Marketing & Communications

A match made in heaven

Nye on interest measures good predictors of job success

The ancient Greeks had it right when they inscribed "Know thyself" on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The maxim remains good advice today for both job seekers and employers alike, according to Dr. Christopher Nye, an assistant professor of industrial/organizational psychology at Bowling Green State University.

Nye was featured in a recent story on's Moneyland page discussing why it's important for employers to choose workers who are truly interested in their company's business and, conversely, why it benefits people to make the effort to understand where their interests lie before pursuing employment -even in today's economy where the high rate of unemployment often leads people to take jobs in fields for which they have no affinity.

"The old adage 'If you can find a job you like you'll never work a day in your life' is true," Nye said. "If the employee's interests are not a good match with the occupation they're in, it doesn't work out well for them or their employer."

A study he co-led, published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, showed that employee interests do predict how well someone will perform, whether they will leave the job, and if they will be helpful to co-workers, "what we call 'citizenship behavior,'" Nye said.

It thus also behooves employers and human resources professionals to spend some time asking people who actually do the job in question what it entails, and then try to find employees whose interests are a good fit with those responsibilities, Nye said. "Businesses have a big responsibility there. There are certainly ways they can do better in their hiring practices."

This is not as straightforward as it seems, however, he said. "One of the most difficult things for job applicants is figuring out what they really want to do. Even if they think they know, they often get misleading impressions from TV and other sources about what a job actually is like. I recommend talking to people who are doing the job to get a better idea of what it entails."

For younger people just starting out, "Internships are a great way to discover what you want to do," he added.

There are several readily available resources to help both groups "know themselves" better, he pointed out. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor provides two free websites that are very useful, first in pinpointing one's interests and compiling apersonal profile, or mixture of interests, and then finding the jobs that align with those interests.

"A caveat for job seekers is that the tasks and responsibilities of a particular job might be interpreted very differently across various organizations," Nye said. "It's important to ask."

According to the Holland Codes - a commonly used method for categorizing interests- there are six primary types of interests: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.

"The important thing to remember is that people have multiple interests, and we have to look at the whole profile," Nye said. "We need to find the best match between our profile and our job.

"In I/O psychology, we consider interests and personality differently. Interests tend to remain stable from the early teens until well into adulthood. They're one of the most stable measures we have. But personality changes somewhat as we become more responsible, conscientious and socially dominant, or authoritative, as we grow up. We may get a job, get married and have a family, and our personality changes from when we were young students with less responsibility."

Nye will extend his research into how employers can find better matches and also to personality and the role it plays in selecting employees.

BGSU's Institute for Psychological Research and Application, of which Nye will be director starting this fall, can help businesses improve their recruitment and hiring practices while providing its graduate students hands-on experience with the work world.

"The goal of the institute is to help organizations improve their human resource practices. We provide a wide range of services with this in mind. Businesses can come to us and we can act as consultants, for a much lower fee than a commercial consultant would ask."