Lauren A. Rivera, an assistant professor of management and organizations and sociology at Northwestern University, conducted 120 interviews -- 40 per industry -- from 2006 through 2008 and conducted fieldwork within the recruiting department of an elite professional service company over nine months in 2006 and 2007.
More than half in the study ranked cultural fit -- the perceived similarity to a firm's existing employee base in leisure pursuits, background and self-presentation -- as the most important criterion at the job interview stage, Rivera said.
"It is important to note that this does not mean employers are hiring unqualified people," Rivera said. "But, my findings demonstrate that -- in many respects -- employers hire in a manner more closely resembling the choice of friends or romantic partners than how one might expect employers to select new workers. When you look at the decision to date or marry someone what you think about is commonalities. Do you have a similar level of education? Did you go to a similar caliber school? Do you enjoy similar activities? Are you excited to talk to each other? Do you feel the spark? These types of things are salient at least to the employers I've studied."
The job evaluators were predominately white, Ivy League-educated, upper-middle or upper-class men and women who tend to have more stereotypically masculine leisure pursuits and favor extracurricular activities associated with people of their background, Rivera said.