Why Job Fit Matters: How to Win (Work) Friends & Influence People

What’s the most important hiring consideration for an employer? When it comes to a job candidate who otherwise possesses the necessary skills, it’s virtually guaranteed to be one thing…

Fit: How well he or she will get along with the rest of the team. In fact, it’s deemed so important that hiring managers will overlook a lack of qualifications if they feel the fit is right.

These findings pair nicely with research by Professors Casciaro and Lobo highlighted in the Harvard Business Review. They found that – regardless of hiring managers’ claims that they hire for competence over likability – people prefer to work with “lovable fools” vs. “competent jerks.”

This is evident in a quote (from the Businessweek article above) by Mercedes Douglas, the former head of recruiting at Kikin: “I hired someone as a manager, and it created a lot of tension because he didn’t fit in. People tried to alienate him because they weren’t interested in him as a friend.”

AverageDayIt turns out that landing a job is the opposite of reality tv shows: You are here to make friends. But when the average employed American spends approximately 4x longer with their co-workers than anyone else in their lives, who can blame them for wanting to work with people they actually like.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the research on fit and whether it really makes a difference or not.

Fit can be defined in a variety of ways. A 2005 meta-analysis on fit by Professor Kristof-Brown and her colleagues summarized 172 studies. They defined fit as “the compatibility between an individual and a work environment that occurs when their characteristics are well matched.”

And what are these characteristics that fit is based on? They include values, skills, needs, personality traits, goals, and attitudes.

Fit can be subdivided in these main categories:

1. Person-organization fit: the compatibility between a person’s values and the organization’s culture or values.

2. Person-team fit: the interpersonal compatibility between a person and their work team.

3. Person-supervisor fit: the interpersonal compatibility between a person’s personality and their supervisor’s personality.

4. Person-job fit: the compatibility between a person’s abilities and needs and the demands and features of a job.

Phew. That’s a lot to consider when you’re determining the right fit. But what does this actually mean for employees?

In addition to the higher likelihood of getting hired, Kristof-Brown et al.’s research found employees who perceived themselves as fitting in well with their organizations were:

1) Happier with their coworkers

2) More trusting of their supervisors

3) Less stressed and less disengaged at work

A pretty compelling case for why fit matters for employees.

So what’s the impact of fit on employers? Stay tuned for Part II in this “Why Fit Matters” series to find out.

This is Part I of a four-part series on “Why Job Fit Matters.”

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Ji-A Min

Ji-A Min

Head Data Scientist at Ideal
Ji-A Min is the Head Data Scientist at Ideal. With a Master’s in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Ji-A promotes best practices in data-based recruitment. She writes about research and trends in talent acquisition, recruitment tech, and people analytics.
Ji-A Min