The Out Of Africa Hypothesis


We operate in a globalized market place and an organisational success or failure does not have an easy explanation. However at the heart of each organisation lie its employees and customers. The employees play an decisive role in making an organisation successful. A company's edge in today's competitive world is in attracting the best people and retaining their talent to encourage a consistent high work performance team. Poor hiring decisions are costing the organisations time, money, effort and opportunity. The question then arises who is responsible in selecting these employees to work for the organisation? What defines the suitable employee and what characteristics demonstrate that suitability? How can one define the fairness in the selection of the potential employee? Is there a set procedure? Is the candidate right for the job and the organisation? Well only one department in every organisation has the answers to most of the questions above and they are the Human Resources department or HR. The strategy that lies behind the every evolving Human Resource department is the Human Resource Management (commonly referred to HRM from here on). The main characteristic that surrounds HRM and its key function are people management. Human effort and the skills help an organisation achieve its goals by consistently performing and delivering on the agreed strategies.

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Today's assignment is a critical discussion of the statement 'Employee selection via interview can help an organisation to attract staff and encourage high work performance'. In order to facilitate the discussion I will briefly touch on the concept of HRM thereafter critically analyse interview as a selection tool and the various types of interview processes. I will thereafter discuss high work performance and thus conclude the assignment with the findings.

Organisations are actually people coming together with a shared common goal, from varied backgrounds, having different levels of experience and with various expectations. These people are brought together under one roof by a vision and a shared common goal. The belief that employers and their employees share the same goals is emphasized by Walton (1958) as follows:

"The new HRM model is composed of policies that promote mutuality - mutual goals, mutual influence, mutual respect, mutual rewards, and mutual responsibility. The theory is that policies of mutuality will elicit commitment which in turn will yield both better economic performance and greater human development".

In the past though HRM was known as personnel management and the HR department was known as the personnel department. Torrington et al (2005), rightfully states that "HRM signifies more than an updating of the label; it also suggests a distinctive philosophy towards carrying out people-oriented organisational activities; one which is held to serve the modern business more effectively than 'traditional' personnel management". There are various HRM definitions as cited in the works of Beer et al, 1984; Legge, 1989; Storey, 1995; Boxall et al, 2007; etc., all having similar HRM objective - to be successful through the effective management of its people and resources.

HR policy should focus on talent management and to achieve this goal the organisation first has to attract talented individuals and hire them. The core step for talent management is the recruitment and selection process. Interview has played a key part of the selection process for a number of centuries. Right from the early preschool years we have been judged by interviewers - my memory of the interview process start from the first day at preschool where I was asked to recite a poem in order to assess my suitability for further education. The only difference now is that I am aware of the process and the underlying biases the automatically compel me to be more prepared and well informed. The process starts from a pool of applicants; candidates are short listed laying the foundations to the selection process. The shortlisted applicants have been able to demonstrate the required competencies and attitude either within their Curriculum Vitae or the application form. However the sight of the basic recruitment policy at this stage should not be lost i.e. the overall goal of recruitment and equal opportunity. The overall goal of recruitment should always be to find the candidate that will be the right fit for the organisation. Before starting with the application process the job vacancy needs to be identified and the job role had analysed this will help recruitment managers to identify the specific attributes the candidates need to demonstrate during the selection process. There are several ways of drawing up a list of attributes required for a vacancy by designing a person specification and job description and methods have been cited in the works of several authors such as Plunbley (1985), Peran and Kandola (1993), Armstrong (1995), Pilbeam's (1998) , etc. Farnham and Stevens (2000) though rightfully describe job description and person specification as "A template from which we should measure and individual's ability to meet the essential and desirable criteria".

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Once the vacancy is identified, person specification and job description are ready it lays the foundation for the ever evolving interview process to begin. The interview process is an ongoing unique research topic and has been the focal point for a number of management and psychology researchers. Researchers have examined, re-examined, analysed and investigated the reliability, the validity and structure in which interviews are conducted. Research conducted as early as 1927, by Charters found the interviewers observed and rated characteristics such as personality, attitude, mannerism, outer appearance, likeability, interests, hobbies, and conversational skills. He also suggested that the interview process could not predict qualities such as dependability, loyalty, honesty and persistence. Thereafter in 1936, Adam and Smeltzer introduced the standardized interview process whereby personality, general aptitude for work, and physical characteristics were recorded on a form. Hoyland and Wonderlic (1939) also supported the standardized interviews process. The interview process further evolved with the introduction of two new techniques: The patterned interview and the group interview technique. Brody in 1947 suggested that the group interview measured the leadership skills of the candidate and gave the interviewer a chance to take on a passive role as a listener and observer. Through his approach the interviewer could increase his predictive power by observing attributes such as performance, appearance, mannerism, attitude towards the group, contribution, speech and approach. McMurray (1947) on the other hand preferred the patterned interview technique as it required the interviewer to carefully judge if the candidate was emotionally adjusted and had the required intelligence. However this technique required the interviewers to undergo extensive training to bring out the effectiveness of the technique.

