The key to successful recruitment is to ensure that the criteria of suitability are overt and relevant to the job itself. Once these criteria are agreed and shared it is possible to make more rational decisions about someone's suitability for a job, based on evidence rather than "gut feeling" or instinct. Effective recruitment and selection should not be about the luck of the draw. Systematic planning and preparation will increase the likelihood of taking on the right person. The key to effective recruitment is preparation: knowing the job and what is required of someone to perform it well. The costs of recruiting the wrong person can be significant. The cost of employing someone may be at least twice their salary when you add factors such as training, expenses and employer's contributions to their pension.
Incorrect assumptions about class, gender, ethnic group or physical ability, or any other type of discrimination, can cloud your objectivity in recruitment and selection. At worst this may contravene legislation that exists to protect individuals from discrimination. Other prejudices may be generated by particular organizational traditions regarding the "type of person" considered suitable. However, it is important to ensure that the qualities of the successful applicant match what the organization requires, perhaps in terms of being forward-looking, customer-focused or market-orientated. It is easy to discriminate in the recruitment and selection process through personal responses and reactions to certain types of people.
The recruiter's perception is often influenced by striking characteristics or similarities to themselves. This is called the "halo" effect and can work in either a positive or negative direction (the latter is sometimes called the "horns" effect). The halo effect acts as a filter to any information that contradicts first impressions. For example, someone who attended the same college or university as the recruiter would be at an advantage, while a person not wearing a suit would not be management material. It is often the case that people judge more favorably those individuals with whom they have something in common. Ultimately, you are seeking the best person for the job and any discrimination, intentional or not, may prevent you from achieving that.
Before we look more closely at the recruitment process, spend about 10 minutes on the following activity.
Basing your ideas on your initial reactions to the characters outlined below, complete the table to describe what would typically be the characteristics associated with them. Do not take too much time to think—just jot down ideas as they come to you. To demonstrate, we have suggested how some people might see the first example; you may not agree with the stereotyping evident in the suggested characteristics!
|Social worker||27–43||Either||Liberal or Green, left-wing||Camping cycling rambling||Old Volvo or Saab|
|Supermarket checkout operative|
|Senior civil servant/
|Personal secretary to
|Fundraiser for a charity|
We all harbor stereotypes of what types of people are suitable or unsuitable for particular jobs, and everyone will complete the table differently. However, let us look at a couple of examples. Did you think that the supermarket checkout person would be male or female? The majority of people completing this exercise would have an expectation that a checkout person would be either a young single female or an older woman who works part-time. They would be unlikely to associate working on a supermarket checkout with a middle-aged man.
What cars did you suggest the building laborer and accountant might drive? Which one was more likely to own an executive car? What would you expect the senior civil servant's hobbies to be—gardening or sky diving? The point of this simple exercise is to make you aware of the stereotypes and expectations that may exist about people associated with particular jobs. When recruiting for any job, take care that you are not simply looking for a certain type of person because they are normally associated with the work of the vacant post.
When recruiting people, be alert to any personal prejudices or preferences you have which are not linked to the ability to do the job. Try to set these aside in favor of objective criteria of suitability related to the skills, experience and ability needed to perform the job. But should these criteria relate solely to the job or task requirements? We consider the issue of fit with the wider organization in the next section.
It is important for both the job applicant and the organization to ensure that the right job goes to the right person. Taking the wrong job may be just as disastrous for the employee as for the organization. Recruitment and selection, therefore, involves the organization (represented by the manager) and the applicant trying to discover the extent to which their separate interests are likely to be served by the appointment. In other words, it is a two-way process. Applicants should have a realistic picture of the job so that they can decide if they really want it and whether they could do it well. They should also be given the opportunity to consider what type of organization they may be joining and whether it would suit them. There are two different approaches to assessing suitability for a particular job: person-job fit and person-organization fit. They are based on different assumptions about people and what determines their behavior at work.
