Fitting the Person to the Job or to the Organization? Evaluating the Process of Civil Service Selection in Shenzhen Municipality


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date16 Jun 2021


Civil service examination has become one of the largest and most important contests in China. Employee selection is essential to public organizations because the quality of public service depends on those who deliver the service. In theory, there are two fundamentally different selection approaches to determining who the right person is. The first is the person-job (P–J) fit approach, emphasizing the match between the applicant and the job vacancy. The second is the person-organization (P–O) fit approach, focusing on the applicant’s potential to help future organizational development. In practice, however, it remains unsettled concerning which type of candidates that should be sought after in the public sector. Has China’s civil service selection followed the general selection theory to achieve either P–J fit, or P–O fit, or both?

This research uses the Shenzhen Municipality as a case study to answer the abovementioned question. The main objective is to assess selection tools of civil service examination (mainly the written test and the interview) in terms of P–J fit and P–O fit perspectives. This study probes into four sub-questions. The first asks “select for what?” The second asks “how to select?” The third asks about the extent to which Shenzhen’s civil service selection meets its purposes. Finally, the fourth question asks whether the validity of Shenzhen’s civil service selection affects employees’ perceived P–J fit and P–O fit. To answer these questions, the author interviews the officials (i.e., question drafters, examiners, and exam organizers) of Shenzhen’s selection authorities to identify their selection purposes; second, this study examines the government files and test papers of the civil service examination to depict the selection process and locate the selection criteria; third, this research measures the selection effectiveness by surveying the job holders about the degree of match between the test contents and their daily job practice; finally, quantitative regression models are used to examine the effects of the test validity of the civil service examination on civil servants’ fit perceptions.

This study discovers that Shenzhen’s selection authorities aim to pursue the person–government fit instead of P–J fit and P–O fit due to their big-picture mindset. During the selection process, Shenzhen’s civil service examination applies the written test and interview as the major selection devices and the selection standards focus on applicants’ comprehensive competences which are shaped by the big-picture mindset. This study demonstrates that Shenzhen’s civil service examination largely met its selection purpose based on survey results and its test validity correlates positively with civil servants’ P–J fit and P–O fit.

This study is the first attempt to systematically investigate civil service selection in China. This study expands the scope of the application of fit theory in the civil service selection based on the evidence taken from Shenzhen’s selection practice. With discussions on the advantages and disadvantages of Shenzhen’s civil service selection, this study offers policy recommendations to help the government attract more competent civil servants to better public service quality.

    Research areas

  • selection effectiveness, person-job fit, person-organization fit, competence, civil service examination, China