There have been several researchers that favour the interview process and agree on the fact that the interview can measure the sociability of the interviewee. One of the first researchers to identify positive attributes to the interview process was Rundquist (1947). Putney (1947) uncovered that the "simple decision utility" of the interview was reason enough to support the use of the interview as a valid selection tool rather than the predictive power of the interview. O'Rourke on the other hand thought of interview as the first step to bring out the desired qualities in the candidates. Silvester and Brown (1993) through their study found that candidates as well supported interviews as a preferred selection method rather than the psychometric testing as it gave them the opportunity to represent themselves. Interview thus can be stated as a two way process giving the employer and the employee an opportunity to meet providing the personal face-to-face contact that humans seek and desire. As summarised by Wagner (1949) "the sentiments stating human curiosity can be satisfied in no other way than by seeing the man in the flesh".

Many studies have shown the employee selection via interview to be a seriously flawed technique. As early as 1922 Hollingworth in his studies reinforced the idea interview was not a flawless selection process. Moss in 1931 using interview process for medical students as a sample for his studies; challenged the effectiveness and the ability of the interviewers to predict the success or failure of the interview process. Huse (1962), of the Raytheon Corporation, from his finding concluded that "the relative validity of predictor ratings based on complete data, including tests, reports of projective, and the interview was no higher than that for psychometric tests" thus utterly rejecting interview as the best predictor of performance. Other researcher to reject interviews as the sole "scientific" selection instrument available were Reilly and Chao, 1982; Hunter and Hunter, 1984; Janz, 1989; Milkovich and Boudreau, 1997; etc. Interview as a selection technique has been criticized over the years however studies show that it is one of the most popular selection techniques used by organisations to attract staff and encourage high work performance in UK (Robertson and Makin, 1986; Shackleton and Newell, 1991; William, 1992).

The days of filling out standard job application forms thereafter being interviewed by the personnel manager and hired purely on likeability and gut feeling are long gone. These days' interviewers have to be careful not to form an opinion about the candidate in the first few minutes of the interview. As cited in the works of Wendover (1993) that employee selection should be based on the ability of the candidate to perform in the overall interview. Cooper and Robertson, 1995 stated in their research that good interviews focus on the job criteria in order to increase the equality within the selection process and thus reducing the bias of focusing on superficial personal characteristics. There are two basic interview methods as cited in various HRM text books and journals the structured interview and the unstructured interview, structure however is thought to improve interviews and give a extremely professional image of the organisation to the candidate. The unstructured interview fails in the eyes of the candidates as it is narrow in focus and does not provide a clear picture of the qualities that need to be demonstrated for successful performance. Huffcutt and Arthur (1994) in their research have been able to conclude that structured interviews have a higher validity when compared to unstructured interviews; however they have also pointed out that beyond a certain level additional structure adds little or no incremental validity. As noted by Campion et al (1997) as well structures improve interviews reducing the subjectivity and gut feeling while deciding on the ideal candidates. They have used rating scales for "scoring" or evaluating candidates' answers. However Organisations should not wholly rely on the structured interviewing process alone but should adopt a few different techniques to gather the relevant information about the candidates.

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Structural interviews can be further categorised into two types: Behavioural and Situational. There have been mixed responses from researchers on both the techniques, they are neither in favour of them altogether nor are they against them. Organisations have been found to be using both behavioural interviewing as well as situational interviewing systematically at times. In both the techniques a set of question is asked especially "behavioural" and "situational" questions to identify various competencies demonstrating high work standards. Behavioural questioning, however, is found to be more flexible than situational questioning. As stated by Taylor and O'Driscoll (1995) "The flexibility to tailor behavioural questions to particular candidates is why it has sometimes been referred to as a 'patterned' interview; the interviewer follows a pattern of questions rather than asking identical questions". Janz (1989) argues on theoretical grounds that both techniques are conflicting. He states applicant offer the interviewer what they think they want to hear and therefore the predictions of future performance is not based on practical data.

