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Hiring On vs. Fitting In

Fitting in with new coworkers may be a significant part of success.

Good job-hunting skills may be key survival tactics, but finding a job--any job--is a lot different from finding the right job. And there's a lot more to job fit than whether you can get along with the boss and how much money you'll be making.

Such as how you fit in with your coworkers, says Penn State psychologist David Day, Ph.D. That's why, during the interview process, candidates should take notice of potential office mates as well as department managers, he told a meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in San Francisco.

When met with the all-important interview query: "Do you have any questions about our company?" your best response is to inquire about corporate personality. Ask about the work styles, formality, even dress code--the culture of an organization--that point to shared values and beliefs.

"In large part, you fit in with a job if you fit in with the people," says Day. "It's the people who make the workplace."

Together with Arthur Bedeian Ph.D., professor of management at Louisiana State University, Day surveyed worker happiness among 206 nurses at a large medical center. Using the Adjective Check List--a common personality inventory in which subjects check off which of 300 adjectives apply to them--the team found that job satisfaction was greatest when personality fit was closest.

"This has practical implications for employers as well," Day notes. "If there are mismatches, productivity suffers. The fact of being different can hinder job performance as well as prospects for success."

An employee who misjudges corporate culture and winds up leaving a job costs the company a great deal of money. It's in the best interests of the employer, then, to provide sufficient information so the job-seeker can make an informed decision.

So how to gauge the culture climate of a firm? Use intuition, Day advises. Pay attention to the surroundings and don't underestimate your first impressions. Notice how comfortable you feel there and don't hesitate to ask if you can meet potential coworkers.

For the job-hunter, money alone shouldn't be the sole criterion for choosing a company, warns Day. "The fact is, you probably won't work long in a place you hate."