What Type of Worker Are You? Your Next Boss May Want to Know

Employees who are interested in their jobs perform better than their disinterested peers. So how do hiring managers go about finding the legitimately interested and passionate?

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At one point or another, many of us have been stuck with a job that wasn’t necessarily in our field of interest. That can be bad for the employee in question, of course — but a new psychological study shows that it’s bad for business, as well. Employees who are interested in their jobs consistently perform better than their surly peers. They are more likely to help out coworkers; are less likely to leave their jobs; and even commit less deviant behavior in the workplace, according to the study.

If this seems obvious, well, it kind of is. But the fact is, hiring decision often don’t take this into account — and the presumption that someone who gets a job is fundamentally interested in that job may in fact be holding back office productivity. A more thoughtful approach to the application and hiring process is likely to yield both more satisfied employees and better workers.

“People aren’t always in jobs they’re actually interested in,” said Chris Nye, a psychology professor at Bowling Green State University who helped lead the study. “Maybe it’s just implicitly assumed if someone’s applying for a job, they’re interested  in it — but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

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From the psychologists’ perspective, “interest” is something different than selling yourself in a job interview by telling your would-be boss how passionate you are about the company. Each of us has a deep-seated set of values and personality traits that make us predisposed to excel in some occupations and struggle in others. Without specific data evaluating the interests of employees and how those interests match the needs of a job, the hiring process can often be extremely subjective.

There are various metrics for measuring someone’s interests. One well-respected methodology is the use of Holland Codes, named after a psychologist who studied the science behind vocational choices. After taking a survey — think Myers-Briggs, but based around occupation instead of personality — prospective hires are ranked in six vocational categories:

  • Realistic workers, or Doers, like jobs that are tactile, physical or mechanical. They include cooks, police officers and athletic trainers.
  • Investigative workers, or Thinkers, excel in areas that are scholarly, scientific or medical. They include doctors, lawyers and professors.
  • Artistic workers, or Creators, enjoy working with ideas, abstractions and concepts. They include musicians, PR specialists and publication editors.
  • Social workers, or Helpers, enjoy tasks that involve teamwork and improving society. They include nurses, social workers and flight attendants.
  • Enterprising workers, or Persuaders, are natural leaders and strong public speakers. They include businessmen, politicians, and detectives.
  • Conventional workers, or Organizers, are reliable and detail-oriented. They include secretaries, emergency dispatchers and accountants.

The key to the new study is the idea that no one is just a Doer, a Thinker or a Creator — and no job in today’s fast-paced world requires only one of these skill sets. The three highest-rated categories of these six form a person’s “interest profile.” Finding a job that looks for those skills is likely to create a scenario where a worker can really thrive. A U.S. Department of Labor website provides a test where people can find out their interest profile and find occupations that match well with it.

People have been taking career surveys for generations to help guide their career paths. Nye’s study, however, contends that these should not only be used by applicants to decide where to apply, but should also be used by employers to help decide who to hire.

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Nye said evaluating applicant compatibility with a position through testing would provide a counterbalance to more subjective parts of the hiring process, like a typical job interview. “They’re doing things that are based on subjective valuations rather than actually matching people to the jobs they’re hiring for,” he said. “Interest profiles would provide one way of making it more objective.”

Could we be looking at a future where applicants are screened by their interest profile? Imagine a job listing that only accepted people with “Enterprising” interests.

Nye said such a scenario isn’t likely. However, he said he’s already noted a lot of misuse of interest scores. “Sometimes organizations or researchers will use the interest measure, but they’ll just look at how high someone’s score is,” he said. “It has more to do with how well their profile fits with the profile of the job.”

He said for employers to get the most out of interest profiles requires some upfront planning on their end. “There’s a lot of responsibility on the organization to find out what type of interests match the particular job, and then go find applicants that fit with that profile. This study shows that it can add a lot of benefit.”

13 comments
nancydonns122
nancydonns122

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MaliceUnchained
MaliceUnchained

Because of health problems, I've had a tougher time in the workplace than many other 30-somethings. I can't take retail or restaurant survival jobs because I need more frequent and random bathroom access than such positions would allow, and I can't handle rotating schedules and start times. I also need an office job with a flexible start time because some of the medication I take causes drowsiness. Making matters worse, I spent my entire youth and a good deal of my adult life so far depressed and down on myself, thinking I was a failure and wondering why I was so far behind my peers. It turns out I have ADHD, which is usually diagnosed later in life among women, because it presents differently in us – and the doctors only look for 7-year-old boys running around their classrooms and screaming like a wild man. Treatment has been going well, but I still get down on myself for being so far behind.

Now, unemployed, I'm having a tough time in my job search. Most headhunters and HR departments want to put me in boring middle management jobs because of my age and experience. However, I would rather take a pay cut and work in a web development position, like I worked when I was younger. I know I can do it, and I have all the skills to prove I can. From what I've seen though, those jobs tend to go to Millennial new grads. I've only been called for creative positions occasionally, and they tended to follow a pattern: part-time, no benefits, paid on a 1099, and would require me to report to a 23-year-old kid who doesn't have one-fourth of my experience in the field. I'd gladly forego an 85K management salary for a 42K web design position. But bosses think I'll get bored if I'm not a manager, and that I'll leave over low pay. I know otherwise – I know I'll stress myself to the point of nervous breakdown in a management position and drink my high salary away, negating the point of earning it. 

Job searching is so depressing. Some mornings, I dread waking up and humping away at it, and getting nothing out of it but heartache. 

Talendria
Talendria

Don't give up.  I hired someone in your situation as a home-based developer, and it worked out great for both of us.  My advice is to strip all the negativity out of your thought process, because it will inadvertently come across during the interview.  Focus on what you want and what you can do, and forget everything else.  Many companies would jump at the chance to hire a mature, experienced employee who can work at home with minimal supervision.

MaliceUnchained
MaliceUnchained

Thanks for the confidence boost. I liked your comment, Talendria. My technique is to relax before interviews so I come across happy and upbeat, and I always have someone read my cover letters to ensure they convey happiness and enthusiasm. But there's truth in your statement – my depression is preventing me from even applying to positions I know I can do, thanks to the nagging voice in my head that says, "Why would they want you, old fart, when they can get a young person?" 

Thanks again. : )

nrtsrbt
nrtsrbt

:-) Sure you can do it - never give up. Good luck.