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Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

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Journal of Vocational Behavior

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A longitudinal and multi-method examination of

interest–occupation congruence within and across time
Bart Wille a,⁎, Terence J.G. Tracey b, Marjolein Feys c, Filip De Fruyt a
Department of Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium
Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University, 446 Payne Hall, MC0811, Tempe, AZ 85287-0811, USA
Department of Personnel Management, Work and Organizational Psychology, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Remarkably little research has addressed change and stability in person–environment fit across
Received 14 October 2013 time. The objective of the current study was to address this gap in the literature by investigating
Available online 17 December 2013 Holland interest–occupation congruence across time for a sample of college alumni (N = 167)
that were tracked during the first third of their professional career. Congruence was examined
Keywords: in all its complexity, including a repeated assessment of both occupations and interests, the use of
Interest–occupation congruence objective (O*NET) and subjective (self-report) environment assessment methods, and adopting
Person–environment fit sophisticated congruence calculation methods (i.e., Euclidean distance and profile correlation).
RIASEC interests
This resulted in a total of 12 interest–occupation comparisons within and across time that could
Career satisfaction
be related to general and career specific well-being. The results first indicated moderate levels of
Life satisfaction
Longitudinal stability in interests and occupations across the 15-year time interval, yet also with room for
change. Congruence analyses indicated significant interest–occupation fit at the beginning of the
career and 15 years later, with the magnitude of congruence slightly varying depending on which
occupation assessment and which congruence method was used. Profile correlation congruence
did not change over time in absolute terms and evidenced relative stability. Euclidean distance
indices had little relative stability over time but did manifest some absolute changes in levels
of congruence. Finally, job change moderated the association between interest–occupation
congruence and life satisfaction in such a way that higher levels of satisfaction were reported only
when little job change was present.
© 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

A central premise in many career models and interventions is that optimal outcomes result from a good match between the
individual and his/her occupation. Although many aspects of person–environment (P–E) fit have been examined in vocational
psychology (Kristof-Brown, Zimmerman, & Johnson, 2005), research on interest–occupation congruence has dominated the P–E
fit field. In this context, congruence refers to the level of similarity between vocational interests and occupations, and the central
idea is that with greater interest–occupation congruence comes better outcomes, both in the professional domain as well as
for general well-being (Meir, 1989).
A vast body of research has become available over the past decades addressing this congruence hypothesis. Typically in this
literature, indices of congruence assessed at one point in time are related to indicators of success or well-being assessed at the
same or a later point in time (e.g., De Fruyt, 2002). Meta-analytically, these static analyses, with only one snapshot of congruence,
have revealed a mixed pattern of significant and nonsignificant relations between congruence and a variety of relevant outcomes

⁎ Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (B. Wille), (T.J.G. Tracey), (M. Feys), (F. De Fruyt).

0001-8791/$ – see front matter © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
60 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

including aspects of satisfaction (Tranberg, Slane, & Ekeberg, 1993; Tsabari, Tziner, & Meir, 2005) and performance (Nye, Su,
Rounds, & Drasgow, 2012).
A related issue that has received much less attention in the literature concerns the dynamics of congruence across time.
If congruence has utility, then individuals should become more congruent as they develop (Tracey, 2007). Most authors agree that
P–E fit is indeed a dynamic process that unfolds over time. French, Rodgers, and Cobb (1974) and Caplan (1987) describe P–E fit
as an adjustment process where fit is the dynamic result of continuous attempts to alter person and environment characteristics.
In a similar vein, Holland (1997) describes congruence as a long-term (p.4) and interactive (p. 12) process, with mutual effects of
interests and environments on each other.
It is remarkable how questions regarding the dynamics of individual adjustment over time have been largely ignored
in research (Arnold, 2004). Specifically, the assumption that P–E congruence increases over time, with positive effects for
well-being, has seldom been tested. The most notable exceptions are studies investigating changes in congruence during
adolescence or the college years (Tracey & Robbins, 2006; Tracey, Robbins, & Hofsess, 2005) and studies examining change in
congruence following a single career change (Donohue, 2006). The significant dearth of research adopting a dynamic perspective
on interest–occupation congruence confronts us with a number of fundamental questions on vocational development that have
remained largely unanswered: How stable is an individual's fit with his or her work environment? Does workers' congruence
increase with time or does it remain unchanged? What is the relative contribution of change and stability in vocational
interests compared to change and stability in occupations in the evolution of interest–occupation congruence across time?
And finally, how are dynamics of congruence related to indicators of satisfaction and well-being? The present study addresses
these elementary questions by tracking the interest–occupation congruence over a time interval of 15 years in a cohort of
young professionals.
According to the gravitation hypothesis (Wilk, Desmarais, & Sackett, 1995), people gradually and continually evolve towards
more fitting environments. Specifically, gravitation entails a tendency for improved congruence to be achieved through cycles of
attraction, selection, and attrition (Schneider, Goldstein, & Smith, 1995). In brief, it is assumed that people are attracted to, select
themselves into, and are selected into environments that are compatible with their personal characteristics. If an individual finds
him or herself in an incompatible environment, the expectation is for him or her to withdraw. Evidence for the gravitational
hypothesis mainly comes from studies demonstrating significant prospective associations between personal characteristics
(i.e., interests and personality traits) and future occupational characteristics (e.g., De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1999; Woods & Hampson,
2010). In addition, it has also been demonstrated that career changers tend to change in the direction of greater congruence
(Donohue, 2006).
Besides changing the environment, individuals may also try to improve congruence by acting on themselves. In this context,
the concept of occupational socialization has been introduced to describe changes in the person which take place in and because
of the work environment (Frese, 1982). Compared to gravitational effects, research on socialization is limited, and has mainly
been conducted in the context of person–organization fit. For instance, De Cooman et al. (2009) found employees' work values
to change over a 2-year time interval, strengthening value congruence with the organization.
For a complete understanding of congruence dynamics, it is hence essential to consider change and stability in both
environment and person characteristics. For interest–occupation congruence, this means keeping track of occupations and
interests over time, while previous research addressing the gravitational hypothesis has typically considered only environmental
change and stability. While there is indeed evidence that interests remain relatively stable during adulthood, there is also room
for change (Low, Yoon, Roberts, & Rounds, 2005). Acknowledging change in interests implies that occupations at a later point in
time (e.g., half way through one's career) should not only be evaluated against the initial interests (e.g., at the beginning of a
career), but also against the interests that may have evolved over time. The current study is the first to examine change and
stability in interest–occupation congruence accounting for the dynamic potential of both occupations (e.g., though gravitation)
and personal interests (e.g., through socialization). It can be expected that both sides of the P–E equation show evidence of
stability over time, but that there is also room for change which may drive interests and occupations to align more closely to each
other over time.
Considering change and stability in interests and occupations may also have implications for the associations between
congruence and relevant outcomes. Increasing attention in the congruence literature is being devoted to identifying moderators
of congruence–outcome relationships. Tracey and Robbins (2006), for instance, found evidence that interest levels moderated the
relation between congruence and college persistence. As an other example, Tracey, Allen, and Robbins (2012) demonstrated that
environmental constraint also plays a significant role in the strength of congruence–success relations in undergraduates. In light
of these moderation effects obtained in single assessment congruence investigations, similar questions present themselves with
regard to longitudinal investigations of congruence. For instance, Tracey et al. (2005) suggested that one of the reasons for the
less than robust results yielded from P–E fit research could be that interests themselves change and evolve over time. Therefore,
the present study will also investigate whether and how changes in interests and occupations influence the associations between
congruence and relevant outcomes. The question at stake here is whether – in addition to congruence itself – the process of
attaining higher P–E fit (i.e. through interest or occupation change) is also relevant for understanding satisfaction or well-being.
Further, investigating congruence over time requires repeated assessments of commensurate person and environment
characteristics. In this regard, Holland's (1997) theory is unique among career theories in providing a parallel way to describe
people and environments. At the person-side, there is a long and successful tradition of RIASEC vocational interest assessment,
whereby people are asked to rate their own preferences and sometimes abilities and competencies. Environments, conversely,
can be defined and assessed in several manners.
B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 61

