When recruiting someone, the first thing you usually look at is:


Will this person have the capacity to be successful in the position for which I am seeking to recruit them? Will they be able to take charge of the missions, perform the assigned tasks and ultimately make real contributions on a daily basis?


To predict someone’s ability to succeed, we obviously need to look at their technical skills, but not only! We all now know that social skills (or Soft-Skills) are also important. The fact of having a certain natural leadership will, for example, aid in the work of the manager; the fact of being friendly and spontaneous will be an asset for jobs that require being in contact with an audience (salespeople, communicators, etc.); being rigorous and detail-oriented will be an undeniable advantage for an accountant…

We also know that having values ​​aligned with a company’s DNA will be greatly beneficial in an individual’s integration into their new work environment. For example, if the company highly values collaboration but the newcomer is less of a team player, it’s sure that problems could well arise after not much time…

But what about interpersonal affinity really? Is it necessary to have a strong affinity with the people with whom we work? Does this affinity really have an impact on teams’ results? Does it influence the retention talent over the long term (especially high performers)? Is there any danger in recruiting people with too weak (or on the contrary too strong) an affinity?

What are we talking about (exactly) when we talk about affinity?

Affinity can be defined as the “subjective perception on the quality of the relationship” one has with another person.

To have a strong affinity with a person is to feel some form of connection of some intensity with that person.

When we have a strong affinity with someone, we feel attracted(e) to that person, we have the impression that we share things in common with them and/or that we learn things from them on a regular basis. We take pleasure in discussing, working together, we want to spend time with this person. It’s like when things happen naturally, without having to force anything.

Otherwise, when affinity is weak or non-existent, we don’t necessarily take pleasure in interacting… In extreme cases, we would even experience anxiety, annoyance or frustration at having to spend time together.

Either way, whether this is rationally based or not, affinity is what is called a “subjective test”.

Is there “one”… or “some” affinity(s)?

Although this subjective experience is generally felt to be “overall quite positive” or “overall quite negative”, affinity is by no means one single concept!

Let me explain… You can enjoy working with someone without actually wanting to be best friends! And on the other hand, you can enjoy spending time with someone without having the desire to work with them. By the way, we all know the stories of friends who went into business together… only to find out later that “it was not working”.

Affinity should therefore be understood on two levels:

  • On the one hand, there is a rather “social” affinity that one could define as the pleasure experienced spending time with the person. Chat, exchange, have drinks together…
  • On the other hand, a rather “work” oriented affinity marks our inclinations to actively collaborate and our ability to work productively with others. Set up projects, coordinate, execute…

What is the impact of these different categories of affinity on success at work?

The “social” affinity plays mainly on the following elements:

  • Sense of connection and emotional attachment to others,
  • Desire to spend time together,
  • Time spent sharing a vision, ideas…
  • A sense of naturalness and ease in the relationship.

This form of affinity act as a sort of “oil” in the relationship, keeping things running smoothly.

It is determined mainly by a combination of personality traits and motivations having to do with our relational style (the way we approach others, as well as the way we create, develop and bring our relationships with others to life) as well as our relational drivers (Do we need to spend more time with others? Are we looking for close relationships with others? Do we have a natural competitive spirit or a rather collaborative temperament?…).

This “work”-oriented affinity impacts:

  • The feeling of understanding each other and being on the same wavelength for different subjects,
  • The ability to solve problems (more or less complex),
  • The ability to cooperate productively on projects,
  • The fact of “potentiating” oneself, that is to say the synergy that there will be between the ways of doing things of one and the other (what Jean-Claude Vandamme would translate by “1 + 1 = 11 “).

This form of affinity will impact our ability to effectively carry out tasks that need to be accomplished together.

It is directly impacted by our way of working, problem solving, and the given situation but also by our intellectual capacities, the speed at which we think (Are we comfortable with the manipulation of complex data? Can we go quickly and easily from task to task? Do we focus more on details? On the whole picture? Do we take a conventional approach to problem solving? How creative are we on a daily basis?…).

