Hiring practise to avoid

A new study shows employers often look for potential friends.

From What Actually Matters in Job Interviews (United Academics)

Lauren Rivera, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, explored the hiring process by interviewing and observing employers of elite companies like law or consulting firms. It’s like picking out a partner or friend, she concludes.

Former studies on hiring focused mostly on easily observable data, like school, race and gender. But Rivera instead looked at a broader spectrum of possible influences. She saw that employers don’t always pick the most skilled candidate, but the one that ‘fits’ best on the workfloor.

Just like people pick friends or romantic partners, employers look for similarities in job candidates. Do they have the same hobbies, experiences and presentation style as the other colleagues? This often outweighs the actual expected productivity. So don’t try to convince them that this job will be your hobby.

Rivera, L. (2012). Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms American Sociological Review, 77 (6), 999-1022 DOI: 10.1177/0003122412463213

For philosophers I imagine this kind of matching of interests happens most at on-campus interviews, rather than APA interviews. But maybe I am wrong about this.

I was interviewed, many years ago when I was on the market for the first time, by a lone researcher in my sub-field who’d clearly been given the go ahead to hire a research buddy. I worried that my lack of interest in going out for a beer after the interview made me flunk the “buddy test.” And as a young woman. I did worry that the lone researcher’s wife wouldn’t approve of me in the role of philosopher drinking buddy.

But things are much better now, right?

3 thoughts on “Hiring practise to avoid

  1. I was told during the dinner at one on-campus (in the very recent past) that if I didn’t drink (and drink a lot), I wouldn’t get the job (I assume it was meant as a joke, but it was a joke that thinly veiled the truth). While I certainly enjoy going out for a drink, particularly with colleagues, I did not want to have to prove my drinking prowess during an interview dinner, where I was giving my talk and a teaching demonstration the next day! Thankfully, I got a position at a much, much nicer department – although I suspect collegiality and sociability did play some role in their decision too (I’m not 100% sure that it shouldn’t, so long as collegiality isn’t defined by being very much the same as everyone else already in the department, but I recognise the danger that even if we think we have a good, inclusive notion of collegiality, it may still result in biased hiring).

  2. I am always of [at least] two minds about the whole ‘fit’ issue.

    For a small department that has a history of everyone’s getting along, a not-just-diffrent-but abrasive personality can be a problem. So, too, if a department has had trouble with a prima donna type, a big ego can be a red flag.

    I also wonder how many philosophers really want people just like them (same hobbies and interests?). My colleagues and I appreciate someone who brings something new to the table.

    Still, something like objective qualities has to be the trump. We interviewed someone we all really, really liked, but the candidate’s ‘class’ presentation was a disaster. So we did not hire that person, despite our sense of camaraderie.

  3. This is so interesting. Perhaps what we need is an idea of what features other than competence can be legitimate grounds for selecting people? I think collegiality and sociability properly defined would be amongst these features, and perhaps also the ability to bring diversity. So is, to my mind, being a member of an unfairly excluded group such as a sexual or racial minority.

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