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Should your resume list your top three values, how you prefer to be led and what kind of workplaces turn you off?

That seems counter-productive, likely to make you seem self-centred and cost you the job. If you are simply trying to grab any position you can, it would not be wise. But if you’re looking for the right fit in a job, maybe it should be front and centre in your job search.

When organizational psychologist André Martin interviewed a workplace cross-section from newbies to CEOs, he found such fit elusive – hard to find and retain over time. Yet, he feels it’s essential. “When right fit is there, the days feel easy, the work is more meaningful and our connection to our company grows exponentially,” he writes in Wrong Fit, Right Fit.

It’s hard to find because employer recruiting branding makes it almost impossible to assess how the company works day-to-day amid the fluff. And if you pick the wrong place and try to fit in, you will be trying to become something you aren’t.

He recommends starting the process of finding the right fit by grappling with these eight factors:

  • Examine your most consistently held values: Find your top 10 values (there are values lists on the internet to help), rank them and then check with friends about whether the five on top sound like you. Try to align choices you make in future with those values.
  • What is the life you are trying to lead? Fast forward 20 years and consider where you want to be living, how you’ll be spending free time, what you might be doing as your “career” – however that might be interpreted then – and what kind of legacy you will have left.
  • What is your superpower and shadow sides? Your superpower is what you naturally do better than most people – often it is where your significant accomplishments arise. But under stress we can overuse those strengths to our detriment or other unhealthy behaviours can emerge. Knowing your strengths and shadow sides can help you decide if the company and job are right.
  • Are you company, craft or cause? You need to know whether you are driven by your commitment to a company; or to what you are good at doing, which can be termed your craft; or to furthering some great aim, a cause. Think of the jobs you held and consider what drew you to the work and why you left. What is your primary motivator today?
  • Who brings out the best in you? Reflect on the three best managers or team leaders you have worked with and what their values and leadership style were. How did they rally the team? How did they recognize your contributions? How were they as a person – how did they walk through life?
  • If you started a company, how would you want it to feel to work there? Think about your ideal company – its values, purpose, office design, how it carries out work and how people socialize.
  • What matters most to you right now? Think of where you are right now in these key aspects of your life: Financial security, family, friends and community, physical and emotional health, spiritually, personal passions and hobbies. Where do you want to be in 18 months time?
  • What is your talent story? Given all those reflections, craft a meaningful descriptor. “The story should be both pithy and poetic. It should be something you could use as the summary at the top of your CV or in an interview when asked to ‘tell me a little something about yourself,’” he notes.

Now you are armed for the job search, to become interviewer as well as interviewee. Ask questions such as who is the kind of person who succeeds here, what is the company’s relationship to time and how does the leader get productivity out of their team? Determine if it is the right fit, rather than merely a company that might employ you.

Quick hits:

  • Holding your tongue rather than saying something nasty or spiteful will do much more for your relationships than a good word or deed, observe authors John Tierney and Roy Baumeister in The Power of Bad.
  • Communications coach John Millen encourages using more images in your presentations as it keeps attention on you because the audience will spend less time reading what’s on your slides. It also speeds understanding and makes your message more memorable.
  • Executive Julie Zhuo says when she was overly eager to advance herself early in her career, a manager gave her this sound advice: Focus foremost on making the company successful, and the rest will follow.
  • You can quickly create an event in Google Calendar by pressing the keyboard shortcut letter “q” says tech writer Ginny Mineo. Rather than manually scrolling through each month to find a time far in the future, you can type the letter “g” and then fill in the date on the search prompt that pops up.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston-based writer specializing in management issues. He, along with Sheelagh Whittaker, former CEO of both EDS Canada and Cancom, are the authors of When Harvey Didn’t Meet Sheelagh: Emails on Leadership.

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