As is typical in vocational assessment, where one is concerned with matching someone with a future, unexperienced job,
broad and generalizable means of representing occupations are desired. Such broad representations of occupations in terms of
RIASEC codes have been developed using at least three different methodologies (Rounds, Smith, Hubert, Lewis, & Rivkin, 1999).
A first method, championed by Holland (1997) in the early years and currently the preferred method for the Strong Interest
Inventory (Harmon, Hansen, Borgen, & Hammer, 1994) uses employees' RIASEC interest scores to code occupations. This method
is closely tied to Holland's idea that the people in the environment are the environment. Essentially, this incumbent method
involves administering a RIASEC measure to a representative sample of workers in an occupation, calculating mean RIASEC
interest scores, and assigning high-point codes, usually three letter codes, to the occupation based on these average RIASEC
scores. One notable disadvantage of the incumbent method is the expense of collecting RIASEC data for large representative
samples of employed adults. To remedy this limitation, Gottfredson and Holland (1989, 1996) used an empirical method to
extend the RIASEC classification to all U.S. companies. This empirical method departs from governmental occupational analysis
data to assign RIASEC codes. These classifications gave rise to the first edition of the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes
(DHOC; Gottfredson, Holland, & Ogawa, 1982). A third classification approach relies on direct expert ratings of occupations. This
judgment method is based on trained judges who consider a description of each occupation and select the most appropriate
RIASEC ordering for each. The judgment method has mainly been used to amend empirically developed RIASEC classifications.
A well-established example of such a combination method can be found in the development of occupational interest profiles
for O*NET (Rounds et al., 1999), which is the electronic successor to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (U.S. Department of
Labor, 1991).
When applied to a single worker's professional environment, all approaches described above have in common that they
can be characterized as ‘objective’ ratings of a person's occupation, in the sense that they are not influenced (or biased) by the
individual's own perceptions of his or her work environment. Rather, it uses others (i.e., an independent and representative
sample of job incumbents, trained experts, or a combination of both) who provide RIASEC ratings as a proxy of a person's work
environment. As a downside, however, it can be argued that these broad assessments may fail to reflect the idiosyncratic nature
of professional environments. Occupations have a good deal of variance in the interests demonstrated, and this variance can also
manifest itself within the same occupation in different environments (Tracey, 2007).
Although still not common in the literature, a different direction to environment assessment can be taken when the focus is
on individuals already in an occupation instead of future possible occupations. Specifically, one can ask individuals to rate their
current occupational environments themselves in terms of the RIASEC dimensions. The Position Classification Inventory (PCI;
Gottfredson & Holland, 1991) is an example of a RIASEC-based version of a perceived environmental scale. The PCI does for
environments what the Self-Directed Search (SDS; Holland, 1979) does for people: It directly, individually, but also subjectively
assesses them according to the theory's constructs. The asset of this approach is that it represents the aspects of the environment
that are salient to the individual. However, the liability is that this rating may have little correspondence with ratings of others
in the same job in the same organization.
The current study, for the first time in the literature, focuses on both narrow individual ratings of the job environment as
well as broad, objectified ratings in accounting for the environment component in person–environment fit. Specifically we used
the idiosyncratic ratings of job environment gleaned through the use of the PCI as well as the more consensual ratings included
in the O*NET. While it can be expected that these assessments demonstrate at least some level of convergence, it remains to be
examined what the impact is of these alternative environment ratings on interest–occupation congruence across time.
Finally, in addition to deciding on the environment assessment method, it is also crucial to select an appropriate congruence
calculation method. Recent developments in this field have pointed out that any index of congruence should take account of the
entire profile of RIASEC scores, and not just a subset (e.g., the top 1, 2, or 3 codes) which would result in a loss of information.
Such indices fail to incorporate the complete profile of interests and thus omit key information. In fact, they are gross
simplifications of both the interest profile and occupation. First, there is no account taken of relative magnitudes. For example, an
individual with a very high Social score and moderately low Enterprising and Conventional scores would be classified exactly
as someone with a moderate Social score and slightly less Enterprising and Conventional scores. Also, the issue of ties is very
problematic in the high-point matching process (De Fruyt, 2002). Beyond this, at best, only three of the scores are used and it is
plausible that the low interests could also bear some relation to the fit in an occupation. A previous study focusing on the relation
of the incongruence of the low point codes and satisfaction supports the usage of a full profile of RIASEC scores (Dik, Strife, &
Hansen, 2010). As such, indices that take fuller account of the entire interest profile are needed. Consistent with the most recent
research in this domain (Tracey et al., 2012), we chose to examine the relative merits of two different measures of congruence;
Euclidean distance and profile correlation, that utilize scores from the entire profile, but differ with respect to the incorporation
of the circular structure of interest scores. The circular model has been theorized (Holland, 1997) and demonstrated (e.g., Day &
Rounds, 1998; Tracey & Rounds, 1993) to fit RIASEC scales. This model specifies that the six RIASEC scales are similar to the degree
that they are close to each other on a circle. Given this structure, it is possible to characterize any profile of interest scores as a
point in this circle, and Prediger (1982) and Prediger and Vansickle (1992) proposed the two dimensions of Things/People and
Data/Ideas as appropriate dimensions that can be used to characterize RIASEC profiles. Our first congruence method, the
Euclidean distance, is based on this circular structure and reflects the spatial distance (using the Euclidean distance formula)
between two RIASEC profiles that are projected in this two-dimensional space, one for interests and one for occupations.
Euclidean distance was used by Tracey and Robbins (2006) and Tracey et al. (2012) in their longitudinal studies of interest–
college major congruence and by Neumann, Olitsky, and Robbins (2009) in their study of congruence and earnings. The second
congruence method, the profile correlation, makes no assumptions of the structural relationships among the scales and
62 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

alternatively represents the amount of pattern covariation in the RIASEC profile across the two measures. Based on previous
research (Tracey et al., 2012), we can expect moderate convergence between both calculations. However, their impact on the
examination of interest–occupation congruence across time remains to be investigated.
In sum, although interest–occupation congruence plays a central role in vocational psychology, much remains to be learned
about the underlying dynamics of this complex phenomenon. The scarcity of research addressing change and stability in
congruence in adult samples is understandable given the methodological challenges that need to be addressed. The current study
presents a longitudinal and multi-method examination of interest–occupation congruence in a sample of working adults that are
tracked across the first 15 years of their career. The objective of this study is to investigate interest–occupation congruence in
all its complexity: Both occupational characteristics and personal interests are allowed to change to account for gravitation and
socialization; work environments are rated subjectively as well as objectively; and state-of-the-art fit indices are computed that
take into account the entire interest profile.

