PhD Philosophy

Currently I am supervising two students at The Open University, one at Coventry University, and two at Deakin University, and I hope to be taking on more at Deakin University soon. All bar one of my current students are studying in the area of organisational fit and misfit. Future ones will either be in this area or recruitment and selection, or the use of film in management education, or innovation in management education, or leadership. I'm afraid that I cannot take on students outside of these areas as the workload would be too great and I wouldn’t be able to give the level of support that I have in the past.

I only accept students on to pre-defined research questions. These are usually broad topic areas (e.g., looking at fit and creativity, or fit and organisational performance) with the students honing the question, developing hypotheses or propositions, and working out their method. But knowing the main overarching question allows students to get a head start and they have the confidence of knowing that their subject is 'PhDable'. I must admit to frustration watching people aimlessly reading for a year and a half trying to discover a research question. There are a few people for whom this is a good approach as it provides a rich grounding, but for many it is a waste of time and effort and, worse still, provides an indulgent aura over the process of completing a PhD. 

I am happy taking people on to positivist or constructionist studies and to use quantitative or qualitative (I'm not keen on mixed methods PhDs because of the ontological and epistemological problems that ensue; conversely, I have no problem with triangulation approaches). All my students to date have worked on empirical studies, but I am happy to consider theoretical, conceptual, and creative projects as well. I would be reluctant to take on people who want to do research methods PhDs (i.e., those studies that focus on developing new methods of measuring fit) simply because I am not an expert in this area.

Finally, I should say something on the benefits of doing a PhD as this conveys information on the sort of things people learn from working with me. I see the PhD as essential training for an academic career. It teaches you the depth of understanding you need in order to be able to write authoritatively in an academic literature. It teaches you how to develop a research question. It develops your logical reasoning. You learn how to choose appropriate data gathering techniques, how to analyse data, and how to draw appropriate conclusions. You may find something interesting or profound or useful, but this is a bonus. The key thing is to develop as an independent researcher and as an academic. For this reason, I see it as crucial that you review for conferences and journals, prepare and present conference papers, and write journal papers during your studentship.  


Finding Out More

At the moment, I am taking on students for eiither a part-time or a full-time Ph.D. at Deakin University.

If you want to find out more, please feel free to contact me on +61 03 9244 5438 or (M) +61 0409 042 187 to discuss the opportunities, or email me at j.billsberry 'at'

Alternatively, you can find out more about Ph.D.s at the Deakin University at


PhD Projects

At present, I have a number of projects that are suitable for people who want to study for their Ph.D.s in fit-related, recruitment and selection or management education subjects at Deakin University. If you want a PhD, but don't want the hassle of identifying the subject, these projects might be just right for you.


Fit and Misfit

Fit is my main area of interest. It is the field of my own PhD and many of my publications. I am interested in the 'big' issues of fit. Is fit a good thing or a bad thing for organisations? Is it possible to change the fit of employees? Is it possible to select people because of their fit? What are the ethical issues associated with fit? These big questions are explored in many of the following PhD questions. Increasingly, I find myself drawn to misfit. As I think about the conditions of fit and misfit, I find myself thinking about wellness and illness. Fit represents wellness, misfit represents illness. Taking this approach, whilst the study of wellness is interesting, the study of misfit is important because it may help us alleviate a state of suffering.

  • Is it possible to select people to influence levels of fit?
  • Does home-working erode person-organisation fit?
  • How do managers assess the fit of their staff?
  • Exploring the implications of managers' perceptions of employees' fit
  • Perceived and projected fit: Two sides of the same coin?
  • Emotions, positive psychology and the emergence of fit
  • How do job applicants define fit when they say they are looking for an employer where they will 'fit in'?
  • How do organisational selectors define fit when they say they are looking for someone who will 'fit in'?
  • The formation of fit during the early stages of employment
  • Do people leave organisations when they become a misfit?
  • How does an economic downturn or upturn influence the experience of misfits?
  • Taking a diathesis-stress approach, what predisposes people to misfit and what are the triggers?
  • Is misfit a psychopathology?
  • Fit and misfit: Emotions or cognitions?


Recruitment and Selection

My recruitment and selection interests lie largely outside the current literature. Many of these questions have emerged after my own qualitative study of recruitment and selection (see Experiencing Recruitment and Selection) highlighted that the concerns of applicants and selectors were very different to the issues in the literature.

  • How do mixed (i.e., internals competing against externals) applicant pools influence recruitment and selection?
  • Why do interviews dominate personnel selection?
  • What is the impact of market forces on personnel selection decisions?
  • References: Are they worth the paper they are written on?
  • The impact of 'reality recruitment' on real recruitment and selection


Management Education

My interests in the field of management education fall into two categories: (1) new and innovative ways of teaching and (2) the role business schools and their purpose.

