How Prospective Employees Judge Fit With An Organization

Topic(s): assessment, interviewing, selection
Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment
Article: How Interviewees Consider Content and Context Cues to Person–Organization Fit
Authors: E. J. Kutcher, J. D. Bragger, and J. L. Masco
Reviewed by: Megan Leasher

When you interview for a job, you make choices using the relatively small amount of information to which you have access. As a candidate, not yet on the job, your view of the organization and its work culture is limited. In a way, you are forced to judge a book by its cover, and maybe also by the sneak peak of pages the company gives you access to during the selection process. This research focused on how we make those judgments.

Person-organization (PO) fit is the match between a prospective employee’s personal characteristics and the organization’s cultural characteristics. When candidates feel that their personality and goals are a strong fit with an organization, they are more likely to continue pursuing the organization. When an employer senses strong fit between a candidate and the organization, that candidate is more likely to receive a job offer.

Participants in this study went through a series of scenarios to determine what judgments affect our sense of a good fit. The researchers found that both interviewer behavior and the interview process itself contributed strongly to candidates’ perceptions regarding fit, whereas the actual questions the interviewer asked did not.

In other words, it is not what interviewers say; it’s what they do. Interviewers are the ambassadors of their organization’s cultural values, whether they want to be or not. They are the book cover, and candidates will judge their potential fit within the organization based the image the interviewers give them. A candidate’s perception of being well matched can make the difference between accepting and declining a job offer. It would be well to make that presentation both positive and accurate.

There are tons of practical applications for these findings, but I want to focus on one the article does not address; the cost associated with a bad fit. Think about it. If an interviewer misrepresents the culture and values of the company, the candidate will likely misread their fit. This can lead to a candidate accepting an offer from a company for which they believe they are a match, only to find out later that the book didn’t match its cover. Turnover occurs. This is an expensive mistake for all parties; organizations have to begin the recruiting process again, selecting a new candidate, while productivity suffers from an open position. Candidates must start job searching again, leading to additional gaps in paychecks and benefits coverage. No one is happy.

Your book cover should always accurately represent the contents. Interviewers are brand ambassadors and should be selected with precision.