2. Method

2.1. Sample and procedure

Data were used from a four-wave longitudinal research project in which a sample of Belgian college alumni is tracked across
the first 15 years of their professional career. Previous studies have used data from this alumni program to investigate the predictive
validity of personality traits with regard to initial job choice (De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1999), early career work adjustment (De Fruyt,
2002), career transitions (Wille, Beyers, & De Fruyt, 2012; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2010) and career success attainment (Wille,
De Fruyt, & De Clercq, 2013; Wille, De Fruyt, & Feys, 2013). The present study is unique in that it combines information regarding
participants' RIASEC interests and occupational characteristics at the beginning of the career as well as 15 years later, enabling the
investigation of PE congruence across time.
For the present study, a subsample of 167 college alumni (79 males and 88 females) could be included for whom congruence
indices could be computed at both measurement occasions (more information on study dropout is provided at the end of
this section). In 1994, three months prior to graduation from college, all participants completed a comprehensive vocational
interest questionnaire measuring their vocational aspirations at the career start. Although all highly educated, participants were
heterogeneous with regard to vocational interests, with alumni representing a broad range of college faculties including Industrial
engineering (N = 36), Philosophy, History, and Languages (N = 28), Law (N = 18), Sciences (N = 14), Applied sciences (N = 14),
Economics (N = 14), Psychology and Educational sciences (N = 25), Applied Biological sciences (N = 2), and Political and Social
sciences (N = 16). One year later (1995), a first follow-up of the sample was conducted asking participants to report on their current
nature of employment using open ended questions as well as a standardized questionnaire (see Measures). These 1994 and 1995
assessments are further referred to as Time 1 (T1) assessments in the current text. Participants' vocational interests and work
environments were reassessed in 2010 (Time 2; T2), together with the indicators of general and career-specific well-being after
15 years on the labor market.

2.2. Measures

2.2.1. Vocational interests

The Dutch authorized adaptation (BZO95; Hogerheijde, Van Amstel, De Fruyt, & Mervielde, 1995a) of the Self-Directed Search
(SDS; Holland, 1979) was used to assess vocational interests at T1 and T2. The BZO95 is a broad measure of Holland's RIASEC
interests, and includes items referring to activities one likes to do, competencies a person has, occupations one prefers, and
characteristic personality features. Each scale consists of 12 items assessing each interest type, resulting in an item pool of
288 items (4 scales × 6 types × 12 items) that are all rated dichotomously. The BZO95 has satisfactory psychometric properties
(Hogerheijde et al., 1995a), with internal consistencies of the six RIASEC scales ranging between .90 and .95 at both measurement
occasions in the present study.

2.2.2. Subjective occupational characteristics

Participants described their current work environments at T1 (1995) and T2 (2010) using the Dutch adaptation of the Position
Classification Inventory (PCI), initially developed by Gottfredson and Holland (1991) and translated into Dutch by Hogerheijde
et al. (1995b). The PCI is a self-report instrument to evaluate the resemblance of work environments to Holland's prototypical
RIASEC types. To that end, each environmental type is assessed with 14 items, covering the activities involved in the job, the traits
and abilities required for the job, and the personal styles and values that are valued in the job. Validity evidence in the PCI manual
is supplemented by large-sample, longitudinal research (Maurer & Tarulli, 1997). Each of the 84 items are scored on a 3-point
Likert scale. Internal consistencies range between .85 (Conventional) and .91 (Investigative) at T1 and between .86 (Social) and .91
(Artistic) at T2.

2.2.3. Objective occupational characteristics

At both measurement occasions, participants also provided current job titles, job descriptions, and information regarding their
hierarchical level in an organization (i.e., managerial level and number of subordinates). Based on this relatively extensive
information, participants' self-reported job titles were recoded into formalized O*NET job titles, and objectified RIASEC scores
B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 63

were subsequently culled from the O*NET database (O⁎NET Resource Center, 2012). T1 and T2 job titles were recoded
independently from each other by the first author and second co-author respectively. The validity of O*NET ratings has been
established by Rounds et al. (1999) and more recently by Eggerth, Bowles, Tunick, and Andrew (2005) and the ratings have been
used in past structural studies of Holland's RIASEC model (Deng, Armstrong, & Rounds, 2007).

2.2.4. Satisfaction
Career satisfaction was measured using a Dutch translation of the five-item Career Satisfaction Scale (Greenhaus, Parasuraman,
& Wormley, 1990). For general life satisfaction, a translation of the five-item Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen,
& Griffin, 1985) was used. All ten subjective well-being items were scored on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (totally
disagree) to 5 (totally agree), with higher scores indicating higher levels of satisfaction. A confirmatory factor analysis (conducted
in MPlus5) demonstrated that a two-factor model with all items loading on their intended factor yielded good model fit indices
(χ2 (N = 166, df = 34) = 96.69, p b .001; CFI = .93; TLI = .91; RMSEA = .11; SRMR = .05). A competing one-factor model
evidenced poor model fit (χ2 (N = 166, df = 35) = 437.38, p b .001; CFI = .55, TLI = .42; RMSEA = .26; SRMR = .16). The
Career and Life satisfaction scales correlated moderately (r = .34, p b .001) and demonstrated good internal consistency (α = .83
and .87 respectively). The mean score was 3.88 for career satisfaction (min = 2, max = 5, SD = 0.63) and 3.68 for life satisfaction
(min = 2, max = 5, SD = 0.70).

2.3. Derived congruency indices

2.3.1. Euclidean distance

Given that the RIASEC scores can be validly represented as a circle in a two dimensional space (Tracey, 1997a,b; Tracey
& Rounds, 1993), the RIASEC scores from each of the measures were converted into Prediger's (1982) two dimensions of People/
Things and Data/Ideas. Specifically, Things/People was calculated as (2R + I − A − 2S − E + C) and Data/Ideas was calculated
as (1.73E + 1.73C − 1.73I − 1.73A). The Euclidean distance (i.e., the square root of the sum of squared deviations) was then
calculated for each pair of measures to yield a congruence score (see also Tracey et al., 2005, 2012; Tracey & Robbins, 2006). Lower
scores represent less difference in position (i.e., greater congruence) while higher scores represent greater distance between
points (i.e., less congruence).

2.3.2. Profile correlation

The correlation among the pattern of RIASEC scores for each individual across two measures was used as an alternative index of
congruence. As such, high scores indicate a greater congruence (similar covariation) and low correlations or negative correlations
indicate less congruence (see also Allen & Robbins, 2010; Tracey et al., 2012).

2.4. Attrition analyses

The sample of 167 college alumni included in this study was drawn from a larger pool of 558 subjects who all provided data
on vocational interests and occupational environments at T1. For inclusion in this study, it was required that the same type of
information was also provided 15 years later at T2. To investigate selectivity in study dropout, we compared ‘continuers’ (n = 167) to
‘dropouts’ (n = 391) with regard to T1 interest scores (SDS), T1 occupation self-reports (PCI), and T1 congruence scores (SDS-PCI).
While no significant differences were obtained at the level of RIASEC interests, we found that continuers scored significantly higher

Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the different congruence indices that are considered in the present study organized according to the congruence method
(Euclidean distance vs. Profile correlation), the type of environment assessment (PCI vs. O*NET-based), and time perspective (concurrent time1 vs. concurrent
time2 vs. longitudinal).
64 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

than dropouts on T1 artistic (t(552) = −2.17, p b .05) and T1 social occupational characteristics (t(548) = −2.36, p b .05),
although these differences were small (d = .18 and .20 respectively). There were also no differences in congruence scores of interests
and occupations at time one (t(524) = 1.06, p = .288 for Euclidean distance and t(24) = 0.15, p = .876 for profile correlation).

