How to Decide if a Job is a Good Fit

Tips for Making Sure a Job is a Match

business people with puzzle
JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

When you are searching for a job, it’s important to consider more than just the job itself. The job, of course, is important, but it’s a good idea to review more than just the paycheck and the job responsibilities. It doesn’t matter how good a job it is if you’re not going to be happy doing it.

Your goal should be to secure a position which fits nicely with who you are as a person and with your lifestyle.

When the job is as close to a perfect match as it can be, it will mesh with both your personal and professional aspirations.

How to Decide if a Job is a Good Fit

How can you tell whether the job is a good enough match to apply for and, even more importantly, how do you know if you should accept an offer for a job? Although there are never any ironclad guarantees, following a thoughtful process can increase your chances of making a sound decision.  

Make a List of What You Want in a Job

An important first step is to develop a list of what you are looking for in a job. Everyone's profile for a desired job will differ, but here are some factors to consider as you compile your list:

Job Content - Your satisfaction with a job will be determined in large part by how stimulating the daily tasks are for you. Even the highest paying or most prestigious job can get old quickly if you don't enjoy the work.

Ask yourself if the tasks involved with the job will engage the skills you enjoy utilizing so you will be energized by the work and more likely to succeed in the position. Make a list of your most important skills and circle the ones which you have most enjoyed applying to past jobs, volunteer work, activities and academic projects.

As you read the job description and discuss the position through the interview process, gauge how well the job matches up with the list of skills you prefer using. 

Salary - Even what sounds like the best job can fall short if you are unhappy with your level of compensation. Be aware of the level of income and benefits which you need, want and deserve. Research salary averages for your field and location so you know the going rate. Finding out that you are underpaid compared to your peers after you start work can be demoralizing.  

The Boss - Think about the ideal manager for you and carefully evaluate the person with whom you would be working in a target position. Consider factors such as whether you prefer a hands-on boss or one who will leave you to work very independently. Ask prospective colleagues to describe the management style of your possible supervisor and look for both verbal and non-verbal cues about how the individual's personality would blend with yours. Here’s how to find the right boss.

Opportunity for Advancement - If you are interested in moving up within your field, then you will want to determine how and when you could be promoted at your target employer and what those positions might be like.

Investigate the average salary increases for promotions. 

Location - For many individuals, where the job is located can be of great importance. Proximity to the arts, culture, recreational activities, mountains, the ocean, family, friends, and good schools can all be factors. The length and nature of one's commute can influence how palatable a job will be as well. 

Mission of the Organization - Make sure that you can embrace the goals of the prospective employer or at the very least are not alienated by the products and services supplied or the way business is conducted. For example, a person whose primary values center on advancing the public good will probably not be happy working for a company that produces tobacco products regardless of how well the job and salary fits them otherwise. 

Culture of the Organization - For many workers, an important component of how they feel about their job is how well the culture of the employer blends with their values and lifestyle.

How formal or informal is the dress code? Does the organization value innovation? Do decisions flow from top management down, or is the process more democratic? Is work/life balance encouraged or are employees expected to work 60 hours per week? Is the organization concerned about environmental issues? Do they encourage employees to perform community service?

Job Security - Factors such as whether an employer is in a growing or declining industry, whether their market share is increasing or decreasing, and the quality of their executive leadership can impact the chances that you might be laid off in the near future. 

Prestige - If you are concerned about how others view you, the status of an employer and a particular job might influence your decision. For example, how would feel about working as a manager for Walmart versus for Macy's?

Analyze the Job and the Employer

Once you have selected your criteria you will have two options for determining how well a job fits your specifications based on your decision-making style. If you are an intuitive type, you might simply review what you know about the position and reflect on how well you feel it meets your needs. Your gut is almost always right, so listen to it if it's saying take the job - or don't take the job.

If you are more analytically or quantitatively oriented, you can assign a weight to each factor in your criteria on a scale of 10 based on how important that element is to you.  Then rate on a scale of 10 how much of each factor the job you are considering offers you.  

For example, if job content has an importance of 10 to you and a particular job offers a level of 8 in job content, then you would assign a total of 80 points for that factor.  If salary wasn't as important - 8 out of 10 for example, but the compensation for the job is at a level of 6, then you would had 48 points for salary.

You can then add up the score for each of your factors and derive a total score. If you think that score is close enough to the maximum possible score, and the job feels right to you, then it is probably a good fit. 

In either case, you will want to identify deal breakers or factors which would make any position inappropriate. For example, the commute might be too far, the salary is too low, the boss isn’t someone you would want to work for, or the hours wouldn't fit in with your family responsibilities. 

Don’t be Afraid to Say No (Thank You)

I once turned down a job after repeated offers of more money, because the money wasn’t enough to overcome what I saw as negatives when evaluating the job. I didn’t want to work in the location where the job was or in the work environment that was established by the company. My gut told me "no," and it was worth listening to. I got an offer for a better job shortly after I declined the one which wasn’t a good fit.

If you have any hesitation about saying yes, or if the positives don’t outweigh the negatives, think twice before applying. Definitely think twice before accepting a job offer. It’s much harder to leave a job that isn’t working out than it is to turn it down.

When to Say No

You don’t have to wait until you’re offered a job to turn it down. If you have reconsidered after you have applied, it’s acceptable to withdraw from consideration for the job. You can do that at any point in the hiring process. In fact, even though you may have been a top candidate, the employer will be glad you withdrew before they invested more time and energy in your candidacy. Hiring managers are also looking for the best candidate fit.

If you already have an offer, here's how to politely decline it.

Related Articles: How to Withdraw from Consideration for a Job | How to Evaluate a Job Offer | When to Turn Down a Job Offer | How to Negotiate a Start Date for a New Job