The traditional approach to recruitment and selection is based on the view that organizations should specify the requirements of the job as closely as possible and then look for individuals whose personal attributes fit those requirements. It is based on the assumption that human behavior is determined by factors particular to the individual, and the clear implication is that selection techniques should be concerned with accessing and measuring these personal factors, which can then be compared with those required for the job.
The person-job fit approach has been criticized for a variety of reasons. In particular, the amount and pace of change in organizations mean that the jobs for which people are recruited often change. Consequently, organizations may be interested in potential beyond the immediate job, and people have the capacity to influence the organization's performance beyond the boundaries of their own jobs. Increasingly, it is seen as important to ensure that there is also a fit between the applicant and the organization.
This approach stresses that people's behavior and performance are strongly influenced by the environment in which they find themselves. So being successful in a job in one organization does not necessarily imply success in a similar job in another. In assessing the suitability of a job applicant a manager should explore the reasons why a person has performed well in their existing job and consider whether similar conditions apply in the new job. Advocates of the person–organization fit approach stress that an important consideration in recruitment is how suited the applicant is to the organization—its style, approach, pace of change and informal ways of working.
In other words, you need to think beyond whether someone simply has the technical skills to perform in the job and assess their fit with the culture of the organization. However, this carries the danger of excluding suitably qualified candidates because their "face does not fit." This approach suggests a greater need to describe the context of the job to applicants, including the difficulties and pressures associated with it. In general, "overselling" a job can result in individuals leaving after a short time and hence the costs of a repeat recruitment and selection process and further managerial time.
To find the right person for the job, you need to have an accurate idea of the job itself and of the particular skills and attributes it demands. This can be carried out in a series of stages, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Stages of Job and Person Analysis
However, before—or indeed after—the job analysis you might consider whether the vacant job needs to be filled at all. Reallocation of work, internal promotion or temporary transfer could be used to cover the tasks associated with the vacancy. Ask yourself whether the job needs to be changed, updated or filled at all before going any further. An apparent vacancy provides a real opportunity to consider the way work is organized and the skills the organization needs to secure its future success; you might wish to consider aspects of person-organization fit to help develop the job.
Assuming you decide to go ahead and recruit to the existing or changed post, you now need to analyze exactly what the job entails.
Job analysis involves examining a job systematically and in detail. There is no single way of doing this. Direct observation may be helpful if you are analyzing repetitive manual jobs, for example. Discussion with the current job holder and supervisor or line manager is also a useful source of information. Another method of job analysis is to use the checklist approach illustrated in Box 1, ticking off the various aspects of the job as you consider them.
Box 1: Checklist—Undertaking a Job Analysis
Check 1. The key words approach.
□ What is done?
□ When is it done?
□ Where is it done?
□ How is it done?
Check 2. What is the job holder responsible for?
□ Responsibility for the work of others.
□ Responsibility for physical resources.
□ Responsibility for budgets/money.
Check 3. What sorts of working relationships are involved?
□ Relationships with superiors (if any).
□ Relationships with colleagues.
□ Relationships with other departments or agencies.
□ Relationships with customers/clients/users.
□ Relationships with individuals supervised.
Check 4. What are the job requirements?
□ Required standard of performance and results.
□ Required skills and experience.
□ Required analytical skills.
□ Required education and training.
□ Required physique and health (if appropriate).
□ Required motivation and social skills.
□ Required attitude or general approach to the work involved.
Check 5. What are the working conditions?
□ The physical environment.
□ The social conditions and work group context.
□ The economic conditions including funding and pay.
Check 6. Who should be consulted about the analysis?
□ Check back with the job holder.
□ Check back with his or her line manager.
(Source: Cowling and Mailer, 1981, p. 9)
The broader organizational requirements can be as important as the specific ones for the job itself. The organization needs creativity, flexibility, the ability to work in a small team, and so on, from the job holder. In line with the person-organization fit described earlier, it is important to think beyond the technical aspects of the job to the cultural aspects of the organization.