2.5. Congruence analyses

Congruence in this study was investigated using different congruence indices, environmental assessments, and time
perspectives. Specifically, we considered two indices (Euclidean distance and Profile correlation) with one interest (SDS) and two
environment measures (PCI and O*NET) across two time periods. This resulted in twelve interest–occupation comparisons that
were examined (see Fig. 1).
There were five steps in the analysis. First, an examination of the change and stability in all different RIASEC ratings (interests
and occupations) was conducted. Following this, the convergence of the two environmental assessment methods (PCI and O*NET)
was investigated. Third, the associations between individual interest and occupational RIASEC dimensions were examined as an initial
investigation of the similarity of interests with occupational environments. Next, detailed analyses of the different congruence indices
within and across time were conducted. Finally, we examined the association between interest–occupation congruence across time
and satisfaction indicators.

3. Results

3.1. Change and stability of RIASEC interest and occupation scores

We first inspected two general indices of change and stability in personal interests and occupational characteristics.
Rank-order or differential stability of all the individual RIASEC scales was assessed by computing test–retest correlations across
the entire time interval. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to estimate mean-level change in RIASEC
interests and occupation scores and to test whether the mean-level changes were statistically significant. Regarding rank-order
stability, the results in Table 1 first point to moderate to strong levels of differential stability in RIASEC interest and occupation scores.
For the SDS interest scales, test–retest correlations range between .37 (Enterprising; p b .001) and .76 (Realistic; p b .001) with an
average of .51. For the occupation scales, the test–retest correlations were somewhat lower, ranging between .22 (Enterprising;
p b .01) and .51 (Artistic; p b .001) for the PCI and between .22 (Conventional; p b .01) and .53 (Social; p b .001) for the O*NET
ratings respectively.
Regarding mean-level changes, the results indicated significant decreases in participants' Realistic (F(1,165) = 6.59, p b .05),
Investigative (F(1,165) = 12.88, p b .001), Artistic (F(1,165) = 9.51, p b .01), and Social (F(1,165) = 24.27, p b .001) SDS
interests. At the side of the environment, the pattern of mean score changes varied across measures. For the PCI occupational
ratings, there was a small decrease in Realistic characteristics (F(1,165) = 20.01, p b .001) while Social (F(1,165) = 20.28,
p b .001), Enterprising (F(1,165) = 53.49, p b .001) and Conventional (F(1,165) = 73.71, p b .001) characteristics increased
modestly. When the O*NET occupational classification was considered, there was only a small but significant decrease in Artistic
characteristics (F(1,165) = 11.67, p b .01) and a modest increase in Enterprising characteristics (F(1,165) = 36.28, p b .001).
Cohen's d effect sizes of these mean-level changes are summarized in Table 1.

3.2. Convergence of PCI and O*NET occupation ratings

The correlations among the two environment assessment methods are presented in Table 2. As can be seen, at both time
points, the two ratings are moderately correlated. The strongest level of convergence was obtained for the Realistic scale (r = .53

Table 1
Test–retest correlations (r) and mean level changes (d) of interest and occupation scores.

Interests: SDS Occupations: PCI Occupations: O*NET

Test–retest Mean change Test–retest Mean change Test–retest Mean change

r d r d r d

Realistic .76⁎⁎⁎ −.14⁎ .44⁎⁎⁎ −.11⁎⁎⁎ .51⁎⁎⁎ .00

Investigative .51⁎⁎⁎ −.28⁎⁎⁎ .50⁎⁎⁎ .00 .33⁎⁎⁎ .00
Artistic .50⁎⁎⁎ −.24⁎⁎ .51⁎⁎⁎ −.01 .40⁎⁎⁎ −.07⁎⁎
Social .49⁎⁎⁎ −.39⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .11⁎⁎⁎ .53⁎⁎⁎ .01
Enterprising .37⁎⁎⁎ .02 .22⁎⁎ .25⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .18⁎⁎⁎
Conventional .43⁎⁎⁎ .14 .25⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎ .01
Average .51 – .37 – .38 –

Note. d = Cohen's d (mean of T2 − mean of T1/pooled standard deviation).

⁎ p b .05.
⁎⁎ p b .01.
⁎⁎⁎ p b .001.
B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 65

Table 2
Correlations between corresponding PCI and O*NET RIASEC scores at time 1 and time 2.

Time 1 Time 2

Realistic .53⁎⁎⁎ .53⁎⁎⁎

Investigative .36⁎⁎⁎ .42⁎⁎⁎
Artistic .41⁎⁎⁎ .52⁎⁎⁎
Social .31⁎⁎⁎ .50⁎⁎⁎
Enterprising .28⁎⁎⁎ .43⁎⁎⁎
Conventional .16⁎ .22⁎⁎
Average .34 .44

⁎ p b .05.
⁎⁎ p b .01.
⁎⁎⁎ p b .001.

at T1 and T2; p b .001), while the overlap was consistently smallest for the Conventional scale (r = .16, p b .05 and r = .22,
p b .01 for T1 and T2 respectively).

3.3. Associations between interests and occupations

As an initial examination of the similarity of interests with occupations, each of the RIASEC interest scales were correlated with
the two environmental assessments (PCI and O*NET RIASEC scales; see Table 3). The magnitude of the correlations is moderate
when examined concurrently and does not vary appreciably across RIASEC scale or across occupation assessment method. One
notable exception is the nonsignificant correlation between the T2 Enterprising interest scale and the concurrent Enterprising
O*NET rating. As a matter of fact, at T2 only the interest–occupation correlations tended to be smaller when O*NET ratings were used
compared to PCI ratings (mean r = .24).
Based on the gravitational hypothesis, we expected T2 occupations to be more highly correlated with T1 interests compared to
T1 occupations. However, based on the average correlations for both sets of analyses, this was generally not the case. The only
exception was for Social interests and occupational characteristics, where T2 occupations tended to show stronger convergence
with T1 Social interests (r = .44 for PCI and .40 for O*NET; p b .001) compared to T1 occupations (r = .28 for PCI and .34
for O*NET; p b .001). All other longitudinal correlations were highly comparable to those reported for the concurrent assessments.

3.4. Interest–occupation congruence within and across time

3.4.1. Fit of the circumplex model

As the Euclidean distance index of congruence depends upon the validity of the circumplex model, it is essential to evaluate
the fit of the circumplex model with the measures and sample used. There are several tools that enable analysis of circumplex
models (e.g., CIRCUM, Browne, 1992; circular unidimensional scaling, Armstrong, Hubert, & Rounds, 2003; Hubert, Arabie,
& Meulman, 1997; and the randomization test of hypothesized order relations, Hubert & Arabie, 1987; Tracey, 1997a).
These methods are described and compared in Darcy and Tracey (2007) and Gupta, Tracey, and Gore (2008). We chose the
randomization test of hypothesized order relations as it has been demonstrated to be sound (see above citations), it is easily
understood by others, it is the most common, and it provides an index of fit that enables easy comparison across samples. This test
compares the fit of the data to a hypothesized model and then uses the distribution of all random reordering of the rows and
columns of a correlation matrix to provide an exact test of the significance of the model-data fit. In this case, the model is that of a

Table 3
Concurrent and longitudinal correlations between interests and occupations.

