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Employee Assessment: How to avoid hiring a Soup Nazi

April 24, 2012

Loose Labor Market Presents Unique Challenges

Recently I had a conversation with a human resources manager at a manufacturing facility.  In contrast to the dour economic reports that have been a mainstay of national newscasts for the past few years, his facility is in the midst of a hiring spree.  The popular assumption is that this loose labor supply scenario would be advantageous for an employer, but it presents its own unique difficulties for hiring managers.  He is getting applications from unemployed white collar workers that never applied in the past.  Stories of individuals arriving at his facility in Lexus or BMW to take a pre-employment test for $12 per hour entry level production jobs are not unusual.  Many of these applicants have the ability to do the production work.  The manager says these individuals’ “can do” is there, but it is clear after hiring them that their “want to” is lacking.  In his own words, our HR Manager was describing the concept of motivational fit.  

Job Fit Factors Impact Motivational Fit

Motivational fit is the degree to which an individual’s interests and beliefs are aligned with a particular job’s duties, environment, and expectations.  Studies have found that motivational fit is the single biggest predictor of absenteeism, turnover, and overall employee satisfaction.  There are many different job factors that can impact motivational fit.  Below are a few examples.

  • Job Duties
  • Work Pace
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Supervisor's leadership style
  • Advance Opportunities
  • Environmental Conditions
  • Company Culture

Evaluating Motivational Fit

Evaluating motivational fit can have a tremendous impact on determining whether or not a person will be successful in a position.    Consider the famous television character, Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, as a case study.  Did Soup Nazi have the abilities and experience to serve soup?  You bet.  He evidently could ladle soup, stand for long periods of time, communicate orally, and do some simple arithmatic.  Did Soup Nazi want to serve soup?  Evidently not.  Soup Nazi did not enjoy interacting with others and waiting on them, which was an important job fit factor.  He may have been a better motivational fit for a back kitchen position where he could be alone and focused uninterrupted while crafting his renowned soups.  Soup Nazi would probably have been much more motivated and happy.  His restaurant would also probably have had a lot more repeat customers.    

Resumes and applications may show that an applicant has the prerequisite education and experience to do a certain job,  but you have no idea from the resume or application if this is the type of job they would like to do.

3 Simple Steps to determine Motivational Fit

  1. Determine the position’s job fit factors
  2. Learn from the applicant their likes & dislikes in terms of work activities and work environment factors.
  3. Determine the degree to which the applicant’s likes and dislikes are aligned with what the job has to offer.

There are some very systematic and subtle ways in which an employer can determine motivational fit.  Specific interview questions and personal preference questionnaires are just two examples.  

Want to learn more about employee assessment and how to avoid hiring awful employees like the Soup Nazi?  Check out our whitepaper on the different types out there!

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Brian Dishman Brian Dishman is a Senior Consultant at PSI. He educates safety leaders on the internal factors that impact employee safety. Brian focuses on safety leadership, safety culture development, and the psychology of safety.