Describe The role of personality and organizational images in the recruiting process Organizational Behavior and Human Performance

Describe The role of personality and organizational images in the recruiting process Organizational Behavior and Human Performance

Describe The role of personality and organizational images in the recruiting process Organizational Behavior and Human Performance

Psychological Reports, 1988, 62, 167-173. © Psychological Reports 1988



Summary.—The purpose of the research was to test the hypothesis that individuals who score high on a particular personality characteristic are more likely to be attracted to an organization reflective of that characteristic than individuals who are low on that characteristic. Three empirical studies using a total sample of 385 advanced management candidates tested the hypothesis. Each study focused on one particular personality characteristic: Dominance, Nurturance, or Autonomy, as measured or perceived from the individual and the organizational perspective. In all three studies there was a significant rela­ tionship between a person-environment fit and organizational attractiveness. Implications for organizational and individual outcomes and suggestions for research are discussed.

Why are people attracted to an organization? Why do people choose to work for a particular organization? Despite the importance of these questions, little research has been done in this area. Rather, as noted by Schneider ( 1972, 1985), the bulk of research has focused on the selection process. How do we select the best person from among the candidates in the applicant pool? Much less research emphasis has been placed on examining why people are attracted to or choose to apply to a particular organization.

The theories of person-environment fit (Holland, 1973, 1985) that have guided vocational choice research are applicable to research on organizational attraction and choice. Vroom (1966), for example, in the process of selecting an organization in which to work, found that a match or fit between 49 grad­ uare students’ individual goals and the beliefs that an organization could provide goal fulfillment was related to organizational attractiveness. The job goals were factors such as salary and opportunity for advancement.

Hall (1976) extended the person-environment fit to include individual needs and personality variables, as well as the more objective factors measured by Vroom. According to Hall, individuals with high achievement needs may choose aggressive achievement-oriented organizations. Power-oriented people may choose influential, prestigious organizations, and affiliative people may choose warm, friendly organizations.

Tom ( 1971 ) and Burke and Deszca ( 1982 ) tested the personality-environ­ ment congruency hypothesis. Tom assessed the personalities of 100 students

Requests for reprints should be sent to Virginia E. Schein, Department of Management, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA 17325. A major portion of this research was con­ ducted at Baruch College. City University of New York, where the first author was Asso­ ciate Professor of Psychology and the second an advanced doctoral candidate.




on a number of dimensions and then asked them to describe the personality of one organization in which they would prefer to work and one in which they least prefer to work. As predicted, the better the match between the indivi­ dual’s personality and the described personality of the organization, the more highly the organization was preferred. Similarly, Burke and Deszca found that individuals high on Type A behavior (competitive, impatient, active) had a preference for organizational climates reflecting similar Type A characteristics.

These two research studies suggest that an organization’s image or per­ sonality may have an impact on the types of people who are attracted to or choose to apply to a particular organization for employment. The purpose of this research was to examine the empirical link between organizational attrac­ tion and perceived personality environment fit by examining the following hy­ pothesis: Individuals who score high on a particular personality characteristic are more likely to be attracted to an organization reflective of that personality characteristic than individuals who score low.


Design The research design encompassed three separate empirical studies de­

signed to test the major hypothesis. Each study focused on one particular per­ sonality characteristic, as measured or perceived from the individual or organi­ zational perspective. The three characteristics were Dominance, Nurturance, and Autonomy. Subjects

The total sample included 385 advanced management candidates enrolled in one of three US Eastern universities, two in a city and one in a suburban lo­ cation. The median age was 24 yr., 72 % were employed full or part time, and 53% of the subjects were men. In Study I (Dominance) 120 individuals par­ ticipated, 137 people were in Study 2 (Nurturance) and 128 were in Study 3 (Autonomy).