Concurrent T1 Concurrent T2 Longitudinala

SDS interest scales PCI O*NET PCI O*NET PCI O*NET

Realistic .35⁎⁎⁎ .40⁎⁎⁎ .27⁎⁎⁎ .29⁎⁎⁎ .27⁎⁎ .32⁎⁎⁎

Investigative .22⁎⁎ .18⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎ .24⁎⁎ .20⁎⁎
Artistic .35⁎⁎⁎ .31⁎⁎⁎ .33⁎⁎⁎ .20⁎⁎ .41⁎⁎⁎ .29⁎⁎⁎
Social .28⁎⁎⁎ .34⁎⁎⁎ .39⁎⁎⁎ .25⁎⁎ .44⁎⁎⁎ .40⁎⁎⁎
Enterprising .41⁎⁎⁎ .34⁎⁎⁎ .40⁎⁎⁎ .14 .34⁎⁎⁎ .22⁎⁎
Conventional .26⁎⁎ .32⁎⁎⁎ .43⁎⁎⁎ .29⁎⁎⁎ .21⁎⁎ .20⁎⁎
Average .31 .32 .36 .24 .32 .27

T1 interest scores in combination with T2 work characteristics.
⁎ p b .05.
⁎⁎ p b .01.
⁎⁎⁎ p b .001.
66 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

circumplex, where the correlations between adjacent scales (e.g., RI) are greater than correlations between scales one step apart
on the circle (e.g., RA), which are in turn greater than correlations opposite on the circle (e.g., RS; see Tracey & Rounds, 1993 for
the specification of all predictions). The number of predictions confirmed in the correlation matrix thus serves as the basis of the
test and is compared against what would be expected by chance (i.e., the random reorderings). In addition to this exact test
of model-data fit, Hubert and Arabie (1987) proposed the use of the correspondence index (CI) to aid interpretation. The CI is the
number of predictions met minus the number of predictions violated over the total number of predictions. A CI value of .5 would
indicate that 75% of the predictions were met and 25% violated.
The results of the randomization test of hypothesized order relations are presented in Table 4. The fit of the data to the
circumplex model was significant in each case. The magnitude of this model-data fit can be compared to meta-analytically
derived benchmarks (Rounds & Tracey, 1996) of CI = .70 for U.S. samples and measures and CI = .48 for international contexts.
It can be seen that the CI values in this study are similar to the U.S. benchmark for all except the PCI at time 1 (CI = .53), which
was, although significant, lower than the U.S. benchmark. So the results indicate that both interests and the occupational
environment fit the circle and that the Euclidean distance index of congruence is valid.

3.4.2. Congruence levels within and across time

While the congruence indicators provide information on the extent to which interests and occupations match, they provide
little information on the absolute magnitude of this fit. To examine if people tend to choose occupations that match their interests
we compared the congruence indices with the congruence indices that would result if an individual entered a randomly selected
occupation. There are two methods for determining random occupations: (a) using all possible occupations drawn from the
O*NET, or (b) using all possible permutations of RIASEC occupational codes. There is no formal job analysis of Belgian occupations
so we chose to use the O*NET RIASEC estimates based on U.S. job analysis for (a). We did not think that the job structure would
be appreciably different in Belgium. We examined the congruence indices relative to both of these random distributions to gain
an estimate of the absolute magnitude of congruence.
For the Euclidean distance indicator, the Euclidean distance of the environment scores from the SDS RIASEC scores was
calculated for each individual twice, once using the PCI RIASEC environment scores and again once using the O*NET RIASEC
environment scores. Next, the Euclidean distance of each individual's SDS RIASEC scores with all possible combinations of all of
the RIASEC scores of all 974 O*NET occupations was also calculated. This matching of each individual's SDS profile with each of the
O*NET occupations provides a distribution of Euclidean distance congruence with all jobs and the 95% best Euclidean congruence
value provides a very strong statistical evaluation of whether or not the individual's Euclidean distance index is significantly
different from chance. In a sample of people, the expected proportion of individuals who would have Euclidean distance measures
at or above the 95%ile threshold should be .05.
In a second test, using a different definition of random, the individual's RIASEC scores were compared to all the permutations
of the reordering of the RIASEC scores for the environment. So for 6 types, this results in 720 different permutations of the
reordering of the environmental RIASEC scores. These 720 congruence indices are then used to provide the distribution from
which the 95%ile is determined. Like above with the Euclidean distance distribution based on the O*NET environment, the
expectation across all individuals is that only 5% of the individuals would have a significant P–E Euclidean fit index. Because we
also calculated the profile correlation, the exact same procedures were used to determine the comparison distributions. So there
were two different assessments of the significance of the PE congruence indices differing from random: one based on all O*NET
occupations and one based on all permutations of the actual occupation of employment. Each of these examinations was
conducted for both the Euclidean and Profile correlation indices of congruence.
We also considered using the number of jobs in each occupation as the basis of the random distribution. In this analysis we
would match the person's interest scores to a random occupation drawn from a pool of all occupations weighted by the frequency
of each. This random distribution would put more weight on those occupations that were more frequent, hence accounting
for base-rate differences. However, because the only occupational base-rate data that we had came from U.S. estimates, we did
not think that these estimates could be validly applied to Belgium. So we use the random distributions described above which did

Table 4
The randomization tests of hypothesized order relations for the circumplex model.

Predictions Correspondence

Measure Made Met (%) Index (CI) p

Time 1
SDS 72 61 (84.7) .694 .0167
PCI 72 55 (76.4) .528 .0333

Time 2
SDS 72 62 (86.1) .722 .0167
PCI 72 64 (88.9) .778 .0167

O*NETa 72 64 (88.9) .778 .0167

No time-specific tests were necessary for the O*NET data because these time 1 and time 2 occupation ratings were all derived from the same time-invariant
B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 67

not depend upon obtaining base-rate estimates for Belgium. (As an aside, we did these analyses with base-rate corrected data and
found very similar results to those we obtained using the other random distributions).
The means and standard deviations of the various congruence indices and the comparisons with random distributions
are presented in Table 5. First, the congruence of interest and occupation profiles across time was examined separately. For the
congruence of interest scores, the Euclidean distance mean was 32.4 (SD = 17.5) and the profile correlation was .55 (SD = .36).
This correlation indicates that on average the congruence between interests over time is high. To help interpret the Euclidean
distance results, the randomization tests provide information on how much these values deviate from chance. Specifically, 46% of
the individuals had interest congruence indices that deviated from chance (as determined by the O*NET occupations) and 59% as
determined by the random permutations. Comparable findings were obtained for the profile correlations where 34% deviated
from chance using the O*NET definition of chance and 82% using the permutation definition of chance. Similar patterns also exist
for the occupational profiles over time (PCI and O*NET) where the proportion of congruence indices exceeding significance is well
above the chance level of .05.
The next two rows represent the levels of congruence between interests and occupations, both assessed at T1. For the PCI, the
Euclidean distance mean was 38.5 (SD = 21.2), with 30% of the individuals having congruence indices that deviated from chance
(as determined by the O*NET occupations) and 48% as determined by the random permutations. The average profile correlation
of r = .35 (SD = .42) further indicates a moderate level of congruence between interests and occupations at T1. When O*NET
was used as the environmental assessment at T1, the mean Euclidean distance was larger (M = 63.0; SD = 28.8) while this did
not seem to affect the mean profile correlation (r = .37; SD = .44).
Regarding concurrent interest–environment congruence levels at T2, the mean Euclidean distances were highly comparable
with those obtained 15 years earlier. For the PCI ratings, 29% the individuals had Euclidean distance congruence indices that
deviated from chance (as determined by the O*NET occupations) and 47% as determined by the random permutations. For the
O*NET ratings, these percentages were lower (i.e., 11% and 14% respectively). The mean profile correlation between interests and
environments at T2 was .41, irrespective of the environment assessment method (PCI or O*NET) that was used.
Finally, with respect to the interest–environment congruence across time (SDS interests at T1 and PCI/O*NET occupations at
T2), the mean Euclidean distances are highly comparable to those resulting from the concurrent analyses. For T1 SDS and T2 PCI
ratings, 34% the individuals had Euclidean distance congruence indices that deviated from chance (as determined by the O*NET
occupations) and 50% as determined by the random permutations. For the T1 SDS and T2 O*NET ratings, these percentages were,
again, lower (i.e., 18% and 22% respectively). Finally, the mean profile correlation between T1 interests and T2 occupations was
in the same range as for the concurrent analyses, i.e. .37 (SD = .41) for PCI ratings and .33 (SD = .45) for O*NET ratings. These
results indicate that regardless of the congruence index examined, there is a significant amount of congruence that exists.

