Employee selection processes in attracting staff

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"Personnel Management is a series of activities which: first enable working people and their employing organisations to agree about the objectives and nature of their working relationship and, secondly, ensures that the agreement is fulfilled." (Derek Torrington & Laura Hall, 1991) - page 12 first para..Personnel management, 2nd edition.

According to Dr Gwen Chen, "Recruitment is the process of generating a pool of capable people to apply for employment to an Organization" (Bratton and Gold, 2007). Recruitment or Employee selection is an epitome of the Personnel Management structure in any organisation. It is the first step in a flowchart to building an organisation, in any industry, and so it is also one of the most important factors to be considered for a make or break of an organisation. If a question is asked to an organisation to point out their "most valued assets", the answer is always "their staff" (Barnett, 2008; Torrington et al, 1991, 2005) As cited by Grant Thornston who also states that, "If we agree that the most important resource in any business is its people, then the development and implementation of an effective recruitment process that enables you to recruit the right people, at the right time and at the right cost, has to be vital to the fortunes of a growing business. The key is to ensure that you have an effective process, one that works most of the time. Put in a rigorous process and you will reduce the risk of failure." (Grant Thornston, 1999) page 2 ..2nd para..managing human resources services. As also agreed by Michael Armstrong (2008), Karen Lagge (1995), Beer et al (1984) in Strategic HRM page 15.

To discuss the statement, "Employee selection via interview can help an organisation to attract staff and encourage high work performance", I will first discuss employee selection via interview. I will then review a set of identified models which discuss why is it necessary for an organisation to attract staff & encourage high work performance, parallel to that I will bear out the validity of these models linking it to recruitment & interviewing. Finally drawing upon the finding during my study and the experience of being an Interviewer for half a decade I will conclude the statement with limitations and recommendations of the employee selection via interview process.

Using interview, as a method of selection, is just one of the ways of employee selection as there is wide variety of options available for employers today. A few of the selection methods are stated below:

Application Forms

Self Assessment

Telephone Screening



Research Tasks

(Torrington et al, 1991; Barnett, 2008)

The above are a few methods for employee selection, however, one of the above methods or a combination of methods are used depending upon various factors like the industry or the job one is being recruited for - for e.g. Hospitality Industry if the job opening is for a chef, then there is no point in checking how his customer service skills are or how good is he / she in book keeping. A technical test along with an interview could be effectively used. Similarly if the vacancy is for a Software Engineer then the use of Application forms - which could be an eliminatory round if the applicant doesn't have the required qualifications and appropriate tests could be conducted to check his technical skills followed with a personal interview. It also depends on how soon a position needs to be fulfilled and the cost to be incurred for hiring. Smaller organisations will prefer to choose only interviewing as a selection method to choose the right candidature to save on the hiring cost.

Selection via Interview is an omnipresent method used by employers since a very long time. "The word "interview" was derived from a Latin word that means 'to see about each other'."(48 days to the work you love, page 118, 1st para, Dan Miller, 2005, Tennesse.) Precisely as mentioned by Dan Miller an Interview is ideally supposed to be a conversation between two or more people (in cases of panel interviews) where both the parties have an objective to attain (also cited by Torrington et al, 1991;Miller, 2005). The objective for the interviewer is to choose the "right fit" (Barnett, 2008) for the organisation while the objective for the interviewee is to demonstrate, in the best possible way, his/ her skills and ability to reason out the interviewers' most favourite question of "why should we hire you?"

There are subdivisions in Interviews - Formal & Informal and within those there are telephonic and face to face interviews. Whether the interview is conducted formally or informally the objective of the interview remains the same which is to choose the right applicant who will be the right fit for the organisation. Being a part of the globalization era it wouldn't be feasible for organisations to have their personnel managers travel around the globe to conduct face to face interviews. With the trend of tele-presence technology (Minsky 1980), employers have an advantage of conducting face to face interviews when geographical distance is an issue. Telephonic Interviews are more of a screening tool before a formal face to face interview is conducted. This is one of the most widely used methods for screening candidates in the BPO industry where customer service advisors' primary role is to provide customer service over the phone and telephone etiquettes is a mandate. " CIPD (2006) report that 56% of organisations use this method of selection, a figure which has doubled since 2003, and probably reflects their use as one of a combination of screening tools, as well as a test of telephone manner, where required". ( HRM, 7th edition, Derek Torrington..)

