What is “Job Fit”?

What does it mean when a person “fits” with his or her job?

The answer is far more complicated than you might think.

Even the experts haven’t really been able to agree on it.




Why can’t we figure this out?

It’s not because we don’t have good theories, or good evidence. We do.


It’s because there is way too much.

Fitting it all together to form a coherent story—a story that we can all agree on—has proven extremely difficult, if not impossible.


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3 big questions

1. What about a person can we match?

Lots of important possibilities here. The most prominent examples:

  • personality
  • interests
  • values
  • skills


2. What can we match it to?

Again, lots of important points where a person might match (or not). The most prominent examples:

  • vocation
  • job role
  • organization
  • work site / group
  • coworkers
  • managers


3. How can we match it?

There are number of different ways that the different aspects of a person can be matched to different aspects of work. The most prominent examples:

  • By similarity
  • By unique contribution
  • By needs to satisfaction
  • By demands to ability


That’s still not enough

Even if we can decide what to match and how to match it, we don’t really know what will happen.

The long chain of questions continues.


What key outcomes do we care about? How can we measure them?

Will one type of “job fit” improve these outcomes more than others?

For the most part, we don’t really know.


We might never know enough

Will there ever be a grand theory of “job fit” that will actually explain it all?

It would finally give us a true understanding of the world of work, and at the same time drive important changes that improve everything.


But it probably won’t ever happen.

It’s somewhat delusional to think such a thing is really possible. Here’s why.


For now, there is a much more practical solution: avoid the big theories and make data-driven decisions.




Image credits: Olga Berrios, JD Hancock, Horia Varlan

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