The Revolutionary Collaborative Interviewing Process
By Micah Lorenc
Traditional thinking and long-held practices around employment interviewing put all of the power in the hands of the hiring organization. While good mentors and career coaches will remind job candidates that the candidate is also interviewing the employer, there is still an underlying sense of anxiety and powerlessness. But what if job seekers felt more collaborative instead of competitive with the employer? Can the balance of power be brought back into equilibrium?
Almost 20 years ago, researchers at the University of Iowa (Kristof-Brown et al., 2005) identified four components of “fit” between a candidate and a hiring organization. Applying that research, the following questions may be asked throughout the interview process to assess all four components of fit:
- Person-Job Fit: Does this individual have the skills, knowledge, and experience to successfully meet the requirements of the job?
- Person-Organization Fit: Is the working environment of the organization conducive to the individual being able to perform at their best?
- Person-Group Fit: Is there interpersonal compatibility between the individual and the members of the team with whom they will work on a daily basis?
- Person-Supervisor: Is there congruence in the personality and goals between the individual and their supervisor?
The concept of “culture fit” has been used for decades without any consistent definition of what it really means. For our purposes, however, when we talk about “culture fit,” we are referring to these four components.
Consider how these components of fit are incorporated into the current hiring experience. Almost exclusively, the focus is on Person-Job Fit, using the application, resume, and interviewing process to determine whether a candidate has the skills, knowledge, and experience to do the job. The other components of fit are practically unaccounted for, indicating that the hiring process is only about what the candidate can offer the employer, not the other way around. The onus is on the candidate to convince the employer to hire them. This contributes to an “us against them” mentality that makes interviews feel like a negotiation, where one side has most of the power. In this type of negotiation, the employers are missing out on a powerful source of decision-making intelligence: the candidate.
The current competitive interviewing experience incentivizes both parties to withhold information to get what they believe they want. This may lead to a short-term win for the job seeker in the form of landing a new role quickly, but then lead to being on the search again for something better over the long-term. In Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report (Gallup, 2023), they identified that only 23% of employees surveyed reported feeling engaged in their work. Engagement is an indicator of job satisfaction, and disengagement is a leading indicator of turnover. The remaining 77% of employees from that survey would likely be engaged if employers and candidates did a better job of evaluating fit during the hiring process using collaborative interviewing.
Imagine an interaction where the candidate and interviewer are working together to determine whether the employment arrangement will work for both employee and employer.
- What would it be like if both sides shared openly?
- What if both parties truly believed that by working together they could identify whether the organization and the candidate are a good fit?
- What if companies shared what is specifically required to do the work, instead of generic job descriptions that do not paint an accurate picture (person-job fit)?
- What if companies shared what it is like to work in their environment, and candidates shared about the type of environment they can be at their best (person-organization fit)?
- What if candidates were encouraged to meet the team they would be joining (person-group fit)?
- What if the interview process created more natural and practical settings for candidates to meet their potential supervisor outside of the formal interview (person-supervisor fit)?
Career professionals can start making a difference by working with job seekers who are preparing for interviews by doing three things.
1. Coach job seekers through this shift in perspective so they are mentally prepared to take a collaborative approach to their interview. It is not enough to remind them that they are interviewing the employer too. Help them feel this truth - that both the employer and the candidate benefit when they collaborate on exploring the indicators of fit. Start by asking job seekers questions that help them reframe around a new belief about interviewing:
- Why is it important that you and a potential employer are on the same page about whether you’re a good fit for their organization?
- What does it look like to partner with a potential employer on the decision to hire you?
- How will you prepare for an interview to ensure you have a partnership mindset?
2. Help job seekers feel more at peace with the idea of passing on a job opportunity that will not allow them to be at their best. It is tempting to take the first job offer that comes along especially when out of work. However, taking a job that is not good for the worker or the company could result in low performance, low job satisfaction, and eventually lead to another job search. Help the job seeker feel the significance of what is at stake with questions like:
- What would you be giving up by taking a job that isn’t a good fit over the long-term?
- What is it worth to you to wait for the right job with the right employer?
- What would you need to feel at peace about saying “no” to a job offer that doesn’t feel like a good fit?
3. Work with job seekers to come prepared to an interview with questions for their potential employer that give them more insight into the four components of fit. Most companies are not going to have an approach to evaluate for fit in an interview. However, candidates typically have an opportunity to ask questions of their interviewer. Career professionals can help them be better prepared to address fit during the interview by helping develop questions for their interviewer such as:
- How much freedom could I expect when it comes to the way I do my work, even if it's different from my peers?
- How do you think I would be received by my peers if I am ___________ (e.g. more reserved versus extroverted)?
- How would it affect you as my supervisor if my tendency is to be ____________ (e.g. detail-oriented versus a big-picture thinker)?
Changing from Negotiation to Collaboration
By taking the job interviewing conversation into their own hands, candidates can avoid jobs where they feel unfulfilled. With the collaborative perspective and these questions at the ready, career professionals can start making a change in how people perceive and approach the interview process, one coaching conversation at a time.
Gallup, Inc. (2023, June 13). State of the global workplace: 2023 report. Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/506879/state-global-workplace-2023-report.aspx
Kristof-Brown, A. L., Zimmerman, R. D., & Johnson, E. C. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit. Personnel Psychology, 58(2), 281–342. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6570.2005.00672.x
Micah Lorenc is the owner of Tailored Consulting - a company that specializes in leadership and team development training, coaching, and consulting. Micah is an ICF Certified Coach, a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrengths Coach, and an expert facilitator. He has years of experience facilitating and coaching at a Fortune 100 company, and he is an engaging workshop and keynote presenter. In January 2023, Tailored Consulting launched CultureLab, a hiring fit interview guide that helps both candidates and companies determine whether a candidate is likely to thrive in the working environment of the hiring company (Person-Organization Fit). He can be reached at
CultureLab Website: https://culturelab.app