Finding the Perfect Job: Person-Job Fit


As I begin my transition out of my graduate program and look for a new full-time job, I have been re-evaluating the question “What is my dream job?” Why is it that you decide to become a lawyer whereas your sister or brother is interested in being a doctor, a police officer, a musician, or a chef – anything but a lawyer? To a great extent, the answer lays in the notion of person-job fit, that is, the degree to which a particular job matches an individual’s skills, abilities, and interests (Greenberg, 2005). This was the basic idea of John Holland, a scientist who specialized in studying occupational choice. Specifically, he believed that a person’s occupational choice is based primarily on his or her personality (Holland, 1973). His research has established two important findings:

  • People from various occupations tend to have many similar personality characteristics.
  • People whose characteristics match those of people in a given field are predisposed to success in that field.

So, for example, assume for argument’s sake that successful lawyers tend to have certain characteristics in common: They are very inquisitive, detail oriented, and analytical – characteristics that help do their jobs well. According to Holland’s theory of vocational choice, you would be attracted to the field of law, because being a lawyer “suits you,” and you “have what it takes” to succeed at that field, you are likely to select that occupation.

With that in mind I would like to go over Holland’s theory of vocational choicewhich specifies that people are most satisfied with occupations that match their personalities. People are classified into any of six distinct personality types, each of which is associated with a particular work environment that best suits them. These pairings and the occupations that most closely match them are summarized below.

Traits Holland type Environments Occupations
Practical, shy, materialistic Realistic Work with hands, machines, or tools, focus on tangible results Auto mechanic, Assembly worker, Mechanical engineer
Analytic, introverted, reserved, precise, curious Investigative Discovering, collecting, analyzing and solving problems Systems analyst, Dentist, Scientist
Creative, impulsive, idealistic, intuitive, emotional Artistic Creating new products or ideas, especially in an unstructured setting Novelist, Advertising copy-writer, Sculptor
Sociable, outgoing, conscientious, need for affection Social Serving or helping others; working in teams Social worker, Counselor, Nurse
Confident, energetic, assertive, high need for power Enterprising Leading others, achieving goals through other in a results-oriented environment Manager, Politician, Stockbroker
Dependable, disciplined, orderly, practical, efficient Conventional Systematic manipulation of data or information Accountant, Banker, Actuary


Greenberg, J. (2005). Managing behavior in organizations. Pearson Prentice Hall.

Holland, J. (1973). Making vocational choices: A theory of careers. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Gottfredson, G. D., & Holland, J.L. (1990). A longitudinal test of the influence of congruence: Job satisfaction, competency, utlization, and counterproductive behavior. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 37, 389-398.