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What Is Motivational Fit and Is It Really Important in Hiring?

July 16, 2021

This article on the impact of hiring for motivational fit was originally published in May 2015. All relevant statistics and content have been updated as of July 2021.

There are many factors to consider during the hiring process, ranging from professional experience to education to even related job knowledge. Having to take such a wide range of qualities into account can be overwhelming to a hiring manager, but it is necessary to hire strategically. However, at the risk of adding one more to the list, motivational fit can often make or break it for a candidate regarding how successful they’ll be in an organization. Despite often being overlooked, a candidate’s motivations can make a significant impact on their job performance.

What is Motivational Fit?

Motivational fit refers to the extent to which an employee’s expectations of what they’ll get out of a job match up with what the organization provides. Ensuring that these two factors match closely increases the likelihood that an employee will stay within their role. The aspects that make up motivational fit are varied, but people can break them down into two general categories — extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

  • Extrinsic motivators — These motivators include factors related to the physical job itself. Examples include salary, benefits, work schedules, and the work environment.

  • Intrinsic motivators — Intrinsic motivators are more abstract. These kinds of motivators include the amount of autonomy you have within your role, the level of interaction you have with customers or coworkers, or your job’s level of difficulty/intensity.

Extrinsic and intrinsic motivators are not weighted the same when an employee is considering their job. For example, some candidates may place more emphasis on being able to work autonomously than their salary, being willing to sacrifice their compensation in return for more control over their work. Alternatively, some employees may not care how much they interact with co-workers or customers so long as the benefits of the job line up with what they desire. The closer an organization’s culture and work environment match with an employee’s extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, the more likely that candidate will be to remain at that job.

Bonus Material: See how you can rely on science-backed assessments to hire strategically and identify potential future leaders in your organization.

Why Does Motivational Fit Matter in Hiring?

All hiring processes include some level of motivational fit matching. It’s inherent in the very nature of hiring. During the negotiation, recruiters and candidates develop a back and forth rapport to discuss extrinsic factors such as compensation, schedule, and benefits, with both sides making concessions at times. But, not all hiring managers consider the idea of motivational fit beyond this, and it can often be detrimental. Taking the extra time to ensure that a candidate fully understands the nature of their job will be the difference between hiring a high or low performer. For example, a candidate who craves client interaction that accepts a position with infrequent customer visits will likely not be as satisfied in their role. Additionally, if individuals are motivated by compensation and do not receive the salary they desire, they would be similarly less motivated.

Recruiters should include questions to identify a candidate’s motivational fit to help them hire more qualified candidates. This strategy will help you identify how best to motivate a potential new hire while also ensuring that the person you hire meshes well with your organization’s culture. While other factors are certainly important during the hiring process, the motivational fit may well be one of the most critical aspects to consider.

PSI can help you to build a qualified team that fits your organizational needs. Our flexible and engaging assessment solutions help companies globally to identify, assess, and onboard the right talent. To learn more, reach out to our team of experts and see how we can help you transform your talent management strategies.

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Greg Kedenburg Greg Kedenburg is an I/O Psychologist who previously worked for PSI. He is living and working in Chicago, IL.