Competency & Fit in Hiring

Cite this article as:"Competency & Fit in Hiring," in The Business Professor, updated October 17, 2019, last accessed July 9, 2020,


Next Article: Fit, Bias, & Overcoming

In this article, we discuss the two primary factors employers consider when making the decision of who to hire – Competence & Fit.

In our article, Opportunity Generation, Recognition, & Exploitation, we talked about the need to prepare one’s self to create, recognize, and then take advantage of opportunities.

Both the generation and exploitation phases of a career opportunity generally require interaction with others.

Competence and fit are both integral in this process.

Let’s take a look at each individually.

Competence as a Hiring Factor

It should go without saying that being a competent individual is necessary to perform will in a job or move along a career path.

Competence can have many definitions. It can mean performing a task of function at an adequate level. It can mean having adequate knowledge or an understanding of a situation. In the broadest sense, it could simply mean that a person is highly capable of achieving a successful result in an undertaking.

In term of creating a career opportunity, individuals must be able to signal or demonstrate competence to third parties who can bring about or provide an opportunity.

For example, when you speak with any third party, you want them to understand that you have knowledge or understanding about what you are talking about.

When networking with industry professionals, you want to appear that you have the requisite knowledge, skills, or ability to learn the information and skills necessary to carry out a task or function.

In the interview process, you need to be able to communicate your abilities clearly or project competence to those making the employment decision.

Lastly, when you are working in a job or position, you want to demonstrate the minimum level of competence (or, preferably, a higher level of competence) necessary to successfully complete the tasks at hand.

Competence in the networking and interviewing phases of opportunity creation is often more of a signaling function than actual proof.

Common signals of competence include:

  • Studying a subject (or earning a degree in a particular field);
  • Having experience in the subject-matter area;
  • Speaking or writing competently about the subject;
  • Projecting a generally level of willingness and ability to learn the subject.

Later, when you are working in a position or competing a task, competence is demonstrated through your work process or work product (as well has how you present your efforts to others).

Now, I am going to write something that will surprise you.

Competence is far less important in generating an opportunity (and sometimes less important in exploiting an opportunity) than is demonstrating “fit” with those who can generate opportunities.

Let’s take a look at what is “fit”.

Fit as a Hiring Factor

So, wha is fit?

In summary, it is our ability to connect well with others. It’s a concept in commonly studied in sociology (particularly in the area of implicit bias), and it relates closely to communication and understanding.

We perceive that we fit well with others who share the following:

  • beliefs,
  • values, and
  • interests.

Basically, there is a level of commonality between the two individuals. These increase in efficiency and effectiveness allows us to communicate more efficiently and confidently with others. It makes use feel comfortable to understand those around us and to feel as though we are understood.

When networking, your objective should be to demonstrate fit with the other person. This increases the likelihood of developing a long-term relationship that could result in the creation of an opportunity.

When we are in the interview process, you should strive first to demonstrate fit with your interviewer(s). Generally, in addition to competence, the interviewer is looking for a person who will fit well in the organization. The interviewer is likely to envision her personal sense of the company culture when selecting a candidate.

Lastly, moving up in the job force is often less about outstanding performance than it is about fitting well with your superiors.

  • We discuss this concept further in our article, Fit, Privilege, and Overcoming.

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