Anderson (1992) through his research states that the Situational technique reduces the interview to a one-way information gathering device, thus making the interviewer an oral administrator to a test. There is no clear evidence on which questioning approach is better in terms of validity. During my research I have found that past behaviour approach is more appealing and the data is able to demonstrate the candidates' attitude towards high work performance. Situational questions related more to hypothetical questions and are not able to demonstrate clearly the attributes required within the job specification. Candidates in situations questioning technique have demonstrated a story telling approach rather that real life situations that they have encountered. Thus behavioural interviews might be criticised as relying on past behaviours but the questions have demonstrated to evoke a reaction to a specific situation that the candidates have experienced in their life time.

According to Janz (1989) Behavioural interviewing "zeros in on what applicants have accomplished (or failed to accomplish) and how they went about doing it in situations similar to one they will face on the job". Whereas the research conducted by Arvery et al, 1987; Latham and Saari, 1984; Latham et al, 1980; Robertson et al, 1990; Stohr-Gillmore et al, 1990; Weekley and Gier, 1987; show that Situational interviewing has demonstrated good validity. Structured interviews "work" because they force attention on to job relevant variables, rather than irrelevant variables such as race or sex and also "prevent a degeneration of the interview into quasi personality test" (Smith and George, 1994). Structured interviews if coupled with other performance dimensions increase the validity on the overall performance assessment. Anderson and Shackleton (1993) have cited in their studies that psychometric tests and assessment centres are good indicators of individuals' performance when rated against various competencies. Studies conducted by Salgado (1999) using 17 different methods of selection have ranked assessment centre method as the highest in validity when compared to overall job performance indicators. Though Lowry (1994) disagrees and states that "Meta-analytic studies of both the assessment centre and interview methods reveal that structured interviews and assessment centres have similar validities". Meta analysis was introduced in the 1980 and through early 1990 allowing the cumulative results across quantitative studies.

Baron and Janman (1996) in their studies along with other researchers have highlighted that there is a possibility that assessment centres are biased and favour masculine view of management competency and completely ignore that women are likely to excel as well. In such circumstances one can try out the a Predictive Index - a personality test designed by a management consulting firm in California. The test matches the traits of the top performers from the organisation against those of the hopeful candidates. As per Babson (1996) this tool takes the guess work out of the hiring decision entirely. Marchetti (1996) on the other hand states that the tool helps form the model of the ideal candidate. The Predictive Index lists over 80 traits such as dynamic, self-assured, polished, decisive, competitive, ethical, analytical, creative, resilient and assertive. This tool demonstrates the unbiased ability to help the organisation make the right decision in recruiting the right candidate who is able to demonstrate high wok performance. The cost factor in using the assessment centre, psychometric tests and any other test like the predictive Index can be costly and time consuming to arrange. However as suggested by Taylor and O'Driscoll (1995) "structured interviews are less complex to develop and less time consuming and expensive to conduct that alternative approaches".

Robertson et al (1991) noted a relationship between assessment procedures and subsequent work success. The purpose of the Employee selection via interview is not only to assess the applicant's abilities and work ethics but also to figure out if the applicant can survive the pressures of a high work performance organisations. Looking at the hiring standards from the interview process and the person specification two key purposes should have been considered ability and the flexibility of the candidate. High work performance organisations demand greater flexibility from employees and the need to be multi skilled. Any employee can be trained to improve their skills or knowledge but being flexible is an inbuilt trait that an employee brings with him. Organisations therefore as cited in the studies carried out by Varma et al, (1999) attempt to find the best fit among technologies, processes, structures and the external environment optimising the utilization of internal efficiency and effectiveness along with external efficiency and effectiveness. High work performance organizations work in a manner where employees are encouraged to participate in decisions that affect the everyday effectiveness and operation of the organization. Therefore during the selection process via interview a trade off needs to exist between experiences required for the vacancy and the amount of training required. In other words personal behavioural traits are essential during the interview process in order to attract individuals who demonstrate high work performance. It seems plausible that the more able a certain applicant, the better results from the amount of training invested in the candidate. The interviewers should also demonstrate the same amount of enthusiasm that is shown by the candidate.

Beatty and Varma (1997) Found that firms that were rigorous on changing the internal work culture and human resource practices as part of the High work performance design achieved significant improvements in operational and financial performance. Candidates needed to demonstrate their ability to perform in such structures during the interview process. However high work performance structures are also seen as high risk due to the continuous changes in operational management. Thus High work performance organisations are able to convey a positive impression on candidates due to their demanding and detailed selection techniques. The selection of candidates for such high performance organisations refers to those attributes that are defined as valuable to the individuals' success within the firm and the satisfaction levels of both the interviewer and the interviewee.

