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Assessing Job Fit

Assessing Job Fit

Whenever a job vacancy occurs in any organization, even in a situation in which an internal candidate looks to be ideal to replace the leaving person, it is critical that we think about job fit. As the graphic accompanying this article suggests this is about ensuring that we find a so-called “round-peg” candidate for the “round-hole” job but what does this actually mean and how should we go about doing this?

There are 5 key steps for ensuring good job fit. These are:

  1. Describe the current role accurately (individually and within its team)
  2. Ensure that the job is designed in up-to-date and optimal ways
  3. Develop an accurate candidate specification
  4. Design a fit-for-purpose candidate assessment process
  5. Select the best-fit candidate according to all of the prior steps above

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail:

1. Describe the current role accurately (individually and within its team)

When an individual vacates a job role, it may no longer reflect how the job should be or how it is supposed to be done. This may be no fault of the previous incumbent but more of a reflection of time passing, needs changing (including circumstances, people and technology etc.) but things were left to operate in a similar way. One of the best ways to determine whether or how much this is the case is to ask colleagues on the same team what the job contributed and how this could be changed in the event of a new person being recruited to fill it. In some cases this may mean that quite a shift can be made in emphasis or that the role is completely redesigned (or in some cases merged into other roles).

2. Ensure that the job is designed in up-to-date and optimal ways

Even where there is already a job description, this does not mean that the job is written about in up-to-date ways or contributes in the most optimal way. Using the information gathered in the step above, a job description should therefore be evolved which now accurately reflects the main accountabilities and describing what skills are most necessary in order to be successful (in its new configuration or design).

3. Develop an accurate candidate specification

Using the new and up-to-date job description, a candidate specification is a short outline of what is being sought by way of knowledge, experience or competencies to perform well in the job role. This may be written as a bulleted list of attributes and competencies or as an advertisement that would appeal to an individual who would suit this position. However, in either case the goal is to include critical needs and/or exclude experience or skills that would have little or no benefit in this job role.

4. Design a fit-for-purpose candidate assessment process

With an up-to-date job description and candidate specification we need to determine how we want to assess applicants for the role at each stage in the process. At the earliest stages, some applicants may not be eligible for interview or other deeper assessment (having insufficient qualifications, not enough or too much experience in a particular area etc.) and will need to be screened out. Once this “first cut” has been completed, it may be useful to get individuals to complete a questionnaire or profile to determine the relative strength of competencies or team-fit for example. And when you get down to selecting for just a few finalists you may want to not only use a face-to-face interview but get applicants to fill in a psychometric profile, do an “in-tray exercise” or even complete a specific aptitude test.

5. Select the best-fit candidate according to all of the prior steps above

Although it is often tempting to select a job applicant on the basis of the person being most like the previous role incumbent in skills or experience, it is important to ensure that the person hired can perform the job according to the new job description and selection criteria and who does best in your assessment processes. This decision may therefore override feelings of empathy or familiarity with the applicant (especially when he or she is an internal candidate for the job) but will ensure that the best fit to the role.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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