Fit and Skill in Employee Selection: Insights from a Study of Headhunters

Coverdill, James E.; Finlay, William
June 1998
Qualitative Sociology;Jun1998, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p105
Academic Journal
We draw upon evidence from a qualitative study of headhunters to provide insights into the character and importance of candidate “fit” and skill for the selection of a broad range of white-collar employees. Headhunters suggest that the “fit” of a job candidate is assessed at two levels, one corresponding with a general compatibility with organization-level norms, culture, and strategy, the other corresponding more closely with traits and characteristics of the person or persons with whom the job candidate actually interviews. Skill—a factor which is largely neglected by those who tout the importance of fit—also plays an important and independent role in employee selection. Stalls that influence the selection of employees from a pool of candidates tend to be highly specific if not idiosyncratic, and take the form of what headhunters call “hot buttons.” We conclude by discussing the conceptualization, causes, and implications of fit; we also consider how the importance of fit and hot buttons challenges the explanatory logic of standard accounts of labor-market success.


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