From your analysis of the job you can write a job description which states what the job holder is responsible for and what they are required to do (see Example 1).
Example 1: Job Description for a Buying Manager
Job title: Buying Department Manager
Job grade: 10
Responsible to: Contracts Manager
A. Summary of Main Responsibilities and Activities: Has overall responsibility for procurement of contracts for both direct orders and subcontracts, including negotiating terms and conditions with suppliers, initiating enquiries, analyzing quotations, with detailed involvement in large or complex orders.
B: Specific responsibilities
4. Technical decisions
6. Confidential Information
7. Degree of Supervision
9. Working Conditions
10. Organisational Requirements
(Source: Cowling and Mailer, 1981, pp. 12–13)
Example 1 is a comprehensive description, setting out a full range of responsibilities. There is no one right way of setting out job descriptions and you may find that the ones used in your organization look different and may be less detailed. An accurate job description has various uses outside the recruitment process: for example, it can be used to review staff performance in appraisals or to assess training needs when someone new starts with the organization. Within the recruitment process, the job description leads on to the next stage of specifying the type of person you are looking for to fill your vacancy.
Once the job and organizational analyses and the job description have been completed (see Figure 1), the next stage is to write a specification of the kind of person needed to fill the job you have just described. It is important to be as precise as possible about the skills, knowledge, qualifications and attributes that are required for the job and about the experience and personal characteristics that are needed. It is good practice to specify what is essential or the minimum required to perform the job, as well as what is desirable. To decide on the qualities required for the person specification you need to pick out key features from the job description. Think also about the context of the job and the wider organizational requirements to specify any elements of person-organization fit that are important.
Table 1 is an example of a completed person specification; we have added some imaginary aspects of person-organization fit under "personality."
When constructing a person specification you need not follow the format described in the table; your organization may have a standard approach. The exact format of the person specification is less important than making sure you capture what the suitable applicant requires in order to perform the job and fit with the organization's way of working and culture. You will have noted the "How ascertained?" column in the table. This signals the need to think through how you will measure or assess the specification you are looking for.
Table 1: Person Specification for the Position of Buying Department Manager
|Physical attributes||Good health record||Excellent health record||Medical report|
|Few absences from work||Previous employers' sickness records|
|Tidy appearance||Smart appearance|
|Creates good impression on others||Interview|
|Capable of working for long hours under pressure||Give examples at interview|
|Mental attributes||Top 50 per cent for general intelligence, verbal ability and numerical ability||Top 30 per cent for general intelligence, verbal ability and numerical ability||Possible use of selection tests|
|Education and qualifications||Good general school results with particular aptitude for English||Two A-levels (post-16 higher examination) or equivalent Certificate or Diploma in Management||Qualification certificates|
|Membership of professional body||Membership of professional institute||Documentation|
|Experience, training and skills||Five years’ experience in purchasing||Ten years’ experience in purchasing||Curriculum vitae (CV)|
|Two years’ experience of supervising small office or section||Successful record of supervising qualified staff||CV and Interview: Examples|
|Successful completion of reputable management training course.||Attendance/qualification certificates|
|Good social skills|
|Fluent in two European languages, including English|
|Ability to write good reports and understand basic financial information||Ability to plan, organize, coordinate and control work under pressure||CV/interview: examples|
|Personality||Career record shows ability to adjust to normal social circumstances||Mature and socially well adjusted||Interview|
|Thrives on challenge and change and has an ability to develop new approaches to the work||Able to communicate at all levels||Interview|
|Evidence of experience of dealing with external clients||CV|
|Special circumstances||Able to work overtime and at weekends||Willing to work long hours when required, and to transfer to other locations in Europe||Person's experience|
|Able to travel to suppliers||Fully mobile with valid driving license||Interview|
When you have completed this task, check what you have written, bearing the following points in mind.