3.4.3. Correlations between congruence indices

The correlations among the different congruence indices are presented in Table 6. First, the Euclidean and Profile correlation
methods are moderately correlated with each other (and marked in bold in the table), having a mean correlation of r = − .59
(range − .46 to − .66). The negative correlations are expected given that low scores on Euclidean distance indicate congruence as
do high scores on the profile correlation. The magnitude of these correlations further shows that there is moderate covariation but
also some unique variance in each congruence method. This is further confirmed by the correlations between the congruence
indices across the two different environmental types. These correlations are underlined in Table 6. Specifically, the correlation

Table 5
Mean congruence indices along with tests of randomness.

Euclidean distance Profile correlation

M SD 95% 95% M SD 95% 95%

O*NET random O*NET random

Interest congruence across time

Int1–Int2 32.4 17.5 .46 .59 .55 .36 .34 .82

Occupation congruence across time

PCI1–PCI2 32.4 18.9 .34 .52 .65 .31 .60 .70
O*1–O*2 65.0 47.2 .46 .50 .49 .48 .33 .66

Interest–Occupation congruence within time (T1)

Int1–PCI1 38.5 21.2 .30 .48 .35 .42 .23 .70
Int1–O*1 63.0 28.8 .17 .27 .37 .44 .25 .71

Interest–Occupation congruence within time (T2)

Int2–PCI2 33.3 17.2 .29 .47 .41 .39 .32 .75
Int2–O*2 65.8 24.3 .11 .14 .41 .38 .20 .77

Interest–Occupation congruence across time

Int1–PCI2 38.4 20.9 .34 .50 .37 .41 .20 .80
Int1–O*2 69.9 28.5 .18 .22 .33 .45 .22 .67

Note. Int1 = SDS interest profile at time 1; Int2 = SDS interest profile at time 2; PCI1 = PCI occupation profile at time 1; PCI2 = PCI occupation profile at time 2;
O*1 = O*NET occupation profile at time 1; O*2 = O*NET occupation profile at time 2.
68 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

between interests (T1)–PCI (T1) Euclidean distance (i.e., I1P1E) and interests (T1)–O*NET (T1) Euclidean distance (I1O1E)
was .17 (p b .05), whereas the equivalent correlation using the profile correlation method (i.e., the correlation between interests
and PCI at T1 (I1P1R) and interests and O*NET at T1 (I1O1R) was .38 (p b .01). Similarly, the correlation between Euclidean
measures of interests at T1 with PCI at T2 (I1P2E) and interests at T1 with O*NET at T2 (I1O2E) was .34, whereas the equivalent
correlation was .57 when the profile correlation was used.

3.4.4. Stability and change in congruence across time

The tests of the differences in the congruence indices over time are summarized in Table 7. Overall there were few changes in
congruence over time. The sole exceptions were two significant but opposite results for Euclidean distance indices. First, when
considering the PCI environment assessment, it was found that the Euclidean distance between concurrent T2 interests and
environments was greater compared to the Euclidean distance between concurrent T1 interests and environments (t(166) = 2.61,
p b .01), thus indicating decreases in congruence (greater distance represents less congruence). Furthermore, for the Euclidean
distance method there was also a change in congruence in the opposite direction from interests at T1 with occupation at T1 to
interests at T1 with the occupation at T2 (t(166) = −2.35, p b .05). Specifically, interests at T1 were more similar to the O*NET job
at T2 compared to O*NET job at T1. Finally, an interesting pattern of results also emerged with respect to the differential stability of
congruence. Specifically, all four of the positive correlations presented in Table 7 (last column) were significant for the profile
correlation indices but only one of four was significant for the Euclidean distance indices.

3.5. Interest–occupation congruence and satisfaction

To examine the relationships between congruence and outcomes, we first correlated each of the congruence measures
with both life and career satisfaction. However, there were no significant associations between any of the congruence indices and
either satisfaction measure.
Next, a series of hierarchical regressions were conducted to examine the moderation of the congruence-satisfaction relations
by job change over the period of study. Specifically, we investigated whether individuals who changed jobs would have a
greater relation between congruence and satisfaction (both career and life). We used separate hierarchical regressions to test
the moderation effect on both life and career satisfaction using the different measures of congruence. In a first step of these
hierarchical regressions, the congruence between T1 interests and T2 environments was entered (A), followed by the congruence
between T1 and T2 environments in a second step (B), and the interaction term (A × B) in a third and final step. The congruence
between T1 and T2 environments is thus used here as a proxy for change in environments or job change. The results first
indicated no significant relations of any of the variables with career satisfaction. For life satisfaction, on the other hand, there were
a number of significant effects but only when the O*NET environment assessment was used. The summary of these regressions
are presented in Table 8.
For the profile correlation method and using O*NET ratings (lower half of Table 8), only the congruence between T1 and T2
O*NET environment ratings had a significant effect on life satisfaction (β = .22, p b .05). The positive effect moreover indicates
that a stronger (profile) correlation between T1 and T2 environments was predictive for higher levels of life satisfaction. In other
words, those individuals who stayed close to their original job were more satisfied, whereas those who changed jobs more
substantially (i.e., smaller correlation between T1 and T2 O*NET job ratings) reported lower life satisfaction.
A similar pattern of results was obtained using the Euclidean distance index of congruence, and here the moderation of
the life–satisfaction-congruence relation by job change as the interaction term was also significant (see upper part of Table 8).
Greater Euclidean distances between T1 and T2 O*NET environment ratings were associated with lower levels of life satisfaction
(β = − .16, p b .05), again indicating that those individuals who changed to jobs that were more different from their initial one

Table 6
Correlations among the different congruence measures.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

1. I1P1E 1.00
2. I1P1R −.52⁎⁎ 1.00
3. I1P2E .49⁎⁎ −.19⁎ 1.00
4. I1P2R −.23⁎⁎ .64⁎⁎ −.46⁎⁎ 1.00
5. I1O1E .17⁎ −.15 −.03 −.04 1.00
6. I1O1R −.21⁎⁎ .38⁎⁎ −.08 .39⁎⁎ −.68⁎⁎ 1.00
7. I1O2E .15⁎ −.23⁎⁎ .34⁎⁎ −.29⁎⁎ .14 −.13 1.00
8. I1O2R −.14 .37⁎⁎ −.26⁎⁎ .57⁎⁎ −.13 .39⁎⁎ −.66⁎⁎ 1.00
9. I2P2E .10 −.07 .35⁎⁎ −.29⁎⁎ −.10 −.07 .17⁎ −.18⁎ 1.00
10.I2P2R −.11 .34⁎⁎ −.24⁎⁎ .56⁎⁎ .03 .29 −.16⁎ .34⁎⁎ −.60⁎⁎ 1.00
11.I2O2E −.02 −.09 .10 −.06 .05 −.01 .59⁎⁎ −.25⁎⁎ .17⁎ −.20⁎⁎ 1.00
12.I2O2R −.02 .17⁎ −.11 .26⁎⁎ −.09 .23⁎⁎ −.32⁎⁎ .46⁎⁎ −.33⁎⁎ .52⁎⁎ −.63⁎⁎ 1.00

Note. I1 = SDS interest profile at time 1; I2 = SDS interest profile at time 2; P1 = PCI occupation profile at time 1; P2 = PCI occupation profile at time 2; O1 =O*NET
occupation profile at time 1; O2 = O*NET occupation profile at time 2; E = Euclidean distance, R = Profile correlation.
⁎ p b .05.
⁎⁎ p b .01.
B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 69

Table 7
Summary of paired samples t-tests on congruence indices across time.

