What Attracts Job Candidates to an Organization?

What attracts a potential employee to a specific organization – salary, benefits, promotion opportunities? Yes, in part, but attraction also stems from something deeper – an employee’s own self-image. Self-image consists primarily of two parts: the actual self (or the compilation of traits and attributes that an individual believes he or she possesses) and the ideal self (or the collection of traits and attributes that an individual would like to acquire).


According to image congruity theory, customers are likely to purchase products that reflect both their actual self-image as well as their ideal self-image. Expanding this theory, individuals on the job hunt should favor organizations that emphasize both actual and ideal self-image qualities of the candidate. But, these same candidates should be most attracted to organizations that emphasize their ideal self-image qualities, because this should inflate self-esteem by making the candidate feel closer to achieving his or her ideal self-image.


Indeed, the results of this study suggest that both of these factors (actual and ideal self-image congruence) are important when examining job seeker attraction to an employing company. Interestingly, however, organizations that more closely matched the job seeker’s actual self-image were linked to higher attraction levels than organizations more closely linked with the candidate’s ideal self-image. This suggests that individuals on the job hunt may feel more comfortable with organizations that fit with the candidate’s current attributes. So employing organizations that wish to hire a particular candidate should place emphasis on the fit between the candidate’s qualities and strengths and the organization’s goals and vision.  


Nolan, P. K. & Harold, C. M. (2010). Fit with what? The influence of multiple self-concept images on organizational attraction. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83, 645-662.