As a college sophomore I needed money and got a job with campus security. The duties included policing the stadium at football games, ensuring students didn’t storm the field at the end of games, searching students for alcohol at the stadium entrance, etc. I was also security for the campus pub. I checked IDs, and at least a few times a night had to escort people out who were overly intoxicated… and then there was the odd fight. You get the drift. Alcohol makes 19 – 23-year-old kids do stupid things! I lasted three months in the job. Looking back, I recollect being frustrated by having to consistently tell belligerent people, “NO! You can’t break the rules.” I suppose that says something about my personality and willingness to overcome some of the inherent challenges of the role. Had there been a real vetting process, I’m not sure I would’ve been seen as a “fit,” even though I had some of the superficial qualities for security personnel (I’m pretty tall).

So what is “fit”?

The literature describes “fit” as a match between an individual’s attributes (e.g., experience, attitudes, values, personal characteristics, work preferences, knowledge, skills, and abilities) and the characteristics and demands of a job and organization. So there are two types of “fit”… job-fit and organizational-fit. Job-fit is the match between a person and a job’s requirements. Organizational-fit is the match between a person and the culture and values of the organization (“the way they do things”). For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll focus on the former.

Why is job-fit important for organizations?

There are several reasons why organizations should value job-fit:

Predicts employee ability to manage job demands/challenges. People who are a good “fit” are more likely to manage the demands and challenges of the job and are less likely to voluntarily and involuntarily leave the organization. Think about jobs that typically have relatively high turnover rates. A major factor has to do with the nature of the work. Call centers, for example, are known to have double digit turnover rates. Most of these roles require employees to resolve less than positive customer experiences. They also can be highly structured, repetitive, fast paced, and require adherence to many different policies, procedures, and performance metrics. Employees with low tolerance for these challenges are likely to quit or fail.

Increases employee commitment and engagement. Employees who are a good “fit” for the job will have a greater willingness and commitment to do what is necessary and will likely exert discretionary effort (engagement) to execute their roles. Employee engagement is a critical measure of effectiveness as it is closely linked to many organizational outcomes. Engaged employees are more productive, engage in fewer counter-productive behaviors, make fewer mistakes, are involved in fewer workplace accidents, and typically stay longer.

Lowers attrition due to undesirable behaviors. When candidates are the right “fit” they are not only more likely to stay longer, but less likely to turnover due to performance issues and other undesirable behaviors. Employment Technologies’ research with clients experiencing high attrition rates demonstrates that job candidates with relatively lower scores (poor job-fit/higher risk for turnover) on their assessments, are more likely to:

  • not show up on their first day (or call to say they were not showing up)
  • be terminated for poor job performance and attendance
  • have issues on their employee background checks

Reduces costs associated with turnover. Ask any HR leader and they will tell you turnover is very expensive! Especially in a low unemployment economy, talent is hard to find and hard to replace. A potential call center client explained that they need to assess and interview 10 candidates for every open position (they have 20 – 30 open positions in their busiest season) partly so they can select the best candidates, but also to ensure they have a potential pool of backup candidates to replace people who turnover within the first four weeks.

I can only imagine the daily frustration in their HR department… having to recruit, select, train and develop people you know have a high probability of leaving. Research indicates that if you add all these costs together it can be as much as 2 – 6 times the salary of the employee. Although somewhat more difficult to quantify in monetary terms, organizations also suffer negative consequences in terms of lost productivity and the lower morale level of remaining employees.

Why is job-fit important for employees?

We often think of the negative impact of attrition on organizations, but there can also be a significant psychological and financial impact on individual employees when there is a “poor fit.” If I think about my time working in campus security, I increasingly became frustrated and stressed with having to deal with other people’s negative behaviors. When there is a mismatch between job demands and the individual’s experience, personality, work preferences, skills and abilities, the likelihood of work stress, job dissatisfaction, and disengagement significantly increases.

When an involuntary separation occurs due to the inability to meet the job demands, most employees go through a period of mourning and low self-esteem. In addition, the loss of income and the stress of having to find a new job all contribute negatively to employees’ well-being.

Job-fit, therefore, is a critical component to ensuring employee engagement, job satisfaction, lower stress, and financial security. It’s sometimes better to be rejected from a job for which you don’t “check the right boxes” than to take a job in which you struggle to perform the role, and/or become disengaged and dissatisfied.


Check out the next blog in our series on job-fit where we discuss 7 best practices for effectively screening job candidates.