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Why I'm Not a Good Fit and Why Companies Should Stop Looking for People Who Are

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Why I'm Not a Good Fit and Why Companies Should Stop Looking for People Who Are

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I consume a lot of text every day. Whether it's a thought piece on Medium or a short news brief on TechCrunch, you can count on a tab being open at all times. I also have a terrible habit of sending long reads to my reading list and never hearing about them again (anyone else guilty of this?). I've made it a habit to piggy back off of the pieces that inspire or upset me. I'm about to do that with this post, because my train of thought has led me somewhere interesting.  I've read a couple of concerning articles this week. One was a summary of recent diversity statistics at companies like Facebook and Google. The other was an op-ed piece on cultural fit at companies and what they really mean by the term "fit".

About me: I am an impatient but very hard worker. I ask a lot of questions, I speak quickly, I sometimes have difficulty paying attention in meetings or on the phone, but in the end, I do great work. I am strongly focused on outcomes and overarching goals, perhaps even to a fault. I ask "why?" very often, and I use humor to get myself through stressful periods at work. I pursued a technical major in college, but I'm not looking to be in an primarily technical position for the long-term. 

Question: How many times have you been asked, "What makes you a good fit here?"

I don't know about you, but when I hear that question I think of organizational values. It's been drilled into me by countless advisors and career center counselors.Organizational values can be things like: innovation, transparency, relationship building, fairness, being resourceful. We often refer to such values in studying for interviews, so our answer goes a little something like "I'm hard working, willing to learn, I fail fast, and I'm results-oriented". You would think this would be a great answer, and if hiring managers abided by the true definition of cultural fit, it would be one. But in their world, it [your answer] actually isn't.

Often we find, and recent studies show, that fit isn't about organizational values, but more about personality fit. Many times, interviewers aren't even aware that they're placing a lot of value on the chemistry you have with them in an interview. Don't get me wrong, I think it's important that we have some commonalities. You like working hard, so do I. You like being recognized for it, so do I. Maybe you like art museums and so do I. But these things shouldn't be deal breakers. If you ask me what my hobbies are and I don't enjoy golf, you shouldn't cross me off the list in your head because I won't be out of the office on Fridays at about the same time as you are. Hire or don't hire me because of my alignment with your company's values and not because of how I see the world or how I reach certain conclusions.

Call to action: Stop looking for candidates who "fit".

By searching high and low for candidates who seem to be younger versions of yourself, you are hiring clones. Even the greatest personalities don't need to exist in high quantities in one place. Yes, I'm suggesting you re-think everything about your hiring process, but my intentions are good. Think about it; choosing prospective employees who think and act like you can ultimately mean choosing people who look just like you and come from a similar background. Just in my internship experience this summer I've seen how someone's very different thought process, which was molded by a different background, has led us to better project outcomes. This isn't a myth or a buzzword; diversity has value. The company I'm with right now does an amazing job at hiring people of all backgrounds, and thus, we come up with innovative solutions to our problems every single day and are leading the industry with what we do.


Unlicensed doctor's orders? Define what fit means to you. Don't confuse it with chemistry. Be transparent about your organization's values and hiring processes. Come up with a quantitative system for evaluating fit during interviews. Make sure it's not the the most important factor. Hire great misfits. Do great work. Repeat.

The aforementioned concerning articles:

http://techcrunch.com/2015/06/25/pipeline-leads-to-a-hole-in-the-bucket/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/opinion/sunday/guess-who-doesnt-fit-in-at-work.html?_r=0

Facebook's recent diversity report: https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2015/06/driving-diversity-at-facebook/

*I have come to a conclusion that there may be a correlation between hiring processes, organization values, cultural fit, and our lack of overall diversity in the workplace. I welcome healthy discussion and debate about this topic, as I've been known to accidentally skim over important considerations when writing emotional critiques of the industry. Comment below, please! I'd love to hear your thoughts.*

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My First Think Piece/The Last Women in STEM Headline

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My First Think Piece/The Last Women in STEM Headline

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This is my first blog post...ever. Bear with me. Enjoy. It’s November 3rd, the Eve of my favorite day of the year, Election Day. 20 year old wonks much like myself celebrate such a day because it gives us the supreme opportunity to decide which money and power hungry WASP will represent us in Congress. But that is much beside the point. Today, I have also come across such headlines as: ‘The Shortage of Women in STEM Explained’, ‘Empowering Women in STEM Field’, ‘Detroit STEM Conference May Open Doors for Women’, and’ Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech?’ among other nauseating titles I will let you google for yourself. The point I’m trying to make here is that if you want to help women in STEM you’ve got to listen to the women in STEM (like me). I’m not entirely sure my two cents is needed or wanted, but I’d like to put it out there anyway. I’m a 20-year old multiracial woman studying Information Technology at a large university and I have internship and work experience in a woman-owned startup, a non-profit, and a Fortune 500 corporation. I will let you know, and to no surprise, that working in the woman-owned startup was the most enriching of my diverse work experiences. If you would really like to help women succeed in STEM fields, you’ve got to do a few important things:

Knowing the Difference

On a MS Word pie graph, it may look as though your company is “diverse enough”. But this 1:1 men to women ratio means nothing if the women aren’t in management and do not feel included in the big decisions regarding the direction of the organization. Understand that you have to go above and beyond if you want to include every person in your organization, and that it will benefit you in the end if you do so.

Understand the Value Women Bring to the Field

From Ada Lovelace giving birth to computer programming to Lise Meitner articulating the concept of nuclear fission, women have been adding value to STEM if not revolutionizing them for over 100 years. Much like people of all genders, creeds, backgrounds, and cultures, women bring something much different to the table of men in blue suits. Today, women like Ursula Burns of Xerox and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! Are leading the way for women in STEM, and their mammoth organizations are realizing the benefits. Celebrate our differences! Yay!

Hire us because you want to, not because you have to

Forgive me, as it sounds like a commercial tagline, but it is the truth. After you have understood the value that women bring to STEM and you are ready to bring women on board, do just that. Always be genuine, and make us feel wanted and needed. There are times when I have felt out of place as the only female security intern at an organization, and that I was really only there because they needed to fill a quota. When you hire women because you want to, they will quickly find their niche in the organization and do better work. Those diversity groups your company has mean nothing if you just meet for coffee once every quarter.

Make us feel accountable, important, and responsible

This may be just a millennial thing, but I want to feel that what I am doing is meaningful. Do not get me wrong, it is normal that all professionals must do some things they do not want to do for the greater benefit of the organization, but we all need something more. Tack a great responsibility on women, make them feel that their input is make-or-break for the organization, and make them feel personably accountable. While an unhealthy amount of pressure placed on one person can be unfeasible, we must hand the reigns over to women as decision makers. When women are given this great obligation, there is more buy-in and that ultimate sense of belonging.

This piece is for business student who is missing something from his “world-changing” startup (gee, I wonder). This piece if for the middle-aged middle-manager. I will not simply beg and plead for change, but I will fight for it. This is no complaint or manifesto, but simply my two-cents. As an aspiring technology professional, I hate to see young women scared off by The Sacred Brotherhood of STEM. What is de jure in universities, startups, and corporations alike is not always what we see. If thought-leaders in STEM can really drill this attitude into their listeners, we won’t have to see another headline about women in STEM for quite some time. *Sigh of relief*

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