Company norms affect which traits are preferred in job candidates and may cause employment discrimination

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study investigated a possible mechanism behind employment discrimination. Participants completed a recruitment task where emphasis on cohesion (employees should “fit in”) vs. fairness (everybody should be treated equally) was manipulated by describing the norms of a fictitious company differently. There was a comparatively stronger preference in the cohesion condition for traits and interview questions related to social competence (e.g. friendliness, gregariousness, empathy). Furthermore, participants in the cohesion condition primarily pictured socially competent employees, whereas those in the fairness condition primarily pictured employees possessing productivity-related characteristics (e.g. education, experience and talent). The norm effect was moderated by participants’ awareness of the applicants’ ethnicity. When expecting applicants with foreign backgrounds, participants in the cohesion condition showed increased preference for selection methods related to social competence. Implications for recruitment practices are discussed.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • recruitment, norms, person-organizational fit, bias, discrimination
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-594
JournalThe Journal of Psychology: International and Applied
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch