit is less than ideal. By the way, that has nothing to do with whether the person is a “good” person. There are millions of “good” persons in lousy job-fits. Fit has nothing to do with being a “good” person, but with being the “right” person for the job (based primarily on their giftedness, but also on other factors such as fit with the culture, integrity/character, work ethic, affordability, etc.).
  4. Team effect. How are other positions in and around the position affected by the person’s work? If they are made better, you’ve got a good fit. If they are negatively impacted in terms of performance and morale, you have to question the fit.
  5. Managerial efficiency. In the main, people in good job-fits require less of their supervisors’ time than those in poor fits. It’s easy to see why. The worse the fit, the more the problems—and the worse the problems. Who gets called in when there’s a problem? That’s right, you the supervisor. Want to get more of your time back to do all the other things on your plate? Then pay more attention to job-fit before you hire. (If you need help doing that, contact me).

Symptoms of Poor Fit

If You’re the Employee

  1. Slacking off. Humans instinctively put their heart into work that inspires them. When it doesn’t, they look for other things to do. So if you’re coming in late, leaving early, taking long lunch breaks, wasting time in your coworkers’ offices/cubicles, cruising the internet and “shopping” online, taking lots of sick days and/or personal days—face it, your heart is clearly not in the work. That’s not a character issue—though stealing time from your employer is a character issue. But the root cause—a poor job-fit—is a motivational issue.
  2. Disinterest. You’re in a poor fit when you no longer care about the work. You do it, but it’s boring. You’re easily distracted (back to point #1 above). Disinterest in the work is dangerous, because it leads to ignoring the details—and the devil really is in the details. Don’t ignore the next time you find yourself saying, “Oops!” That’s a symptom that your mind wasn’t on task. Why not?
  3. Emotional storm clouds. Your feelings have an uncanny way of telling you when the situation is not working. Don’t ignore them. Pay attention to them. Frustration, anger, depression, stress, sadness, hopelessness—classic symptoms of a poor job-fit. Tragically, many people deny or override their negative feelings by engaging in destructive behaviors that temporarily make them feel better: drinking, drug use, on-line porn, chat sites, even snacking and overeating. If you’re compulsively doing stuff like that, what is it about your job that is not engaging your best energy?
  4. Low ROI. In the business world, ROI means Return On Investment. An investor puts in X-amount of money into a venture. How much does s/he get back? That’s the ROI. So what’s your ROI from your job? You put in X-amount of effort. What sort of results are you seeing? If you have to work harder and harder to get just okay results, that strongly suggests a poor job-fit. That’s drudgery. “But Bill, why do you think they call it ‘work’?” Yes, for some, work is assumed to be a toilsome prospect. But I fundamentally disagree. When the work fits the worker, two things happen: the work gets done and done well, and the worker feels satisfaction—even if s/he had to put a lot of effort into the task. It was worth the effort.
  5. Physical troubles. You may ignore all the signals that your supervisor, your coworkers, your gut, and your work itself are screaming at you. But your body will have the final word. Sleep problems (too much, too little), headaches, tight shoulders and neck, ulcers, weight gain/loss, hypertension—why, I once worked with a woman who felt nauseous as she arrived at work everyday. I’ll tell you what I told her: your physical ailments are your final warning that you are in a poor job-fit. You need to make a change in employment—not in years, months, or weeks, but in days. Forget whose “fault” that is. Get a new job—now!

If You Represent the Employer (e.g. as a Supervisor or XP)

  1. Low productivity. As stated earlier, your primary concern as the employer is that the work gets done, and done within certain time, budget, and quality parameters. If time and again you’re not seeing the results you expect, you need to consider whether you’ve got the wrong person in the job.
  2. Repeated failures. This is a step beyond the previous point. Everyone has failures from time to time. That’s to be expected. But a series of breakdowns in which the core purpose of the position is not carried out is cause for questioning the fit.
  3. The “get it” factor. I’m a big believer in training and development, but with a significant caveat: you can’t put into people what God left out. Before telling an employee, “We’re going to teach you how to do this or that,” I suggest pondering whether there is anything in the person’s giftedness that indicates they will take to “this or that.” If not, they won’t really “get it.” Oh, they may go through the motions once you’ve “trained” them. But their heart will never love to do “this or that.” With the result that “this or that” won’t get done very well. Training is never the answer to a poor job-fit.
  4. Increasing conflicts. All married couples experience conflicts, but you know a marriage is really in trouble when the conflicts get more frequent and more severe. The same is true in the relationship between an employee and their job. If that match is doomed, it’ll show up in the way the person relates to others around them. Trying to “manage” those conflicts is laudable, but it’s ultimately futile if the core issue is that the person and the job are not right for each other.
  5. Increasing managerial demands. This is the mirror image of the point made above under hallmarks of a good job-fit. Good fit requires less of a supervisor’s time. Poor fit requires more. More meetings. More looking over the employee’s shoulder. More emails. More conferencing with other managers about the situation. More having to step in. More tearing your hair out. Here’s a calculation: as a supervisor, take your compensation package and divide it by the number of people reporting to you. That number is the unit cost to the organization for supervising one report. When someone starts “overspending” their allotment, they are no longer adding value to the enterprise. They are literally costing money. You as the supervisor should be the first to recognize that, because your time is getting misallocated. I recommend you reconsider whether you’ve got the right person in the position.

FAQ-3: Bad job-fit does not mean bad person

Mark that! There’s no question that a bad job-fit creates a lot of frustration for the employer. Your tendency is to think: “That person is a loser. We (I) made a bad hire” (meaning you hired a “bad” person).

But is that the gospel? Is that