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Dating & Hiring – It is All About Compatibility

November 5, 2013
Earlier this year eHarmony announced that they were going to take their successful method of matchmaking to the workplace. They tout a scientific method that is based on finding couples with deep compatibility on factors that predict long-term marital stability. At first you might think – what does this have to do with hiring? Well, if you’re an organization looking for loyal, committed and long-term employees, the answer is everything. Employee turnover costs organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Finding productive, long-term employees is key to many organizations’ success.

What eHarmony has done in matchmaking is to use data to empirically identify 29 key dimensions of compatibility that predict successful relationships and marriages. They have grouped these dimensions into “Core Traits” that include emotional temperament, sociability, intellect and energy and “Vital Attributes” that include things like communication style, conflict resolution, spirituality and ambition.116165391

While it might seem strange for a matchmaking service to apply their same scientific approach to the workplace –it’s essentially the approach Select International recommends. It’s the same approach we employ with our clients on a daily basis. Here’s what you do:


  1. You study the job and the organization and identify the key factors for long-term success (effective job performance and committed, retained employees).
  2. Identify the key competencies (or in eHarmony terms, dimensions) that a successful employee must possess to be successful and productive. These competencies are akin to eHarmony’s Core Traits.
  3. Identify the cultural aspects of the organization that lead to satisfied and long-term employees. Identify the satisfiers and dissatisfiers of the job and organization that should be addressed during the hiring process. These “fit” factors are akin to eHarmony’s Vital Attributes.
  4. Identify a consistent and scientific way of measuring these competencies and fit factors. (That’s where well-developed and validated selection instruments come into play.)
  5. Design a hiring process that leverages the results of the assessments to best predict productive and long-term employees.


Sound familiar? Dating and hiring are not so different after all. As an Industrial/Organizational psychologist, who specializes in the development of these tools, the above steps make it sound easy. However, the development and validation of reliable and accurate personnel selection instruments takes expertise, training, and a lot of data. Additionally, the use of any psychological instrument in the workplace is subject to legal scrutiny.  No one is going to sue eHarmony if they don’t end up with a marriage proposal.  But, a disgruntled applicant who was expecting a job offer surely will. While eHarmony’s scientific approach is sound, there are additional challenges to address once hiring decisions are being made, based on the results of those instruments. Until eHarmony has had a chance to prove themselves as knowledgeable in implementing their approach in the realm of personnel selection, I would recommend using an organization that specializes in developing and validating assessments for the specific use of hiring.

In sum, matching traits and values of an employee to an organization leads to more productive, long-term employees. So, the next time you are interviewing a candidate, think about the “match” and make sure your selection processes are doing the best job to tell you how good of a match that candidate is for your organization.

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Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Manager of Product Development at PSI. She is an expert in the design, development and validation of psychological assessment tools. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous competency-based assessments, including online in-baskets, job simulations and motivational fit instruments.