Contrast Paired mean difference SD t(166) r

Euclidean distance
Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest1–PCI2 0.15 21.25 0.10 .49⁎⁎
Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest2–PCI2 5.25 26.02 2.61⁎⁎ .10
Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest1–O*NET2 −6.84 37.60 −2.35⁎⁎ .14
Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest2–O*NET2 −2.79 36.71 0.98 .05

Profile correlation
Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest1–PCI2 −0.02 0.35 −0.71 .64⁎⁎
Interest1–PCI1 vs. Interest2–PCI2 −0.05 0.47 −1.56 .38⁎⁎
Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest1–O*NET2 0.04 0.49 0.94 .39⁎⁎
Interest1–O*NET1 vs. Interest2–O*NET2 −0.04 0.51 −0.92 .23⁎⁎

⁎ p b .05.
⁎⁎ p b .01.

reported lower life satisfaction. However there was a significant interaction effect with interest–occupation congruence (β = .41,
p b .05). An examination of the simple slopes of this interaction revealed that for individuals whose new job was different from
the early job (i.e., high Euclidean O*NET distance over time) there was a positive relation between interest–O*NET congruence
and life satisfaction. Given that greater Euclidean distance indicates less congruence, this result means that for those with greater
job change; there was a negative relation between congruence and life satisfaction. However, those whose later job was
more similar to the earlier one (lower Euclidean O*NET distance over time) had a negative relation between life satisfaction and
interest–occupation at time 2 Euclidean distance. So for those who stayed in a similar job, there was a positive relation between
congruence and life satisfaction.
We also conducted an identical moderation analysis but instead of examining the moderating effect of job change, we
examined the moderating effect of interest change over time (i.e., changes in interests from time 1 to time 2 using both the Euclidean
distance and profile correlations). We did not find any significant moderation effects for the congruence–career satisfaction relation
for either congruence index or method of assessing the environment. A similar lack of significant moderating relations was found in
the congruence–life satisfaction relation.

4. Discussion

To date, very little knowledge is available on change and stability in interest–occupation congruence once people have left
college and entered the workforce. The general objective of this study was therefore to investigate the dynamics of congruence

Table 8
Hierarchical regressions with life satisfaction as the criterion and O*NET-based congruence.

Variables β t R2 df F ΔR2 Δdf ΔF

Euclidean distance
Step 1 .000 1,166 0.08 .000 1,166 0.08
Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .02 0.28
Step 2 .025 2,165 2.06 .025 1,165 4.04⁎
Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .07 0.86
O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) −.16 −2.01⁎
Step 3 .048 3,164 3.62 .023 1,164 3.95⁎
Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .13 0.38
O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) −.22 −1.85
A×B .41 1.99⁎

Profile correlation
Step 1 .000 1,166 0.02 .000 1,166 0.02
Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .14 0.14
Step 2 .047 2,165 3.89⁎ .047 1,165 7.76⁎⁎
Interest1–O*NET2 (A) −.04 −0.55
O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) .22 2.79⁎⁎
Step 3 .057 3,164 3.17⁎ .010 1,164 1.68
Interest1–O*NET2 (A) .04 0.38
O*NET1–O*NET2 (B) .30 3.03⁎⁎
A×B −.16 −1.36

⁎ p b .05.
⁎⁎ p b .01.
70 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

over a significant and substantial time interval and using a sample of actual workers instead of the college students that
have previously been used (e.g., Tracey et al., 2005). The longitudinal and multi-method design that was adopted allowed us
to rigorously investigate the inherently complex phenomenon that is P–E fit. Specifically, interest–occupation congruence could
be examined using different environment assessment methods (i.e., objective and subjective), applying different congruence
calculations (i.e., Euclidean distance and profile correlation), and adopting different time perspectives to investigate changes in
congruence across time.
A questionable assumption that is often made in prior research on congruence concerns the treatment of interests as being
fixed (Tracey & Robbins, 2006). The results of this study demonstrate that interests of workers are both stable and changing over
time. There was a relatively high degree of differential stability in interest scores, supporting the individual differences view of
stable interest patterns (e.g., Holland, 1997; Rounds & Tracey, 1990). However, there was also some variation in differential
stability across interest types, with Enterprising interests in particular demonstrating the greatest potential for relative
changes. In addition, we also observed several absolute changes in interest scores over time that tempers the claim of
consistency of interests. Albeit modest, significant mean-level decreases were found in Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, and
Social interests.
At the occupation side, the present study considered both subjective RIASEC self-reports as well as more objective occupation
ratings that were derived from the O*NET database. The moderate correlations between perceived and objective occupation
scores demonstrated that the two types of measures are capturing different but overlapping variance. Interestingly, these correlations
tended to increase with time, indicating that people's perceptions shifted toward objective as they aged, although these perceptions
at time 2 still demonstrated a lot of unique variance.
Similarly as for interests, participants' RIASEC occupation scores were found to simultaneously demonstrate change and
stability across the first third of their career. Differential stabilities of individual RIASEC occupation scales was slightly lower
compared to interest scales, and on average did not vary appreciably between environment assessment methods. This thus
indicates that perceived RIASEC characteristics, such as measured with the self-report PCI, evidence similar rank-order stabilities
over time compared to objective O*NET occupation ratings. Showing an average differential stability of .37 (for PCI) or .38
(for O*NET), the results further demonstrated that occupational characteristics assessed at the very beginning of the career
were moderately to strongly predictive for occupations as assessed 15 years later. This is further confirmed when inspecting
the congruence of entire occupation profiles across time: between 34 and 70% of the individuals had cross-time occupation
congruence indices that deviated from chance, depending on which environment assessment, which definition of randomness,
and which congruence calculation method is used. Finally, a number of absolute changes in individual occupation scores were
also identified, and these tended to be more pronounced for perceived occupational characteristics compared to objective O*NET
derived ratings.
As an initial examination of interest–occupation congruence, individual RIASEC interest scales were related to individual
RIASEC occupation scales. Three major findings emerged. First, moderate associations between corresponding RIASEC scales were
identified, which was already a first indication that interests matched with occupations. Second, these associations did not vary
appreciably according to which time perspective was adopted. There was thus no considerable drop off in the relation of interests
to occupations across time, nor was there a significant increase. Third, these individual interest–occupation associations were – on
average – not affected by environmental assessment method, further substantiating the convergence between both methods.
One exception was found in this regard: Enterprising interests at mid career matched less with the concurrent Enterprising
occupational characteristics in comparison with (a) their concurrent association at career start, and (b) their longitudinal
association (interests at career start and occupations 15 years later), but only when O*NET ratings were used. Hence, for this
particular RIASEC dimension, the match between interests and objective occupational characteristics disappeared as both evolved
over time.
Further evidence for interest–occupation congruence was obtained by calculating two congruence indices, Euclidean distance
and profile correlation, that take into account complete RIASEC profiles. All congruence indices were found to deviate significantly
from chance even at the individual level. So there is no random matching—far from it. People thus occupy professions at
the beginning of the career as well as 15 years later that have a greater than chance fit with their initial as well as their evolved
vocational interests. When the two environmental assessment methods are compared, higher levels of congruence were
obtained when the PCI was used compared to when O*NET ratings were used. However, this difference was only apparent when
congruence was operationalized using the Euclidean distance measure. Finally, across the three time perspectives and for PCI as
well as for O*NET occupation ratings, the percentages of individuals with congruence levels significantly deviating from chance
were much larger when the profile correlation method was used compared to the Euclidean distance measure which is attributable to
the relatively poor fit of the circumplex to the PCI. The Euclidean distance index is a more restrictive assessment of fit as it requires
circular ordering of the RIASEC scores so it is less appropriate in conditions where it is not valid.
Further, the distinctiveness of both congruence calculation methods was also represented in the results concerning change
and stability of congruence across time. Profile correlation congruence did not change over time in absolute terms and evidenced
relative stability. Euclidean distance indices on the other hand had little relative stability over time but did manifest some
absolute changes in levels of congruence. This could be somewhat attributable to the differences in the two indices. Besides
reflecting differences in the fit in the underlying circumplex, the Euclidean distance index takes more account of the profile
distance discrepancy than the profile correlation. The profile correlation reflects most the degree of similar patterning in the
ranking of the scales. These different patterns thus indicate that the two sets of indices vary with respect to sensitivity to (relative)
change with the Euclidean distance indices being more labile over time.
B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73 71