Depending on the level of affinity that 2 people can have on these 2 axes (social affinity and work affinity), we can see the 4 following possible configurations:

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How can we anticipate the affinity between 2 people?

If we want to predict affinity, we must identify upstream what we call “predictors”, that is to say the factors and criteria that have a strong impact on this affinity.

Of course, it’s a very complex equation, as you can imagine!

But like many equations, this one can be simplified to make it more intelligible, without losing too much information along the way!

Starting with each individual’s psychology!

From a psychological point of view, there are 3 main factors that have a significant impact on the affinity between individuals:

  • Their intellectual capacities (how they process information)
  • Their motivations (what sets them in motion)
  • Their personality (how they behave on a daily basis)

First regarding intellectual capacities, note that people tend to get along better when their intellectual abilities are of a similar level (or at least relatively close). Indeed, if you are “smart” (which should be the case if you have read this article so far… ☝️😇), you will undoubtedly take more pleasure in interacting with people “endowed with a certain intellectual level”. You will surely seek relatively less (or even flee altogether) the company of people whose faculties are more limited… not because you think any less of them (that has nothing to do with it), but rather because objectively, it is much less likely that they will stimulate you enough, compared to what you need.

The same goes for motivations. You usually get along better with people who have pretty much the same drivers as yourself. If you are set in motion by playing it safe and not taking too many risks as to preserve your comfort (which is quite understandable), it may be complicated – or even downright unbearable in the end – to engage and evolve every day side by side with people who are systematically pushing their own limits and who keep trying new experiences, each more perilous than the last.

As far as personality is concerned, it is a little different… If a certain community can facilitate the relationship (hence the adage: “birds of a feather flock together”), it also turns out that it can sometimes be beneficial to evolve with people presenting behavioural habits different from our own (…don’t we also say that “opposites attract”?). So – to give a trivial example – it may be beneficial for a person who does not want to take the lead in the relationship to grow alongside someone who naturally is more inclined to do so.

Here’s where it gets complicated…

If there were universal rules we could apply to anticipate the affinity between people, it would be simple. We could reuse the same equation and algorithm each time. But the fact is that each person – by the very fact of their own psychological structure – will have very specific needs. For any two given people, therefore, these needs are not necessarily reciprocated. Actually, that is the case 99 times out of 100!

Let’s stay with the example of skills for a moment. Consider 2 people: One with average intelligence, the other with superior intelligence.

In theory, everyone will get along better with someone of their level. In practice, it is a little different… Although the “superiorly intelligent” person (no judgment here… let’s consider things objectively!) will be more easily able – if they wish – to set themselves at the level of the less endowed person, it will be much more complicated – if not impossible – for the person less endowed in intellectual capacities to adapt to the higher-capacity person (in the sense that it is difficult to fake intelligence).

As a result, it will be an asymmetrical relationship. The less-smart person will subjectively enjoy spending time with the smarter one. While for the smarter person, spending time with the other will require some adjustment, which is unnatural. The problem is, if this effort is made primarily to make the less-smart person “feel good”, it won’t necessarily do much for them in terms of “intellectual stimulation”. And since smart people need intellectual stimulation, I leave you to imagine the result…

We therefore end up with:

  • On the one hand, the less-smart person who will attest to a high level of satisfaction in the relationship (++)..
  • On the other hand, the smarter person who will show a low to medium level of satisfaction in this same relationship (m-).

Obviously, many external factors are likely to modulate this relationship, such as the subject of the exchanges that these people will have. If the less smart person has knowledge that the smarter person lacks, the latter may well benefit from it (because they will be learning). But this will last at most for the time of a few exchanges… If we try to anticipate their affinity over the long term, there is little probability that the less-smart person will manage to “feed” the smarter enough.

What to remember at this stage:

To maximize the chances of having an effective collaboration between 2 people, it is fundamental to take into account their potential for affinity..

