Person-job fit: is it based on occupational interest?

August 23, 2018 Richard Justenhoven

Career development

The importance of value-fit

When we choose our career, we like to think we’re mapping out a path which we enjoy, in which we are interested and for which we have a set of skills or characteristics that will help us to succeed at the role. We like to think that there is a good person-job fit between us and our career. Indeed, much of the vocational and career guidance we may get is based on the idea that those doing a similar role, share the same interests.

A new study highlights, however, that for many jobs, this isn’t the case.

The study
The research team led by Nye used the Strong Interest Inventory (SII) with a sample of 67,000 people across 211 jobs. All those taken part reported themselves as being reasonably satisfied in their jobs and had been working in the role for more than three years. It meant that the study was not looking at those who disliked their jobs. The SII measures occupational interests in six areas: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.

The study found that:

  • For some job roles, there was a strong tendency for incumbents to share the same main interest. For example, 82% of fine artists, auto mechanics and carpenters do indeed share the same focus and there seems to be a good person-good fit.
  • But people in other occupations showed much less similarity in interests. In nearly half of the occupations considered show only a small majority of people having the same occupational interest.

A second study was carried out by the team to make sure that the variability in results was not because that the first study focused only on the top, primary interest. The team looked at different occupational samples and considered the top three interests and the alignment with the top three interests which are conventionally associated with the job role. They found that over half the jobs showed better than random alignment between person interests and the role. But 45 percent had the same or less fit.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the assumption that we are drawn to jobs because of our interests and the things we like to do. Of course, some job seekers are looking not for a career that is of interest, but one that offers the security, flexibility, reward, status etc. But perhaps those offering careers advice may like to take note of this research into person-job fit.

In our experience a good person-job fit is not necessarily about interest per se in the role but more about fit with the values, behaviours, skills and competencies that are expected from the job and the organisation. And this is where the value of talent assessment is during the hiring process.

Reference:
Nye, C.D., Jessamyn, G. P & Rounds, J. (2018) Do ornithologists flock together? Examining the homogeneity of interests in occupations Journal of Vocational Behaviour. Volume 107, August 2018,

About the Author

Richard Justenhoven

Richard Justenhoven is the product development director within Aon's Assessment Solutions. A leading organizational psychologist, Richard is an acknowledged expert in the design, implementation and evaluation of online assessments and a sought after speaker about such topics.

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