Interestingly, the absolute changes in congruence identified for the Euclidean distance measure did not indicate increased P–E
fit, as would be expected based on gravitation and socialization theory. Specifically, we found that the interest and environment
perceptions became less similar as both evolved over time, although this pattern was not present when the O*NET was used as the
environment measure or when profile correlation was used as the congruence method. However, turning to objective occupation
ratings, we also found an increase in congruence from interests at time 1 with occupation at time 1 to interests at time 1 to occupation
at time 2, thus indicating that individuals shifted jobs over time to better fit their initial interests. This is entirely in line with the
gravitation hypothesis.
Finally, congruence within and across time was found to be only marginally related to satisfaction levels assessed after
15 years of employment. Specifically, no significant main effects of any of the twelve interest–environment congruence indices
could be identified. It is unclear to what extent this lack of associations represents a problem for P–E fit theory rather than reflects
methodological issues. For instance, part of this lack of significant results could be due the reduced variance in the extent
of congruence (e.g., Spokane, Meir, & Catalano, 2000). Given that a substantial proportion of people occupy matching occupations
at both time points, the range of congruence scores was limited. Also and perhaps related, we found relatively high mean scores
in both satisfaction measures assessed at time 2.
In order to delve further into these congruence–outcome associations, we also examined job and interest change as a potential
moderating variables. Regarding the first, we found stronger changes in objective occupations to predict lower levels of life
satisfaction. So people who moved away from their initial occupation more substantially were less satisfied with their lives
compared to individuals with no or only minimal job changes. Moreover, job change also moderated the congruence–satisfaction
relationship such that higher congruence predicted more life satisfaction only when job change was minimal. Conversely, when
job change was higher the positive effect of congruence on satisfaction disappeared and even turned negative. For those in the
high job change group, the lack of congruence–satisfaction relation may indicate that job changes are elected for reasons other
than better interest fit (e.g., stability, salary, time demands, or prestige). Finally, no significant effects were found for interest

4.1. Implications for theory and research

The theoretical implications of our results are twofold. First, our findings call for a tempering of the widespread idea that
congruence should increase with time. While there may be some evidence for this in non-working (i.e. student) samples (e.g., Tracey
et al., 2005), the reality seems to be quite different for people navigating through their post-education careers. For them, it is probably
unrealistic to expect career moves to be so strongly inspired by a interests alone. More than with educational choices, actual job
moves (or decisions not to move) may be influenced by external motives or constraints, including pragmatic (e.g., commute time)
and financial considerations, or tight labor market conditions. In this regard, although only limited increases in fit could be found in
this study, our findings of stability in interest–occupation congruence after 15 years in the workforce are all the more remarkable.
Finally, our findings also serve to temper the idea of congruence being unconditionally associated with higher satisfaction levels.
Specifically, the results provide further evidence for the role of moderators in interest congruence–occupational outcome relations
(Tracey, 2007). Job change in this study was associated with lower life satisfaction and moreover attenuated or even reversed
the congruence–satisfaction relationship. This indicates that not only congruence itself, but also how the congruity came into being,
is important to take into account.
The present study also adds to the continuing debate around the selection of congruence indices. The Euclidean distance
measure draws on the circumplex model to validly represent data. Given that there is variability in fit to the circumplex across
instruments and samples (e.g., Rounds & Tracey, 1996; Tracey & Rounds, 1993), testing of the person and environment variables
relative to their being appropriately represented by the circumplex is essential if the Euclidean distance index is adopted.
The profile correlation index can be used with most sets of person and environmental measures as it carries no assumption of the
measures being represented by a circumplex. In this way, it may have more to recommend it as a P–E fit index given that it is
appropriate in more contexts. Tracey et al. (2012) examined both the Euclidean distance and the profile correlation indices and
found both roughly equal in being related to indices of academic success in college, although there was also a slightly different
pattern in the results for both calculation methods. The results of the current study indicate that while there is a good amount
of shared variance in the two indices, there was also substantial unique variance in each and this also affected the analyses
of congruence dynamics. Issues involved in calculating congruence thus still are salient and need to be incorporated in future
research addressing interest–occupation congruence across time.

4.2. Limitations and future research

First, questions can be raised concerning the generalizability of our findings. Data were collected in a unique sample of
talented young professionals that could be tracked across the first 15 years of their career and that were all highly educated.
Assuming that higher education levels broaden employment options, it could be expected that our alumni had greater
opportunities to select a more fitting occupation at career start and/or to gravitate toward matching occupations across the first
fifteen years of employment. Hence, it remains to be examined whether similar patterns of congruence can be identified for more
heterogeneous worker samples. Second, only two assessments could be conducted over a relatively large time intervals, capturing
only linear changes in interests, occupations, and congruence. Longitudinal designs with three or more assessment points are
preferable that can capture curvilinear developmental patterns as well (e.g., Tracey et al., 2005). Third, as was brought up by an
72 B. Wille et al. / Journal of Vocational Behavior 84 (2014) 59–73

anonymous reviewer, it needs to be acknowledged that at least some subjectivity was also present in the objective O*NET
ratings that we used because these were based on the job titles that participants provided themselves about their current jobs.
An alternative would be to use occupational classifications provided by participants' employers, but these were not available for
the current study. Objective in this study thus primarily indicates that the RIASEC ratings for a person's self reported job were
gathered independent from his or her own perceptions of the interest-related work activities in his or her job. Finally, it should be
noted that we were not able in the present study to consider family factors when looking at change and stability in congruence.
Future research might want to investigate how family responsibilities, for instance as a partner and/or as a parent, and especially
the transitions in such responsibilities, influence processes associated with occupational gravitation.
In conclusion, the results of this study support the continued salience of person–occupational fit as a key defining aspect
of career guidance. Some have called for abandoning the central role of P–E fit in our theories (e.g., Tinsley, 2000) but the results
of this longitudinal and multi-method investigation demonstrate that the level of congruence in job selection is substantial
and continues to be so even after 15 years of labor market experience. Overall, the relative stability of interests, occupations,
and congruence in our sample of career starters suggests that – by the time people finish their college education – they hold a
relatively solid idea of their occupational aspirations to which they also adhered in the long run. This does not mean, however,
that there was no room for change. Although there was no general picture of increased interest–occupation congruence over time,
a dynamic interplay was uncovered between consistency and change in both occupations and interests separately. Typically,
our P–E fit research adopts a static perspective on fit or only considers change at the E-side of the equation. Clearly, these more
detailed analyses helped to paint a more accurate picture of fit within and across time; however, at the same time the results
of this study add substantially to the complexity inherent in the congruence literature where a variety of methods are available
and conflicting results are common.


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