Measurement Instruments Personality.—The Dominance, Nurturance, and Autonomy scales from the

Edwards Personal Preference Schedule were used to measure the relevant per­ sonality characteristics. Each scale consisted of 40 forced-choice paired com­ parison items, controlled for social desirability. Twelve items not measuring the experimental characteristic were randomly selected from the schedule and were included as “dummy” items to minimize subjects’ sensitivity to the test’s purpose. Reliabilities for each scale ranged from .75 to .85.

Organizational image.—Three descriptions of organizations were written to be reflective of one of the three personality characteristics of Dominance,




Nurturance, or Autonomy. All three presented the particular company as suc­ cessful and described its role in the industry or community, the beliefs of the president, the executive style and management attitudes towards work and em­ ployees. The three descriptions were written by the researchers to reflect the personality dimensions outlined by the schedule. They were then circulated among six doctoral students and six faculty for confirmation of the match be­ tween the personality characteristic and the written description. There was 100% agreement as to the match between each organizational description and concomitant personality characteristic. The description of the Amagal Com­ pany, reflective of the Dominant personality characteristic, was as follows:

The Amagal Company has been a leader in its industry for many years. It has tended to dominate the industry in all aspects—technological innovations, sales, production effi­ ciency, etc. The President is self-assured, influential and highly regarded within the company and the industry. The executive style at Amagal reflects the power and influence of the company. The senior executives are also leaders within the industry and the com­ pany. All are successful at influencing others to get things done. To stay on top and to’ remain “number one” are dominant themes at executive meetings.

Organizational attraction.—A six-item Likert-type scale was developed to measure attractiveness to or interest in working for an organization. Scale items include: “I feel I fit in the organization;” “I would feel at home working for an organization like this;” “I would very much like to work for this organiza­ tion;” and “This organization will likely meet my desires and needs.” Based upon the samples in the Dominance, Nurturance, and Autonomy studies the coefficient alphas were .91, -93, and .92, respectively, reflecting high internal consistency. The total of six items were used as the dependent variable.

Procedure in each study the participant was given one of Edwards’s scales and asked

to describe himself. The participant was then presented a written “scenario” asking the reader to assume the role of a graduate who has interviewed for jobs in different companies. In this scenario the individual is asked to assume that it is an excellent job market, with more jobs than people to fill them, that sev­ eral companies have made offers and that all of these jobs are attractive. The major difference among the jobs appears to be the companies.

After reading the full scenario, designed to focus on organizational choice, the participant was then asked to read a description of one of the companies that has made him an offer. In each study the company’s description was re­ flective of the personality characteristic measured by the schedule, i.e., Domi­ nance, Nurturance, or Autonomy. The participant was then instructed to com­ plete the six-item Organizational Attractiveness scale. Each subject completed only one of three personality scales and read only the concomitant organiza­ tional description.




RESULTS The results of all three studies confirmed the hypothesis that individuals

who score high on a particular personality characteristic are more likely to be attracted to an organization reflective of that personality characteristic than are individuals who score low on that personality characteristic. As shown in Table 1, Pearson correlations between the scores on a personality characteristic and the attractiveness to the organization reflecting that characteristic were signifi­ cant for Dominance, Nurturance, and Autonomy. Within each sample, sep­ arate analyses were performed by sex, age, and employment status, but none of these moderators had a significant effect.




Study 1 (N = 120) Dominance 13.9 4.7 Organizational Attractiveness 19-4 5.2 .20*

Study 2 (N = 137) Nurturance 11.7 4.4 Organizational Attractiveness 21.6 4.2 •19t

Study 3 (N = 128) Autonomy 12.3 4.3 Organizational Attractiveness 21.7 4.9 .17*

< .05. tp < 01.

DISCUSSION According to the results of the three studies, individuals are attracted to an

organization based upon a perceived congruency between their own personali­ ties and that of the organization. These outcomes point up the importance of attending to the attraction and choice process as well as the selection process. Schneider (1987) urged industrial/organizational psychologists to take a more serious look at the attraction component in organization development. He noted that: “organizations are functions of the kind of people they contain and fur­ ther, that people there are functions of an attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) cycle” (p. 437). According to Schneider, organizational behavior is better un­ derstood through the person-related variables which when interacting with the environment determine who is attracted to, selected by and remains with the organization than organizational structures, processes and technology. Based upon his extensive review of research in the areas of personality theory, voca­ tional psychology and industrial/organizational psychology, he concluded that “the people make the place” (p. 450).