Yet successful selection processes have concluded the interview as the most popular selection instrument there is no doubt it is an ever evolving process that at times has proved to be unreliable. Applicants' answers affect the interviewer decision on whether or not to hire at the same time the applicants is also making an informed decision on to seek employment within the same organisation. As rightfully sighted in Torrington et al (2008) interview is a two way process. Goodale (1989) brings to attention the common problems that even trained and experience interviewers face "quiet, evasive and polished candidates" and "lack of skill in breaking through the applicant's facade and prepared answers". By concentrating on the task in hand and referring to the key competencies required to demonstrate successful performance interviewers can ask probing questions to candidates advising them on providing the relevant evidence in their responses. This will bring out the actual behaviour and the quality of information that can ease the process that the selection decisions are based on. Wiesner and Oppenheimer (1990) state that "Selection decisions are improved by the use of an answer scoring strategy, which focuses on job relevant information and reduces 'personal' judgement". Detailed probing can also eliminate the possibility of any well rehearsed answers. Harris (1989) although states that the candidates may supply "socially desirable" answers.

Employee selection is an fundamental issue for all organisations, in order to meet their "quality" objectives organisations are consistently investing in techniques and skills to improve the selection process to identify successful candidates. Organisation is emphasising on the need of finding, keeping and training the best candidates. The challenge however is to find a flawless process that works effectively and at the same time help to eliminate ethical problems. "Managing diversity provides competitive edge by recruiting the best people for the job regardless of individual characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity..." (Cornelius, 2001; also Institute of Personnel and Development, 1997; Kandola and Fullerton, 1994; Ross and Schneider, 1992). Organisations selecting the applicant whose aptitudes and preferences best fit the role profile allows employers to gain high employees with low level of attrition. Rather than concentrating on a single factor interviewers should take into consideration at least four or five dimensions from the relevant competencies. The desirable qualities that the high performing candidate should demonstrate in the selection process are delegation, originality, cooperation, knowledge, technical proficiency for the role applied, written and oral communication skills and listening skills. The trend over the years of studies has demonstrated a methodological and silent shift in emphasis from qualitative (unstructured interviews) to quantitative analysis (structured interviews).

Benchmarking is one of the qualitative analysis tools and according to McNair and Leibfried (1992) along with other researchers is seen as being a key part of global organisations today in improving the quality of the selection process. Benchmarking is seen as a process of critically analysing, collating and evaluating the answers provided by the candidate against the relevant competencies. Kilibarda and Fonda (1997) endorse the benchmarking approach as an effective method to analyse the answers provided by the candidate. As suggested by Eder and Buckley (1988) "interviewers must use different skills when interviewing candidates for more intricate positions". Employers are seeking innovative ways to assess the selection process as a whole and to attract skilled employees quickly and economically due to the fast paced ever changing global economy.

London and Hakel (1974) "Interviewers share the same ideal applicant stereotype, their differing experiences may have produced differing expectations about the typical applicant". Rosen and Mericle (1979) found that evaluators who rated resumes of male and female applicants offered male applicants higher starting salaries than the females with comparable resume evaluations. Sydiaha (1961) focused his research on the role that stereotypes, or standards against which all applicants are matched for suitability, are used in interviews to make hiring decisions. Ulrich and Trumbo (1965) argued that interviewers were faced with an impossible task when they were asked to evaluate candidates. Dreher et al (1988) found that the use of multiple interviewers was better than relying on individual judgements. Wiesner and Cornshaw conducted a study in 1988 that seemed to contest this theory. They found that when board and individual interviews were analyzed, no differences were found between the two approaches.

The interview has been criticized, praised, structured, tested, recorded and analysed. Interview involves identification of candidates through direct and personal contact and tends to be proactive effort on the part of the employer to attract the right employees. Throughout the search for the right method interview has demonstrated as being the most popular and widely used selection tool in the selection process. Good quality candidates with the right skills are crucial to the achievement of organisational high performance standards. We have also established that all the interview selection processes have their own limitations. Interview is the most popular method of selection and is here to stay, so the challenge is to maximise its value. Candidates on the other hand are also at the same time making informed decisions and researching on various ways to pass through the last stage of the selection process the employment interview. Putting the right person in the right job makes economic sense not only for the organisation but it also leaves the candidate with a sense of achievement and a defined career path.

The results of my finding today are both positive and negative. Therefore the key issue still remains what is the prescribed flawless way of "finding the right candidate with the right qualifications?" Hiring cannot be left to chance and therefore further research needs to be conducted in the field and the search continues...

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