Probing the Mind of an Interviewer

Topic: Assessment, Interviewing
Publication: Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology
Article: Fit perceptions in the employment interview: The role of similarity, liking, and expectations.
Blogger: Benjamin Granger

To better understand how interviewers make hiring decisions, Garcia, Posthuma, and Colella (2008) present a study published in a recent issue of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. Although it is well-known that hiring decisions are based on how well applicants fit in with the job (Person-Job fit) and within the organization as a whole (Person-Organization fit), the authors were interested in investigating several factors that may influence these fit perceptions.

Garcia et al. (2008) found that fit perceptions are influenced by how similar applicants are perceived to be by the interviewer (perceived similarity). And perceived similarity also affects how much interviewers like job applicants and how well applicants are expected to perform on the job.  After all, since I get the job done right, then someone similar to me will too, right?!

Although this may seem potentially problematic upon first glance, the extent to which interviewers
liked job applicants was not directly related to fit perceptions, so it seems that interviewers will not necessarily be biased in favor of applicants they like.  However, performance expectations were related to fit perceptions, which is good since ideally, applicants expected to perform well should fit the job and the organization.  (Let’s hope anyway.)

But there is still a major potential problem here!  What if the perceived similarity of the applicants to interviewers is based on demographic information (i.e., race, sex, age)? This is a VERY SERIOUS issue since hiring practices based on these demographics is both legally and ethically troublesome.  (Better get a good lawyer!)

As it turns out, Garcia et al. (2008) found that actual similarity (including demographic information)
does not relate to perceived similarity (Whew!). Thus the authors concluded that judgments of applicant fit within the job and organization are influenced by perceived similarity, but not actual similarity, and that interviewers base their judgments of fit primarily on performance expectations and not on how
much they like the candidate.

Garcia, M.F., Posthuma, R.A., and Colella, A. (2008). Fit perceptions in the employmentinterview: The role of
similarity, liking, and expectations. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81, 173-189.