Perfect fit

Working well with others often overlooked as essential job skill

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2006

Compatibility is an essential part of dating life. So much so in fact, it's often the first - and sometimes the last - form of attraction between two people. Why, then, is compatibility rarely a subject of discussion with potential employers?

Steve McMahan, chief sales officer and president of the Atlantic region of Kforce Professional Staffing based in Tampa, Fla., says job compatibility should be given just as much emphasis as salary or job function.

"It's really an area where the typical job seeker really doesn't focus enough on the issue," he explains. "More often than not they focus on the immediate things - the job, the salary, the title. It's just as important."

Often, clients of McMahan ask for his advice in deciding between two similar candidates. One has the skills but is not a good mesh in the company culture. The other, however, is a perfect fit in the culture of the company but lacks a few job-related skills. The candidate who fits in with the culture is the best choice, says McMahan. Skills can always be taught, but personality cannot.

Culture remains constant

McMahan advises job seekers to arrive early for job interviews and simply take in the environment that surrounds you. The conversations and the manner in which everyone acts are little clues into the big picture of the company.

"Listen to your gut," he says. "You have all the information you need. If there is a reputation out there, do some networking and pay attention to what you see in the press. You can tell a lot about a company by what they emphasize on their Web site."

Seek information

Though talking with others about the company you are interested in applying to may give you an idea of what to expect, that information can also be skewed depending on the person you talk to. Former employees who had a bad relationship with the company, or, conversely, a spokesperson for the company can paint completely different pictures.

"Look at the gender bias and the age of the workers," he adds. "Really, you're not picking your spouse, but you have to ask, 'Am I going to fit in here? Do I need to pretend to be someone else to work here?'"

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