  • Are feature films a useful learning device in the management classroom?
  • The impact of visual media in the management classroom
  • Could undergraduate business education be modelled on medical education?
  • The impact of management education on business


PhD Completions


Dannie Talbot (The Open University, 2006-2010)

Organisational Fit and Misfit: An Empirical Study of Similarities and Differences

This thesis focuses on employees’ experiences of fit and misfit at work. This falls within the person-environment fit (PE fit) literature, which is based on principles founded in interactional psychology that when a person fits the environment that they are in, positive outcomes, such as job satisfaction, will result. Despite a wealth of empirical studies in the PE fit field studying various aspects of individuals’ fit with their work environment, there are significant gaps in knowledge and understanding. One of these is that little research has investigated how employees experience fit and misfit. A second gap is that little is known about misfit and whether this is the opposite to fit, an absence of fit or a separate categorical state. The research focused on these gaps in the literature and took a qualitative, exploratory approach to gain in-depth understanding of the factors affecting individuals’ fit and misfit in organisations.

Causal mapping techniques were used to allow the study’s participants to express their perceptions without being prompted to speak about specific topics. The resulting data were coded using measures from the PE fit literature to explore whether the extant measures adequately captured people’s experiences and also to assess whether there were differences between fit and misfit. The findings suggest that the extant PE fit measures explained participants’ experiences of fit and misfit well but that as these are focused on factors within the organisational environment, they miss external factors such as people’s links with their communities. It seems that the majority of individuals experience misfit to some extent but that overwhelming misfit perceptions can be triggered by a change in the organisation. Misfit and fit are shown to differ, most profoundly in that whereas fit is a positive experience, misfit is negative and a state to be avoided. 

Dannie is now a Senior Lecturer at Coventry University and we continue to work on research projects together.



Linda Wilks (The Open University, 2005-2009)

Initiations, interactions, cognoscenti: Social and cultural capital in the music festival experience

This thesis explores the role of social and cultural capital in the music festival experience. It does so by gathering observations and post-festival accounts from attendees at three separate music festivals located in England. The data were analysed using Fairclough’s approach to critical discourse analysis, resulting in the identification of styles and orders of discourse.

Little research, particularly of a qualitative nature, has investigated the roles of cultural taste and social inter-relationships in the music festival experience. Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital and the inter-linked theory of social capital, developed with slightly different emphases by Bourdieu, Coleman and Putnam, were selected as providing an appropriate theoretical framework. Cultural capital, particularly its component of habitus, was a useful lens for focusing on the ways in which participants’ cultural tastes related to their festival experience. Social capital was useful for its orientation towards the role of social inter-relationships in the development of cultural taste and festival experience.

This thesis found that the youth years, particularly through peer influence, were a rich period for initiation into a taste for a particular genre of music. Initiation could also occur later in life. This contrasts with cultural capital theory’s emphasis on early socialisation through family and school. A sense of being a member of the festival music genre’s cognoscenti was also found to play a role in the festival experience. Participants discovered complexity in all genres of festival music, challenging the hierarchies underpinning cultural capital. Festivals were found to be sites where connections with already known associates were intensified (bonding social capital), rather than sites where enduring new connections were made (bridging social capital). This thesis critically develops approaches to social and cultural capital and suggests drivers for cultural policy.


Elena Papavero (Northcentral University, USA, 2005-2009)

Assessing the relationships between person-organization fit, moral philosophy, and the motivation to lead

When individuals who perceive their values as different from those of their organization (low PO fit) are less motivated to lead, values homogeneity in leadership may occur, resulting in ethical dysfunction. Likewise, if idealists are less attracted to leading, this may influence homogeneity towards pragmatism.

The primary goal of this research was to explore the prediction of three dimensions of motivation to lead (MTL) from PO fit and idealism. The interaction of PO fit and relativism was also examined. An online survey, including Cable and DeRue’s fit measure, Forsyth’s EPQ, and Chan’s MTL scale, was completed by 1,024 working adults.

Lower fit predicted lower MTL on all dimensions, and higher idealism predicted lower MTL on all dimensions (with social-normative MTL receiving limited support). No support was found for relativism as a moderator of the fit to MTL relationship. These results suggest that low fit individuals are self-selecting away from leadership positions. Practical recommendations include considering fit in advancement processes and using fit as a gap-analysis diagnostic for organizational values misalignment. Future research on a situational model of MTL should consider situations that promote involvement or identification with organizations and objectives, and those that create a lack of alternatives or a sense of obligation due to a psychological contract.