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Does misfit loom larger than fit? Experimental evidence on motivational person-job fit, public service motivation, and prospect theory

Oliver Neumann (Center of Competence for Public Management, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 1 August 2016




In light of the challenge to attract skilled employees in times of dwindling labour supply, the purpose of this paper is to investigate how motivational person-job fit influences the preference for a job. Using a model based on prospect theory, person-job fit is operationalised on three motivational dimensions: extrinsic, enjoyment-based intrinsic, and prosocial intrinsic motivation. Public service motivation (PSM) is theoretically integrated into the model’s dimensions and conceptualised as a fuzzy subset thereof. Within the model, job seekers evaluate their fit with various jobs by comparing their personal motives to the jobs’ motivational incentives, compiling a preference order.


The model was tested using a completely randomised vignette experiment. In all, 102 master’s students had to indicate their preference among various randomly selected job vignettes. Certain vignettes presented to experimental group (EG) subjects were individually manipulated to provide either very good or very poor person-job fit. The manipulation’s effect on vignette preference was analysed using logistic regression.


EG subjects significantly preferred both well-fitting and random vignettes over misfitting ones. No significant preference was found comparing well-fitting and random vignettes. Coherent with prospect theory, the deterring effect of misfit appears to be stronger than the attraction effect of good fit, supporting the model.


Most previous research on motivational person-job fit focused on a single factor (e.g. PSM) when predicting job preference. This study, in contrast, incorporates multiple motivational dimensions, capturing that individuals usually pursue mixed motives.



The author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments which were extremely helpful in improving the quality of the manuscript. The author is also profoundly indebted to his PhD supervisor, Professor Adrian Ritz, who continuously provided the author with advice and support in the process of developing this research.


Neumann, O. (2016), "Does misfit loom larger than fit? Experimental evidence on motivational person-job fit, public service motivation, and prospect theory", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 37 No. 5, pp. 822-839.



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