Human resources: recruitment and selection
This unit is from our archive and it is an adapted extract from The professional certificate in management (B615) which is no longer in presentation. If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this curriculum area. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] In this session we look at the first stage of managing people – attracting and selecting staff. Recruitment and selection are usually considered as one process. However, we will make the distinction here between the initial actions and considerations when planning staff recruitment and the process of selecting an individual from a pool of applicants. Recruitment needs to be carefully planned in order to attract the right type of applicant. Ultimately, this increases the chances of making a suitable selection and appointment. Your involvement may be limited to a discussion of the need for a particular job within your team or work area, or you may be required to interview job applicants. Whatever your involvement, this session makes it clear that it is important for you to understand the whole process to make an effective contribution to the staffing of your organisation.
Recruiting and selecting internal candidates
Where an existing member of staff is applying for a post, you will already have knowledge of their personality, skills, fit with the organisation 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.
Methods of selection
5.1 The interview as a selection method: pros and cons
Traditionally, the interview has been the main means of assessing the suitability of candidates for a job. Almost all organisations use the interview at some stage in their selection process. Similarly, most applicants expect to be interviewed. Interviews are useful for assessing such personal characteristics as practical intelligence and interpersonal and communication skills. The interview can be used for answering applicants’ questions, selling the organisation and negotiating terms and conditions. It is a matter of debate whether an interview accurately assesses ability at work, relevant experience and work skills. A further problem with interviews is that factors that are not related to the job influence the decision: clothing, colour, ethnic origin, gender, accent, physical features or a disability might be such factors. There is also evidence that interviewers make decisions very rapidly on little information. You need to be aware of the potential pitfalls in using selection interviews and may choose to supplement them with a variety of tests. Some of these are considered below.
5.2 Tests as a selection tool
There are various types of tests and ways in which they might be used as part of the selection process (see Box 5). Before using any kind of test you should ensure that you know why you are using it and how it relates to the job specification.
Box 5: Selection tests
• • •
Tests of physical ability: used for the selection of manual workers. For example, a test of the ability to perform lifting operations might be used. Mental ability tests: tests of literacy, numeracy and intelligence. Analogous tests: tests which simulate some of the actual tasks in the job, for example a typing or word-processing test for secretaries. Group problem-solving exercises and presentations may be suitable for managerial jobs.
Personality tests The use of these in selection comes from the assumption that certain jobs require certain personalities and that tests can identify them. The most common form of personality test is questionnaires designed to rate respondents on various personality dimensions. The individual is rated for being persuasive, socially confident, competitive, decisive, introspective, artistic, conceptual, traditional, independent, extravert, stable, optimistic, and so on. Most reputable personality tests need to be administered and scored by trained and licensed users. Organisations selling personality tests usually recommend that they are not the only method used for selection. Assessment centre
This is a process, rather than a place, that uses a number of selection techniques in combination. A typical assessment centre would assemble 12 applicants after screening and subject them to tests such as intelligence tests, presentations, group work and interviews. Tests can be very useful in the selection process as they actually replicate certain parts of the job, whereas a selection interview can only indicate whether the person has that ability. However, most tests are time-consuming to administer and can be used indiscriminately. It would be very unusual to use a test as the sole means of selecting and, particularly with personality tests, it should not be the major evidence on which the decision to appoint or not is made. Very often the results of personality tests are used in interviews as the basis for further investigation and questioning about an applicant's abilities.
5.3 The selection interview
The aim of the selection interview is to determine whether the candidate is interested in the job and competent to do it. A selection interview also has the following functions:
to explain the work of the organisation, the job and any features such as induction and probation to set expectations on both sides, including a realistic discussion of any potential difficulties (if appropriate) to enable the candidate to assess whether they want the job being offered.
