One way organizations can make recruitment more successful is by stressing person-organization fit. Person-organization fit is a term that I-O psychologists use to describe how compatible employees are with the organizations that employ them. If an organization and a specific employee share values or ideas of how work ought to be done, or if they fulfill each other’s work-related needs, then we might say that there is a high degree of person-organization fit. It’s easy to imagine some of the ways that this would be beneficial to the organization, and past research has indeed supported this idea. New research (Swider, Zimmerman, & Barrick, 2015) took a novel approach by measuring how the perception of person-organization fit fluctuates over time, specifically during the recruitment process.
PERSON-ORGANIZATION FIT DURING RECRUITMENT
This study tracked accounting students who were being simultaneously recruited by the “Big 4” accounting firms (KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers), and measured the applicants’ perception of person-organization fit at several stages of the process. The authors wanted to investigate the relationship between the degree of person-organization fit for a certain organization, and whether or not employees actually accepted job offers.
Results showed that job seekers immediately developed a unique sense of potential person-organization fit with each of the companies that were recruiting them. That is to say, job applicants didn’t wait until late in the hiring process to carefully investigate this potential, but instead used the limited information available to them to develop these beliefs. As the recruitment process continued, the differences between competing companies became more pronounced. Some organizations seemed to “fit”, while others did not.
These early perceptions of person-organization fit were also associated with whether an applicant accepted a job from one of the companies. Those applicants who more strongly differentiated between companies, and those applicants whose degree of preference increased as the study went on, were more likely to eventually accept a job offer. Overall, when applicants had increasingly better assessments of person-organization fit with a specific organization, they were more likely to accept an offer from that organization. On the other hand, when the applicant’s assessment of the person-organization fit for a certain company declined over time, the chances of that person accepting a job offer from that company were reduced.
HOW ORGANIZATIONS CAN RECRUIT THE RIGHT WAY
This research highlights the importance of perceived person-organization fit when recruiting job applicants. Opinions about perceived fit with an organization do not seem to be slowly and deliberately formed only when an abundance of organizational information becomes clear. Instead, job applicants establish their views of person-organization fit from the initial stages of the process. Therefore, say the authors, organizations should make extra effort up front to highlight the ways that their organization would be a good fit with potential employees, for example via their website.
Additionally, the authors recommend that organizations find ways to increase the perception of person-organization fit throughout the various recruitment stages, as the research shows that this is important. Finally, the authors recommend that organizations find ways to demonstrate to job applicants that other competing organizations do not provide similarly adequate fit. Separation from the competition is not only done by demonstrating your organization’s strengths, but also by shining a spotlight on the drawbacks of other potentially enticing options.