This affinity is not singular, rather there are 2 types of affinity: social affinity, which is the pleasure of spending time together, and work affinity, which refers to the ability to coordinate productively and effectively with one another.

The ideal situation when having to work with someone on a daily basis is to have both a social affinity and a work affinity. Not only will the 2 people be able to easily work productively together daily, but they will also enjoy it! (This can especially help overcome conflicts or problems that are sure to arise at one time or another, as in any relationship).

It is quite possible to work well with people without actually being or becoming friends. It is possible to have friends that it would be difficult for us to work with as well. And that will not deter from the friendship in any way!

To anticipate 2 people’s affinity, it is essential to take into account their respective psychological profiles. It is also important to consider that, due to their respective profiles, they will not necessarily have the same expectations (what is called asymmetry of needs).

Why should you take affinity(s) into account when recruiting?

You might think: “Hey, we’re recruiting for a job, not for a manager or even for a team! The manager can move, the teams can change… What is the point of giving their relationships so much (too much?) importance?”

My answer: “Yes, you are right… all that can change. But the point is, the people we work with on a daily basis have a huge impact on our job satisfaction and also our work efficiency. So it would be delusional and damaging not to take this factor into account!”.

Moreover, I will refer you to the results of a study that we conducted recently. It clearly demonstrates the impact of relationships with colleagues and one’s manager on employees’ efficiency and satisfaction at work.

Moreover, being interested in 2 people’s affinity when recruiting does not mean that we will only recruit people with maximum affinity for the team and manager in place. Besides, if you do that… good luck! You’ll probably be spending months and months trying to find the perfect matches…

What this means – more simply – is that when you take potential for affinity into account, you give yourself the means to collect relevant information to fully understand to what extent and also under what conditions these 2 people will be able to work together effectively.

At best you will have a confirmation that the person you are about to recruit has an incredible affinity with everyone on the team (if so, lucky you!). At worst, you will know exactly what everyone should pay attention to (candidate side as well as manager side) to facilitate the successful integration of the new person into the existing team.

This is probably where the biggest advantage lies in studying candidates’ profiles from the angle of their potential affinity with the team in place! It will allow you to formulate clear recommendations in terms of both taking up a position (candidate side) and integration (manager and/or team side).

How to proceed, with concrete actions?

If you want to take potentiel affinity into account, you should take a serious look at the work done by AssessFirst.

For more than 3 years now, the Science & Innovation teams of AssessmentFirst have studied this notion of interpersonal affinity, as well as its impact on various components of performance at work, with data and studies from over 30 countries.

These 3 years of research have resulted in the design of intelligent adaptive algorithms that take into account:

  • The psychological profile of each of the 2 people considered (for example a candidate and their future manager… but not only!), broken down into more than 50 criteria.
  • The degree and the specific nature of any asymmetry in their expectations.

Once all the data has been processed (virtually instantaneously thanks to the algorithms), the results are presented in the form of clear and easy-to-understand indicators, namely:

  • An overall affinity score that reflects how natural it will be for the 2 people to grow together.
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  • A relational affinity score that allows you to understand the extent to which the 2 people will enjoy spending time together, from a subjective point of view.
  • A work affinity score whose objective is to anticipate their ability to collaborate productively on a daily basis.

We have also added additional indicators that allow us to understand whether the profiles of the 2 people are similar or rather complementary.

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The affinity detail is then presented visually, in 7 key areas of cooperation at work. Advice is also formulated to help everyone make the most of their relationship at work.

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Today, a growing number of companies are interested in the Soft-Skills of their candidates and employees and not just their purely technical skills. And that’s a good thing!

Now… just imagine for 2 minutes how you could change your recruiting practices and also the value that you would be able to bring to the managers for whom you recruit if you had the capacity to see these indicators of affinity for each of your candidates!

If you want to know more about the notion of affinity at work or if you would like to meet us to talk about it, contact me! (or a member of the Dream Team! ✨🦄✨)