Selection interviews are not easy to conduct and it is preferable – some organisations insist on it – that everyone involved has participated in some kind of training. Most managers believe they can interview competently but probably few have subjected their interviewing practice to close scrutiny and thought about how they can improve their performance. Important decisions have to be made, such as how many people should be on the interview panel, who would be the most appropriate people, and what role they should play. One-to-one selection interviews are difficult to conduct, not least because there is more likelihood of subjectivity creeping in. Preparation is an extremely important stage in the process. Box 6 indicates four factors to consider in preparing for an interview and gives some examples.
Box 6: Considerations in interview preparation
What does the interviewer(s) need for the interview?
Job description, person specification Individual application forms, CVs, etc.
Details of terms and conditions of employment: hours of work, fringe benefits, perks, etc. Information on general prospects, training, induction etc. within the organisation
What does the candidate need?
• • •
Details of venue; to be met on arrival Access to facilities: toilets, any special needs for candidates with disabilities Comfortable waiting area
Suitable room and layout: consider whether formal or informal and what type of setting to create Freedom from interruptions and other discomforts and distractions such as extraneous noise, uncomfortable furniture, extremes of temperature, etc. Appropriate access for people with special needs
Requirements of a good interview
A structured interview plan enabling the interviewer(s) to assess what they are looking for in the candidate and whether the person: o could do the job (assessment against the person specification)
would do the job (judgements of motivation and commitment) would fit (elements of person-organisation fit)
(Note: a well-developed person specification should include criteria relating to all three areas.)
A clear idea of the areas of questioning for each candidate to check that they fulfil the criteria Agreement on the roles of those involved in the interview if there is a panel: who will chair and how questions will be divided among the panel members in an organised way A disciplined approach to timing: enough time for each candidate and not too many candidates per day
Interviews have distinct and recognisable stages, and individuals have certain expectations about what should happen when, but try not to become routinised or mechanistic in your approach.
This unit has looked at specifying the requirements of a job by drawing up a job description and a person specification. We considered how you might indicate the qualities required of individuals in relation to person-organisation fit as well as the more traditional approach of person-job fit. We then considered various methods of attracting candidates and the process of arriving at a shortlist. We have stressed the importance of preparing for the selection process, be it an interview alone or with accompanying tests. The importance of effective interviewing skills was also emphasised.
Objective recruitment requires preparation and an awareness of the tendency of recruiters to look positively on similarities with themselves and negatively on differences (halo and horns effects). The person–job fit approach concentrates on measuring the candidate's attributes in relation to the specific job vacancy. The person–organisation fit approach considers how well suited the candidate is to the organisation. The key stages of good selection are: the job analysis; the job description; the person specification. Applicants can be attracted by a wide range of media, but all advertising requires effective back-up recruitment administration, including the shortlisting and reference processes. Job advertisements need to be carefully constructed to attract high-quality applicants. Aptitude and personality tests can supplement interviews, sometimes using assessment centres. Key features of effective selection interviews include:
o o o o o o
training of interviewers composition of panel preparation, including details of who will ask which questions timing role of panel chair the candidate doing most of the talking
o o o o o o
open and behavioural questions organisation fit questions controlling the flow listening skills closure using the person specification to reach final decisions
Billsberry, J. (2000) Finding and keeping the Right People, 2nd edn, London, PrenticeHall
2 Effective recruitment and selection
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 factors such as training, expenses and employer's contributions to their pension are added. 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 organisational traditions regarding the ‘type of person’ considered suitable. However, it is important to ensure that the qualities of the successful applicant match what the organisation 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 favourably 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 ten minutes on the following activity.
0 hours 10 minutes Basing your ideas on your own 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! Job Social worker Supermarket checkout operative Building labourer Accountant Senior civil servant/government official Personal secretary to managing director Police inspector Salesperson Fundraiser for a charity We all harbour 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 very 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 labourer 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, Age Gender range 27–43 Either Politics Liberal or Green, leftwing Hobbies Camping cycling rambling Car Old Volvo or Saab
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 favour 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 organisation in the next section.