Right person for the right job: Reflections on hiring

Monday, 21 February 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In an increasingly competitive world, people have become a cutting-edge factor. Is it just any people or the right people? Hiring the right person for the right job is important in order to achieve the right results.

What is the Sri Lankan scenario with regard to this aspect? A recent local study offers interesting insights.

A recent research

I had the privilege of guiding two emerging researchers who are both practicing managers, namely, Upulka Samarakoon and Rashantha Sureshchandra, which resulted in a research paper published in the Sri Lankan Journal of Management.

We looked at the reasons behind the success or failure of selected Sri Lankan organisations representing the service industry. We raised a basic question: What factors influence Sri Lankan service sector companies in hiring the right person for the right job?

In assessing whether a person is ‘right’ for the job, existing literature mentions many types of ‘fit’; for example, person-job fit, person-organisation fit, person-group fit (Sekiguchi, 2004) and even person-future fit (Collins, 2004).

However, person-job fit is the kind of fit that is commonest. We used a sample of 38 organisations selected from eight industries, namely hotel, travel, shipping, telecommunications, banking, insurance and information technology. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to gather data.

Clarity on key terms

Let’s look at the key terms associated. A ‘job’ can be defined as “a set of closely related activities carried out for pay” (Dessler, 2005). The ‘person’ as discussed in the context of person-job fit is the holder or prospective holder of a job position. Person-job fit is essentially a state of congruence between job demands on the one hand, and individual abilities on the other.

Factors influencing person-job fit

Some of the factors that lead to ensuring person-job fit in hiring can be visually depicted as shown in figure 1.

We attempted to identify details of above triple factors through existing literature. Once the collected data was analysed, we could find supportive evidence for each of the above categories.

Process-related factors

They deal with the mechanism of hiring. Some of the key elements are:

  • Job description/job specification

The availability of updated job descriptions and job specifications and their use in the selection process is considered to lead to effective selection. The job description can be viewed as a “list of a job’s duties, responsibilities, reporting relationships, working conditions and supervisory responsibilities”.

Dessler (2005) defines a job specification as a “list of a job’s ‘human requirements,’ that is, the requisite education, skills, personality and so on”. Presence of basic level could be seen in most of the organisations in the sample.

  • Screening of applicants using CV/application forms

Effective screening of applicants using CVs or an application form is considered to lead to effective selection. The CV is more commonly used for senior positions and employees applying for relatively junior positions may be asked to fill in a standard application form prepared by the company.

  • Effective testing

Different types of tests are available for testing an employee’s suitability for a given job. In order to lead to effective hiring, literary sources indicate that they must have the following characteristics. It should be both valid and reliable.

Validity refers to the accuracy with which a test measures what it purports to measure or fulfils the function it is designed to fill. Reliability deals with the consistency of scores obtained by the same person when retested with the identical tests or with alternative forms of the same test. According to Cushway (2001), work sample tests, ability tests and even personality tests have higher validity than a structured interview.

  • Effective interviewing

Whatever the issues are, the interview remains the main method of assessing person-job fit. The following are stated by various authors as practices that increase the effectiveness of an interview.

(a)Pre-interview preparation in terms of reading the application form, reviewing job description and job specification.

(b)Structured interviews in following a set sequence of questions.

(c)Use of situational interviewing techniques, where a series of job-related questions that focus on how the candidate would behave in a given situation can be involved.

People-related factors

They deal with people involving in the hiring process.

  • Using trained interviewers

The interviewers should be trained to avoid biases that can prevent optimal hiring decisions. Also the knowhow on the process and techniques of conducting an effective interview can increase the effectiveness of the selection decision. We observed the negligence on the organisations to prioritise this.

  • Extent of line and staff coordination

A line manager is usually referred as “a manager who is authorised to direct the work of subordinates and is responsible for accomplishing the organisation’s tasks,” whereas a staff manager as “a manager who assists and advices line managers”. Human resource managers, for example, are staff managers.

Policy-related variables

They deal with people involving in the hiring process.

  • Presence of anti-nepotism policies

Peters and others (1998) define nepotism as “showing favouritism toward relatives, spouses or children of current employees when hiring new employees”. Policies against this practice enhance better hiring. We could see several encouraging scenes among the sample.

  • Preference for hiring within

The key here is maintaining a delicate balance between “existing blood” and “new blood”. In some cases, this factor may deprive the organisation of fresh ideas and creativity. We could see several such issues hampering organisational performance.


Based on the study, the following key recommendations can be made:

  • Updated job descriptions and job specifications should be available for each position and these should be used in the selection process.
  • Selecting the appropriate test in predicting future performance on the specific job is of importance.
  • Managers should be trained on effective hiring, with special emphasis on interviewing skills.
  • Managers need to actively pursue anti-nepotism practices. If not, the results will reveal the inaccuracy of the hiring decisions. Formulating anti-nepotism policies and by educating everyone who has responsibilities in hiring regarding the policy and its implementation.

Way forward

We intend to replicate this study in manufacturing and trade sectors in order to assess the applicability of the findings. However, with the current understanding, it is clear that a lot more has to be done in order to ensure person-job fit in the Sri Lankan service sector.

(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is a Senior Faculty Member and a Management Consultant attached to the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. He also serves as an adjunct faculty in International Human Resource Management at the Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA. He has over two decades of both private and public sector working experience in diverse environments including Unilever and Nestlé. He has engaged in consultancies in more than 10 countries. He is a Commonwealth AMDISA Doctoral Fellow and Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. He holds a Ph.D. and an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa. He is also a member of the Chartered Management Institute, UK.)