Interviewing can be carried out by line managers or head of departments depending on the position of the job vacancy. Lot of organisations also have panel interviews (e.g. supervisor and department manager) or it could be a series of sequential interviews (in cases of a senior management position) where experts from different departments conduct an interview. An interview not only can last for 5 minutes but also can take up to several weeks before the applicant is on-boarded. While most employers choose a combination of Selection methods before finalizing on the right fit for the organisation, Selection via interview is commonly used in the combination. Based on my personal experience, it is one of the most effective ways to check the applicants' body language. However I also agree that at lot of times the interviewee will behave in the best possible manner, dress up accordingly to impress the interviewers however once shortlisted and on boarded will display a completely casual attitude towards work. As agreed and quoted by Newhal, "64 per cent of recruiters worry they will miss important information about a candidate's weaknesses that will show up later - and perhaps this is why so many new hires fail within six months of starting their new role." (Newhal, journal - strategic hr review).

In a structured interview, the interviewer will be successful in checking if the interviewee can demonstrate the skills mentioned on his/ her resume by conducting a quick role play based on various situations. It also gives an opportunity for the employer to inform the potential employee about the job and the organisation structure in detail. Interviewers, with their personality & interviewing skills, also have an impact on the interviewees' first impression about the organisation and the culture of the people working in the organisation. This aspect could work wonders especially when an interviewer comes across the 'right fit' and doesn't want to lose out on that candidate. As rightly mentioned by Derek Torrington & Laura Hall that, "Selection is a two way process. The various stages of the selection process provide information for decisions by both the employer and the potential employee. Applicants will decide not to pursue some applications. Either they will have accepted another offer, or they will find something in their dealings with the organisation that discourages them and they withdraw". (Derek t & l h in 7th edition page 168 para 2nd ) (link)

In Face to Face interviews; for the Interviewer, the objective could be to judge the interviewee in terms of:

Body language: An important factor to be considered if the job is a customer facing role or if the vacancy is for a managerial role.

Checking technical or analytical skills: if he/ she actually has the skills that are mentioned on his/ her application forms (this can be achieved by doing a quick role play). As a lot of applicants happen to write a lot in their resumes however when it comes to demonstrating those skills they often score down.

Flexibility: This is termed as one of the most important factors which directly links to performance. (Bilbin, 1981)

Ability to work under stress - Interviewers need to understand if the applicant is of an "x" generation or "y" generation as applicants possessing qualities of x generation would less be able to work under stress (Mc Gregor, 1960). " The stress approach is where the interviewer becomes aggressive, disparages the candidate, puts him or her on the defensive or disconcerts them by strange behaviour", (Torrington et al, 1991, pg 312 2nd para)

Team working skills (CIPD 2005) - This is particularly important as technical training can be given to employees however softer issues like team building cannot be taught. Whether an applicant is a team player can be judged by asking experience based questions like, asking the applicant to narrate why he / she would call himself / herself as a team player. Or this could be done in a group of applicants by giving them a task to be performed as a group.

While the objectives for the interviewee will be to check if the interviewers display professionalism, how much time did the applicant have to wait before the interview, are employees of that organisation courteous enough, how is the infrastructure. These are a few things which strike in an interviewee's mind which are his / her first impressions about the organisation.

However we have organisations who are still struggling to get the right people even after using the best interview techniques. Personnel managers are still exploring for the ideal method of selection and while the search continues range of imperfect methods are being used to envisage which applicant will be the right fit for the job and the organisation (Derek Torrington, 1991). One problem is the skill of interviewing which lacks in interviewers. It is more of an intuition or the first impression that interviewers base their selection or rejection.

After further studying this issue, I analyse that there are certain ways to improve the interviewing process and organisations can choose to adopt some of the best practices from the industry.

Accenture was recognized on FORTUNE'S "100 best companies to work for" - 2009 & 2010. "People are our greatest asset and attracting, nurturing and developing the best talent remains a top priority", said LaMae Allen deJongh, The Managing Director, US Human Capital & Diversity. When I was working with Accenture Services Pvt Ltd (2006 - 2010) our recruitment process was a combination of selection methods and the final decision was concluded after a panel interview. I experienced that an Interview could be very helpful in selecting the right fit for the organisation by:

Having a detailed knowledge about the job description

Having a structure maintained for the interview, which used to be predecided with the panel interviewers based on the applicants profile. This was usually done in order to not repeat the questions one for asking and to keep the interview crisp which could help the panel interviewers to get a complete view about the applicants profile, skills, abilities, ambitions and his / her expectations from the job.

Post the interview, we would educate the applicant about the company and the job in detail, this would help the applicant to decide if he / she was at the right place and whether the applicants skills matched the job description.

