Parsons revisited: a search for adaptive matching instruments

  • Jouke Post Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Deventer
Keywords: career guidance, matching, competences, skills policy, skills, career theory


The purpose of this article is to explore innovative and adaptive ways of matching people with jobs in the context of a Dutch policy initiative aimed at the skills mismatch in the region of Amsterdam. This is an important and urgent issue because of the challenges of the future labor market, in which technological disruption and socio-economic forces affect the content and conditions of jobs and occupations. Powered by digital technology and data-driven approaches it is possible to design ‘fine-grained’ matching systems based on skills or competences. The article combines an exploration of occupational taxonomies, skills frameworks and good practices of these skills-based applications with a theoretical discussion on the relevance and adaptations of Person-Environment Fit and matching theories. The article shows that these new forms of innovative, adaptive and fl uid matching have benefits for policy-makers, employers and jobseekers alike. In the discussion section some critical remarks are made on the matching theory and its application in contemporary instruments and tools.


Attwell, G., & Hughes, D. (2019). Learning about Careers: Open data and Labour Market Intelligence. RIED. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación a Distancia, 21(2), 81-106.

Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Bimrose, J. (n.d.). Traditional theories, recent developments and critiques, Coventry: University of Warwick, Institute for Employment Research (IER). Retrieved from:

Borbély-Pecze T. B. (2019). The changing relationship between people and their job – the validity of career information. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling (in press).

Cedefop (2015). Tackling unemployment while addressing skill mismatch. Lessons from policy and practice in European Union Countries. Research paper 46. Luxembourg: Publications Office.

Cedefop (2016). Labour market information and guidance. Research paper 55. Luxembourg: Publications Office.

Dierdorff, E.C., & Morgeson, F.P. (2007). Consensus in work role requirements: the influence of discrete occupational context on role expectations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1228-1241.

Edwards, J. R. (2008). Person–environment fit in organizations: An assessment of theoretical progress. The Academy of Management Annals, 2, 167–230.

ESCO (2015) Strategic framework. Vision, mission, position, added value and guiding principles. Brussels. Retrieved from:

Frese, M., & Fay, D. (2001). Personal initiative: An active performance concept for work in the 21st century. Research in Organizational Behavior, 23, 133–187.

Grant, A. M., & Parker, S. K. (2009). Redesigning work design theories: The rise of relational and proactive perspectives. The Academy of Management Annals, 3, 317–375.

Hall, T., & Les Heiras, M. (2007). Reintegrating job design and career theory: creating not just good jobs, but smart jobs. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 31, 448-462.

Hartung, P. (2005). Integrated career assessment and counseling: mindsets, models and methods. In W.B. Walsh, & M.L. Savickas. Handbook of vocational psychology. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Inkson, K., Dries, N., & Arnold, J. (2015). Understanding Careers. Los Angeles: Sage.

Jansen, K. J. and Shipp, A. J. (2018). Fitting as a temporal sensemaking process: shifting trajectories and stable themes. Human Relations.

Joyce, P. (2018). Integration after 2015. What can Sweden learn from Germany? Working paper. Stockholm: The Ratio Institute.

Kettunen, J. (2017). Career practioners’ conceptions of social media and competency for social media in career services. Dissertation. Jyväskylä: Finnish Institute of Educational research.

Kristof-Brown A., Zimmerman R., & Johnson E. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group, and person-supervisor fit. Personnel Psychology 58(2), 281-342.

Leroy, F. (2017). Competence-based matching: the holy grail? In: Managing Workforce potential. A 20/20 vision on the future of Employment Services. Utrecht: WCC Group. Retrieved from:

Leroy, F., & Struyven, L. (2014). Building bridges, Shaping the future of public employment services towards 2020. die Keure, Brussels.

NICE (2016). Memorandum on Academic Training and Research in Career Guidance and Counselling. In: Schiersmann, C., Einarsdóttir, S., Katsarov, J., Lerkkanen, J., Mulvey, R., Pouyaud, J., Pukelis, K., Weber, P., (Eds): European Competence Standards for the Academic Training of Career Practitioners. NICE.

Maree, K. (Eds). (2017). Psychology of career adaptability, employability and resilience. Cham: Springer.

Mitchell, K., & Krumboltz, J. (1996). Krumboltz’s learning theory of career choice and development. in D. Brown, & L. Brooks (Eds.) Career choice and development (3rd edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mittendorff, K., Faber, M., & Staman, L. (2017). A matching activity when entering higher education: ongoing guidance for the students or efficiency instrument for the school? British journal of guidance & counseling. 45-4, 376-390.

Moore, C., Gunz, H., & Hall, D.T. (2007). Tracing the historical roots of career theory in management and organizational studies. In H. Gunz, & M. Peiperl, Handbook of Career Studies. Los Angeles: Sage.

OECD (2012), Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A strategic approach to skills policies. OECD Publishing, Paris.

Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Boston. MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Reid, H. (2016). Introduction to career counseling & coaching. Los Angeles: Sage.

Savickas, M.L. (1997). Career adaptability. An integrative construct for life-span, life-space theory. Career Development Quarterly,45, 247-259.

Sanders, J. (2016). Sustaining the employability of the low skilled worker: development, mobility and work design. Dissertation. Maastricht: Research Centre for Education and the labour market.

Schmid, G. (1998), Transitional Labour Markets: A New European Employment Strategy, DiscussionPaper // Wissemschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Forschungsschwerpunkt: Arbeitsmarkt und Beschäftigung, Abteilung Arbeitsmarktpolitik und Beschäftigung, No. FS I 98-206

Su, R., Murdock, C., & Rounds, J. (2015). Person-Environment Fit. In P. J. Hartung, M.L. Savickas, & W.B. Walsh, Handbook of Career Intervention: Vol. 1 Foundations. Washington: American Psychological Association.

Sultana, R. (2018). Precarity, austerity and the social contract in a liquid world: career guidance mediating the citizen and the state. In T. Hooley, R.G. Sultana, & R. Thomsen, Career guidance for social justice. Contesting neoliberalism. New York. Routledge.

Sylva, H., Mol, S.T., Den Hartog, D.N., & Dorenbosch, L. (2019): Person-job fit and proactive career behaviour: a dynamic approach, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology.

Vos, de. A., & Heijden, B. van der (2015). Handbook of research on sustainable careers. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

World Economic Forum (2016). Towards a reskilling revolution. A Future of jobs for all. Geneva: WEF.

World Economic Forum (2016). The Future of Jobs. Employment, skills and the workforce strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Geneva: WEF.

World Economic Forum (2019). Strategy for the new economy. Skills as the currency of the new labour market. Geneva: WEF.