Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Employers often more interested in hiring potential friends than the very best candidates

Date:
November 29, 2012
Source:
American Sociological Association (ASA)
Summary:
Employers are often more focused on hiring someone they would like to hang out with than they are on finding the person who can best do the job, suggests a new study.

Employers are often more focused on hiring someone they would like to hang out with than they are on finding the person who can best do the job, suggests a new study.
Credit: Kzenon / Fotolia

Employers are often more focused on hiring someone they would like to hang out with than they are on finding the person who can best do the job, suggests a study in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.

Related Articles


"Of course, employers are looking for people who have the baseline of skills to effectively do the job," said study author Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University. "But, beyond that, employers really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend and maybe even their romantic partner. As a result, employers don't necessarily hire the most skilled candidates."

Titled, "Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms," the study is based on 120 interviews with professionals involved in undergraduate and graduate hiring in elite U.S. investment banks, law firms, and management consulting firms as well as participant observation of a recruiting department. Rivera conducted the interviews -- 40 per industry -- from 2006 through 2008 and the fieldwork within the recruiting department of an elite professional service firm over nine months in 2006 and 2007.

According to the study, which Rivera said is the first systematic, empirical investigation of whether shared culture between employers and job candidates matters in hiring, evaluators at firms often valued their personal feelings of comfort, validation, and excitement over indentifying candidates with superior cognitive or technical skills. In fact, more than half of the evaluators in the study ranked cultural fit -- the perceived similarity to a firm's existing employee base in leisure pursuits, background, and self-presentation -- as the most important criterion at the job interview stage.

"It is important to note that this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people," Rivera said. "But, my findings demonstrate that -- in many respects -- employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers. When you look at the decision to date or marry someone what you think about is commonalities. Do you have a similar level of education? Did you go to a similar caliber school? Do you enjoy similar activities? Are you excited to talk to each other? Do you feel the spark? These types of things are salient at least to the employers I've studied."

The study also found that the cultural similarities valued at elite professional service firms have important socioeconomic dimensions. "Evaluators are predominately white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle or upper class men and women who tend to have more stereotypically masculine leisure pursuits and favor extracurricular activities associated with people of their background," Rivera said. "Given that less affluent students are more likely to believe that achievement in the classroom rather than on the field or in the concert hall matters most for future success and focus their energies accordingly, the types of cultural similarities valued in elite firms' hiring processes has the potential to create inequalities in access to elite jobs based on parental socioeconomic status."

As for whether her findings about the importance of cultural fit in hiring practices at elite professional service firms are generalizable across other types of occupations, Rivera said they likely are to some extent. "I think that the process is generalizable, but I think the degree to which cultural similarity matters in the decision to hire varies across occupations depending on their technical demands, their degree of social demands, and how structured interviews are," Rivera said. "So, for example, if you were hiring a neurosurgeon, I think there would be more of an emphasis on performance than cultural fit."

In addition, Rivera said the types of cultural similarities employers value may not be the same for all occupations. "Cultivating leisure time is a hallmark of the upper-middle and upper classes, and it's really important as a class marker and as a source of identity," she said. "You may see different types of cultural similarities that matter in occupations that are less elite."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Sociological Association (ASA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. A. Rivera. Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms. American Sociological Review, 2012; 77 (6): 999 DOI: 10.1177/0003122412463213

Cite This Page:

American Sociological Association (ASA). "Employers often more interested in hiring potential friends than the very best candidates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129093008.htm>.
American Sociological Association (ASA). (2012, November 29). Employers often more interested in hiring potential friends than the very best candidates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129093008.htm
American Sociological Association (ASA). "Employers often more interested in hiring potential friends than the very best candidates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129093008.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Los Angeles Police To Receive 7,000 Body Cameras

Los Angeles Police To Receive 7,000 Body Cameras

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the cameras will be distributed starting Jan. 1. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

Indictments in West Virginia Chemical Spill Case

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A grand jury indicted four former executives of Freedom Industries, the company at the center of the Jan. 9, 2014 chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia. The spill contaminated the Elk River and the water supply of 300,000 people. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins