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One type of assessment you cannot afford to ignore in your selection and development batteries

29 January 2015

± minute read

    One type of assessment you cannot afford to ignore in your selection and development batteries
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Are you interested in your job?

Many people are proficient at the work they do, but are they really interested in the work that they do? More importantly, is interest in the job a prerequisite for performance and job-satisfaction?

Does being interested in your work mean that you will be better at it than someone who is not?

According to Nye, Su, Rounds and Drasgow (2012), who completed a 60 year review of vocational interests and their relationship to job-performance, being interested in your job does predict how good you are at it. They discovered that vocational interests are related to persistence on the job, and influence whether someone will overcome obstacles in order to solve a problem or complete a project. An earlier study by Kittrell and McCracken (1983) also found that there is a relationship between interests, job-satisfaction and job-performance. There is also evidence that suggests that a match between occupational interests and job-tasks/roles results in greater job-stability and a sense of achievement (Holland 1985; Low & Rounds, 2006; Rounds & Su, 2014).

Put simply, these studies show that people, who are interested in the work they do and have interests that are congruent with their job, experience higher levels of job-satisfaction and have improved job-performance.

Do you ignore occupational interest measures in selection and development?

It does appear then that the measurement of occupational interests may be quite a bit more important than many human capital practitioners may think. Unfortunately, occupational interest inventories are often ignored when selection batteries are designed (Nye et al., 2012). This is, in part, due to the prevalent use of personality and cognitive testing for selection purposes; and the mistaken belief that occupational interest inventories should only be used for individual development (van Iddekinge, Putka & Campbell, 2011). Research has in fact demonstrated that the addition of interest inventories used in conjunction with personality and cognitive inventories may actually be beneficial (Donnay & Borgen, 1999. This is because occupational interest inventories have been shown to be incrementally valid when used with personality and cognitive inventories (Kieffer, Schnika & Curtiss, 2004; Nye et al., 2012). In other words, when occupational interest inventories are paired with personality or cognitive tests they jointly tell us more about human behaviour and performance than they can when used alone (Donnay & Borgen, 1999; Vinchur et al., 1998). Occupational interest inventories may also reveal information about employee and job-task/role fit. This fit between employee and job has major consequences for job-satisfaction and performance. Person/job fit has become all the more important especially if the current state of global work engagement is taken into account.

Only 13% of employees report sustained job-satisfaction, vigor and absorption in the workplace (Gallup, 2013)

Given Gallup’s research findings, the additional measurement of occupational interests may help to improve the match between individual interests and job-tasks/roles. In turn, better fit between individual interests and job-tasks/roles may thus improve job-satisfaction and absorption. Occupational interests are important for job-task/role fit because they describe the type of work and work environment a person may enjoy, and the values and work-culture the person may be interested in. We define occupational interests next.

How are occupational interests defined?

Occupational interests are preferences for or against certain activities (Strong, 1955) and that tend to grab our attention (Allen, 1990). All people have an interest or preference for something. Work interests are often measured in the form of occupational interests or values, which indicate what types of work a prospective or incumbent employee would find interesting and rewarding (Crites, 1999; Strong, 1955).

A number of instruments are available to measure occupational interests (i.e., Hogan’s Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory; Self-Directed Search; Vocational Preference Inventory; Strong Interest Inventory and the Campbell Interest Inventory, to name a few). All of these instruments are based, to some degree, on Holland’s (1973) original occupational interest model, which has six broad interest types that can be used to describe people. These are the Realistic, Investigate, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional types (also known as the RIASEC model of occupational interests). We list and define these six types below (Holland, 1985):

  1. Realistic: characterised by a preference for working with tools or with machines.
  2. Investigative: characterised by a preference for working with data and ideas.
  3. Artistic: characterised by a preference for creative and artistic activities.
  4. Social: characterised by a preference for working with people.
  5. Enterprising: a preference to work with economic and/or financial activities.
  6. Conventional: a preference for ordered and systematic activities.

Consider using a measure of occupational interests in your next selection or development project.

The measurement of occupational interests and the congruent matching of individual interests to job-tasks and roles may be important for job-performance, job-satisfaction, experiencing a sense of achievement, being persistent with job-tasks, and job-stability.

Occupational interests also add incremental validity beyond commonly measured constructs such as personality and cognition, and therefore provide additional information about the performance and behaviour of individuals in the work context.

With this in mind, you might want to consider including a measure of occupational interests in your next selection or development battery.


Allen, R. E. (1990). The Concise Oxford Dictionary (8th ed.). London, England: Oxford University Press.

Donnay, D. A., & Borgen, F. H. (1999). The incremental validity of vocational self-efficacy: An examination of interest, self-efficacy, and occupation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46, 432-447.

Gallup (2013). State of the global workplace: Employee engagement insights for business leaders worldwide. Washington, DC: Gallup.

Holland, J. L. (1973). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities & work environments. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Holland, J. L. (1985). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities & work environments (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Kieffer, K.M., Schnika, J. A., & Curtiss, G. (2004). Person-Environment congruence and personality domains in the prediction of job performance and work quality. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 51(2), 168-177.

Kittrell, D. L., & McCracken, D. J. (1983). Are agents’ interests, job satisfaction, and performance related? Journal of Extension, 21, 22 – 26.

Low, K. S. D., & Rounds, J. (2006). Vocational interests: Bridging person and environment.  In D. L. Segal & J. Thomas (Eds.), Comprehensive handbook of personality and psychopathology, Volume I: Personality and everyday functioning (pp. 251-267). NY: Wiley

Nye, C., Su, R., Rounds, J., & Drasgow, F. (2012). Vocational interests and performance: A quantitative summary of over 60 years of research. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 7, 384-403.

Olivier, A.L., & Rothmann, S. (2007). Antecedents of work engagement in a multinational oil company. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 33(3), 49-56.

Rounds, J., & Su, R. (2014). The nature and power of interests. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(2), 98-103.

Strong, E. K. (1955). Vocational interests 18 years after college. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Van Iddekinge, C. H., Putka, D. J., & Campbell, J. P. (2011). Reconsidering vocational interests for personnel selection: The validity of an interest-based selection test in relation to job knowledge, job performance, and continuance intentions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 13–33.

Vinchur, A. J., Schippmann, J. S., Switzer, F. S., & Roth, P. L. (1998). A meta-analytic review of predictors of job performance for sales people. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83, 586-597.

By Paul Vorster & Brandon Morgan

Photo Credit: Skley via Compfight cc

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