Why employers recruit staff they can befriend

Bosses are often more interested in taking on staff they are likely to befriend than those with the skills to do the best job, new research has found. Published in the American Sociological Review, the study suggested employers sometimes place a greater emphasis on hiring individuals they can hang out with rather than locating the person best suited to the role.

The findings - which have been collated in the report Hiring as a Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms - are based on interviews with 120 professionals involved in staff appointments at various businesses, including law firms and investment banks.

Lauren Rivera, an Assistant Professor of Management and Organisations and Sociology at Northwestern University, explained that while managers are in search of individuals possessing the baseline set of skills required to perform the role effectively, they "really want people who they will bond with, who they will feel good around, who will be their friend and maybe even their romantic partner".

Indeed, the interviews revealed evaluators at companies often place more value on personal feelings of comfort, excitement and validation than on technical or cognitive skills.

Dr Angelina Bennet, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

"There is no doubt that a good fit between the employee and the organisation’s cultures and values can go a long way to ensuring that an employee will be motivated, engaged and possibly stay in the post longer.

"However, it is essential that the skills and abilities needed for the role are present first. As few recruiters use structured approaches to assessing a candidate’s cultural fit, it is not surprising that they trust their instinct and go on a ‘good feeling’. The danger in this, is that people tend to be on their best behaviour in an interview – but is it the ‘real them’ that is being assessed?”