Where an existing member of staff is applying for a post, you will already have knowledge of their personality, skills, fit with the organization and so on. However, whether the job they are applying for is very similar to or different from the one they are doing currently, you need to ensure that they receive the same treatment as other candidates. Being an internal candidate is not easy. It can be both an advantage and a disadvantage to be known! Maintaining our theme of objectivity, the recruitment and selection process needs to be seen by all to be fair and equitable.
You have now established the criteria for recruiting the kind of person you are looking for; the next step is to find someone who meets these criteria. Obviously, you must make it known to people that a vacancy exists. Before placing an expensive advertisement in a newspaper or professional journal you should consider alternatives. There are a variety of methods of publicizing recruitment in addition to the traditional media advertisement (see Box 2).
Box 2: Sources of Recruits
If you are managing the recruitment process by a traditional route you will now need to consider advertising the vacancy. Your organization may have a specific policy or rules governing advertising. The cost of advertising can constitute a significant proportion of any recruitment expenditure and you need to ensure you get an effective response at the least possible cost. The important factors are:
Where you advertise the job is important. If you are looking for specialist skills, then targeting professional journals may be more effective than using a national newspaper. If you are attempting to encourage applicants from specific groups such as people with disabilities, then the websites or magazines of particular societies may be an option.
Just as the content of the advertisement should encourage suitable people to apply for the job, it should also discourage unsuitable candidates from applying. Much individual and organizational time can be wasted in sifting through unsuitable applications, and it is unfair to applicants to raise false expectations. The information contained in the advertisement should be taken largely from the job analysis and the job description (see Box 3).
Box 3: Contents of a Job Advertisement
The advertisement should be factual, truthful and relevant. Ludlow and Panton (1991) suggest that it should contain the following:
Remember that the advertisement is a public relations opportunity for the organization. It needs to present the best face of the organization in order to attract the best applicants. Anti-discrimination employment legislation in many countries applies to most stages of the recruitment process, including advertising. Legislation may make it illegal to discriminate, either directly or indirectly, on the grounds of ethnicity, disability, color, gender or marital status.
One way of offering more information than can be put into an advertisement is to send further particulars to people who respond. These could explain, for example, current and future developments within the organization. If your organization already has a standard application form, you will almost certainly use that. Otherwise, you could ask applicants to write a letter of application, possibly accompanied by a CV. It is also useful to ask for details of referees at this stage, but bear in mind that candidates might have objections to them being contacted before the job is offered.
Handling the administration of the recruitment process is largely a clerical activity—but that does not mean you can ignore it. Here are a few points you should bear in mind:
It is common to shortlist up to six applicants per position, but the exact number may reflect the time you have available for interviewing and the strength of the applicants. The important point is to ensure that you finish up with the best possible candidates on the shortlist. This can best be achieved by approaching the task systematically. In other words, the systematic use of criteria as detailed in the job specification should be preferred to reliance on intuition. It is sensible to reject those applications that do not match these key criteria closely. If feasible, keeping a set of notes as you shortlist is a good idea. This helps you to remember or explain the grounds on which you decided to interview or reject each candidate.
|Terry Churchill||Anne Olsen||Colin Compton||Renate Schmidt|
|Address||Suburbs||Village 50 miles away||City centre||200 miles away, Willing to relocate|
|Current employer||ABC Computers pic||Cheapshops||Compact Manufacturing Ltd.||Deutsch Chemicals|
|Size of organization||£400m turnover p.a.||£35m turnover p.a.||£60m turnover p.a.||£600m turnover p.a.|
|Position held||Purchasing Manager||Senior Buyer||Buyer||Senior Buyer|
|Number of Previous Employers||None||Five||Four||None|
|Professional Qualifications||Member of professional institute||Member of professional institute||Member of professional institute||None|
|Education||3 A-levels, 8 GCSEs/O-levels||5 GCSEs/O-levels||2 A-levels, 8 GCSEs/O-levels||Arbiter|
|Further Education||Degree in Chemistry; MBA||Certificate in Management||Degree in Operations Management; Certificate in Management||Degree in Economics from Wuppertal University; Diploma in Management|
|Court Convictions||None||None||Yes: driving offense||None|
|Other information||Member of the local Chamber of Commerce||Studying for Professional Diploma in Management; fluent English and Danish||Studying for Professional Diploma in Management||Fluent English, German and French; studying for MBA|
Who would you shortlist? Why did you make this choice?