The results of this study are consistent with Schneider’s ( 1987 ) conceptual




ASA framework. Individuals scoring high on a given characteristic tend also to report attraction to an organization of similar character. This study, how­ ever, has some limitations due to the fact that each sample of subjects was meas­ ured on only one personality dimension and subsequently reported attraction to just one organization. Ideally, the person-environment fit hypothesis should be tested through a fully-crossed design where convergent and discriminant evi­ dence of validity (Campbell & Fiske, 1959) can be determined. In such a de­ sign subjects would be measured on various personal characteristics and then repon their degree of attraction to various organizations. If the congruency hypothesis is correct, a fully-crossed matrix design such as this should yield sig­ nificantly higher diagonal correlations (where people and places are similar) than off-diagonal correlations (where people and places are dissimilar). An even stronger crossed design would incorporate at least one other method (or preferably a total of three methods) of measuring both the person and environ­ ment variables.

The multitrait-multimethod design is ideal as it produces strong evidence of both convergent and discriminant validity. Short of this ideal, however, this research was consistent with the earlier empirical findings of Vroom (1966), Tom (1971), and of Burke and Descza (1982) and also with Schneider’s (1987) conceptual view of organizations’ developmental process. From both an empirical and conceptual perspective there is growing evidence that indi­ viduals and their organizations will benefit from an understanding of the role of the person-environment fit in organizational development.

Evidence for a positive impact of a person-environment congruency on performance and satisfaction outcomes can be found in the experimental psy­ chology literature (Pervin, 1968). More directly, Downey, Hellriegel, and Slocum (1975), using 92 managers found that congruence between personality dimensions of sociability and self-confidence and concomitant organizational climate dimensions was positively related to job satisfaction and to a lesser extent, job performance. Furnham and Schaeffer ( 1984) for 82 working adults, reported positive correlations between the person-environment fit and both job satisfaction and mental health. Hence, congruency as a determiner of organi­ zational attraction enhances the appropriateness of the characteristics of the applicant pool. Organizations need to examine the extent to which they are attracting individuals whose personalities or styles of behaving are congruent with the needs and demands of the work environment.

While these and other implications are important to pursue, further re­ search is also needed to define and expand out empirical knowledge of the organizational attraction and choice and the person-environment fit relationship. An important next step is to examine the relationship using behavioral out­ comes, such as actual organizational choice. In addition, using both attitudinal




and behavioral outcomes, the strength of this relationship within a variety of samples needs to be examined. While the current sample of first- or second­ time job seekers is appropriate for testing this hypothesis, more senior job ap­ plicants and those involved in midcareer changes should also be investigated. Finally, the interaction of the subjective factor of congruency and objective fac­ tors in choice, such as salary and location, need to be examined.

In the current studies the biographical moderators of age, sex, and employ­ ment status did not have an effect. Given the significant but low magnitude of the correlations other moderators need consideration. Keon, Latack, and Wanous (1982) found that self-esteem moderated the relationship between self-image congruency and graduate schools’ attractiveness. Variables relating to one’s perceived ability to implement one’s choice or attitudes towards success seem relevant moderators to pursue.

Finally, unknown are the factors which influence the individual’s knowl­ edge of the organization’s image. Further research should concern how such images or impressions are formed. Consumer advertising and other corporate advertising are probable factors (Britt, 1971). For example, a recent United States federal court (Kraszewski vs State Farm Insurance Company, 1985) ruled women were underrepresented in Sales Agents jobs because a “male image” through its advertising and recruiting deterred women from applying. To the extent individuals choose an organization based upon a perceived con­ gruency of self and organizational values and desired behavioral styles, factors that influence this image of the organization need to be examined.


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Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1, 212-225.

Accepted December 30, 1987-

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