More often the applicants used to accept the offer of employment post the interview being thoroughly impressed with the structured recruitment process and the main point being that they were given a brief about what would it be like to work for Accenture. However, there were also a few applicants who would deny the offer of employment simply because they did not feel that their skills matched the job we were offering.

Barnett (2008) mentions that, "The interview enables you to learn a little about the candidate and what he or she has to offer, but it is equally important to give your prospective employee the opportunity to learn about your organisation and his or her potential role within it. In order to match ability, aspiration and opportunity, there needs to be a structured process for the exchange of information. Allow the shortlisted candidate to meet the relevant potential colleagues."

While with the traditional methods of interviewing and selection, applicants will get to "contract of employment" however, it now seems to change towards "contract to performance" (Torrington et al, 6th edition pg 223) and as was said much earlier by Belbin 1981 that, "It is only by personnel department setting itself the demanding standards for excellence, rather than for safety, that the deficiencies of the traditional approach to selection will be avoided".

Highly successful organisations, in their market segments, don't really need to find people to work for them, unless it is a very niche skill which is not readily available in the market. Applicants are waiting to grab such job opportunities as these specific organisations have a stand in the market and are often known for their best practices. However, not so successful organisations find it very difficult each time they have a job opening to find people. It is the whole concept of "finding vs attracting" people to work for your organisation (Erics Yeats, Director of Spa Careers). There are huge costs involved till people are aware that a particular organisation exists and is growing rapidly. Word of mouth is one way which is one of the most cost effective; however organisations need to put in the time, effort and money to advertise. With the trend of recruitment agencies (Torrington et al 7th edition), the whole idea of sourcing and attracting people is under their bucket. As agreed by Grant thornston in his study mentioned that, "Another golden rule in recruitment is that if you do not have the expertise or knowledge in house, go out & get it." (Grant Thornston, pg 6 2nd last para)

An organisations most valued assets are its employees (Torrington, et al, Michael Armstrong, etc). In my opinion applicants who show interest in your organisation should be called as "potential employee" (Torrington et al). They need to be given the same treatment which your employees get because if not shortlisted at the moment, these potential employees could be the best possible resource at a future stage. There are a lot of ways to attract people to an organisation and it is possible to achieve that by selection via interview. There is a huge scope in attracting people to be interested in your organisation via effective interviewing. If an organisation adheres to the law and enhances their HR policies, there is much evidence that people will be attracted; Word of mouth being the key to attract. If an organisation is an Equal Opportunity Employer (Dr. Gwen Chen 2010) and respects the potential of physically disabled people and selects them for their skill and talent, an organisation can not only achieve 'attractiveness' in the market but also can be known for its diversity. Recruitment is the first face of an organisation to potential employees and the impression of the culture of the organisation needs to be demonstrated to the potential employees. At any given point if applicants are to go through a traumatic selection methods the experience will be talked about in the market, to their industry colleagues and a negative image about the company can be formed. "Being able to attract the best talent is essential for all organizations, so it is advantageous to be able to identify it as early as possible." (Doherty, 2010) - successful employee engagement - how to attract & retain best talent -journal article) While on the contrary, if the potential employees are happy with their experience of selection process, HR personnel's can ask them to refer people from their social network. This is a great way of generating pool while attracting people to an organisation with reduced costs.

As mentioned earlier the concept of "contract to performance" is being acknowledged by many organisations. There is a link between HRM & Performance (Torrington et al, all editions, Michael Armstrong, Kogan page) The link in detail describes about how HR practices can affect the organisations overall performance. The cycle starts from recruiting the right person for the job and then nurturing employees with training and development, till they excel and start performing. Building a strong team is the key here and once that is done imbibing them with required training - depends on which areas they need to further develop is extremely crucial, as agreed in the earlier pages by the Director of Accenture while Torrington also shares the same view, he comments that, " This results in a working environment which not only provides the potential for developing the personality of the worker , but also raises the productivity of the organisation" (Torrington 7th edition pg 38). "High performance working practices consist of new ways of organising work, rewarding performance and involving employees in the decision making process in the work place", as stated by Ashton & Sung, 2002:1.

And a similar model acknowledged by Dr Gwen Chen which mentions about the cycle in which employee involvement can result in an improved individual & organisational performance.

It is through a thorough reviewing and resetting the current HR practices and linking them to the Organisations Strategy which would have a direct outcome on employee competency & employee commitment in turn getting to the financial performance of an organisation (Guest et al 2000b - strategy HRM, pg 82 & kogan page, pg 36.)