The following table might help you to make a decision. It records whether each candidate reaches the "minimum" or the "desirable" level.
|Terry Churchill||Anne Olsen||Colin Compton||Renate Schmidt|
|Experience of purchasing||Desirable (too much?)||Possibly||Desirable||Desirable|
|Management of people||Desirable||Minimum||Minimum||Desirable|
Several of the characteristics on the job specification are impossible to determine from a candidate's application form. And several of the observable characteristics require some guesswork. Be careful not to put too much weight on subjective judgements. However, the following factors may affect your decision.
Anne Olsen seems the least qualified candidate, mainly because the buying skills required for a retail shop are likely to be very different from the buying skills that you are looking for.
Colin Compton seems excellent, apart from his lack of a driving license and his conviction. But he lives locally and could easily get to work. How essential is a driving license for the fortnightly visits to suppliers? As for the conviction, he has paid the penalty—should he be further disadvantaged?
Terry Churchill seems an excellent candidate, but two factors might have influenced you against him: his age and his experience. He is 58 years old and he seems very senior. Is he too senior? But is that a fair question to ask? His motivation for applying is important, not his age. It is important to ask questions in order to reveal whether the candidate is able to do the job, and not for other reasons.
Two factors appear to weaken Renate Schmidt's application: she is not a member of a professional body and she needs to relocate. However, in Germany it is not common for people to join professional bodies and she has applied for the job in the knowledge that she must relocate.
References can be useful, but they do have some limitations: no one would supply the name of a referee who was likely to give a bad reference. However, it is always a good idea to request them of the candidates who have been shortlisted (but, as we have already said, bear in mind that some candidates may not want their employers approached until they have actually been offered a job). It is helpful for referees if you enclose all the information sent out to the prospective candidate and point out clearly any essential requirements of the job. You may want to ask specific questions relating to the candidate's suitability in certain areas.
In the past people have tended to see selection primarily as organizations choosing between individuals. However, we must not forget that candidates are also making choices: about whether to write in for an application form, whether to apply, whether to attend an interview, whether to accept an offered job. This makes it important for organizations to treat candidates in a sensitive and responsive manner. They will need to pay attention to their recruitment materials, to provide realistic job descriptions and to be aware of how candidates are treated.
Recruitment processes vary between sectors and organizations. They are also constantly changing (see Box 4).
Box 4: Internet Recruitment.
Employers increasingly use the Internet for recruitment purposes. One way to use the Internet is to post vacancy advertisements on a specially-created "job board"—electronic versions of a newspaper's situations pages. Another method is to incorporate a recruitment section on the company website. The capital costs may be a modest investment considering the price of national newspaper advertisements and the long-term use of the website. Organizations need to encourage potential recruits to visit the site by placing advertisements on job boards and in the press indicating the organization's web address.
The audience for recruitment websites has been concentrated in younger age groups and professional occupations, although this is likely to broaden out. Recruitment costs may be reduced—some US firms claim a 45 per cent saving by using the Internet.
Criteria for success are that visitors to a company website should find it convenient to use, up-to-date and offering online application facilities. The advantage to the organization is the technical simplicity of adding applicant details to its database and in conducting online dialogue with applicants about job and career requirements so they can be advised when a suitable vacancy arises. The Internet offers several attractions to recruiters and job hunters.
Billsberry, J. (2000)
Finding and keeping the Right People , 2nd ed., London, Prentice-Hall.
Cowling, A.G. and Mailer, C.J.B (1981) Managing Human Resources, London, Edward Arnold.
Ludlow, R. and Panton, F. (1991) The Essence of Successful Staff Selection , London, Prentice-Hall.
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