As a matter of fact all organisations have HR practices and policies, then why is it that some organisations need to review their HR practices or why is it that even after reviewing their practices organisations still fail to perform. Who takes an account of "how the practices are implemented?" (Derek Torrington, 6th edition pg 227, last para) The probable reason for why "2 + 2 ≠ 4 is because of Unfairness, Lots self reasonability, lack of incentive and lack of coordination." (Gwen Chen, 2010)

However, Purcell et al (2003) and Ulrich (1997) argue on the link between HRM & Performance. "HR practices seem to matter; logic says it is so; survey findings confirm it. Direct Relationships between investments and attention to HR practices are often fuzzy, however, and vary according to the population sampled and the measures used." (Ulrich, 1997 - strategic HRM, Michael Armstrong pg 80 2nd para)

What about an employee's willingness? If an employee 'wants' to achieve performance, he/ she will do so. It is a matter of whether a person wants or doesn't want personal as well as career growth. "Performance is a function of Ability + Motivation + Opportunity (AMO)." Michael Armstrong strategic hrm pg 85 1st para. In my opinion, as being a part of the HR industry, only personal - career goals are not enough for organisations to perform it is the combination of strong HR practices with AMO that an organisation can fall under 'high performance work practices' (Wilson, 2005)

There is a "new pay" (Lawler, 1995) concept explored which refers to motivating employees through an incentive every time they perform, in another words, "Performance Related Pay (PRP) Wilson, 2005). Money is not the only motivator for an employee to perform yet there are studies which indicate that it is one of the most important indicators which motivate them to perform at their best abilities if their performance is rewarded.

As agreed and researched by Torrington et al, who says that, "Not only is it possible to say, "Performance is rewarded, one can now begin to say, 'performance is a reward'." (Torrington, 7th edition, pg 254)

However, there can be scenarios when an established organisation's financial graph is going down, at such times cutting down on costs is a priority. And while in some cases if employees are showing their best potential to only get the rewards will be de-motivated and this will have an impact on their performance as well. In some cases such organisations will be also hit by attrition and losing out on some of their best performers will be an absolute loss.

Kohn (1993) argues that, "all forms of incentive are detrimental in that they undermine interest in work itself, encourage employees to play it safe, punish those who do not perform". (Kogan page, pg 36).

It is the culture of high work performance of an organisation which differentiates it with other typical organisations. It is a combination of the "control system and the process system" (Simon R, 2000) that promotes ownership of individual work which results in achieving high work performance. For e.g. if employees are only asked to process goods from one place to another and the control of quality is leaded by their managers, employees will not show any responsibility for the quality which is one important aspect of their individual performance. It is only when employees are given to control their own performance in terms of goods processed that they will feel responsible for their performance which can be supervised by their managers. (concept developed thru journal article - International journal of productivity & performance management and also agreed by kogan page,pg38 1st para.) while there are number of examples of successful organisations who believe in a very simple strategy namely "healthy employees are productive employees" (SAS CEO, Jim Goodnight)

There are identified ways of achieving high work performance namely by - selecting the right resource, employee motivation, employee commitment, employees achieving their personal goals and together with these achieving organisational goals. As rightly mentioned by Wilson, "It is much more important now to get selection right each time, ad is Cook (1990) is right in saying that good employees are twice as valuable in terms of contribution as poor employees, then putting time and resources into selection becomes crucial." (kogan page,pg35)

After critically analysing the theories I would suggest that an organisation should invest in building a strong recruitment team with interviewers who have the expertise of expertise of interviewing skills and merely qualifications but practical training & experience.

Selection via Interview could help to attract staff and encourage high work performance as discussed above however there is little evidence that selection via interview could be the best option. Different selection methods can be implemented based on what position one is hiring for with a strong influence of best industry practices followed. After studying what do organisations do differently which makes them rank on the top 10 places to work for and the answer I found out was similar for all the top ten organisations'. I chose to refer the world's favourite search engine - Google.

"Google staffing is responsible for developing strategies to hire exceptionally talented people. This includes providing clients and candidates with enticing and compelling experiences throughout the hiring process. We're focussed on building a scalable operation while working with management to develop creative, innovative solutions that support the company's growth". (Mentioned by HR on staffing as a focused resource). Interviews as a tool or a method of selection is one of the most recommended methods, however it is the interviewing skills and techniques that needs further development.

I would further like to recommend all the organisations who are struggling to attract job seekers towards their companies to find innovative and effective ways of those used by some of the best places to work of interviewing and getting the right fit so that the statement, "Employee selection via interview can help an organisation to attract staff and encourage high work performance" can be then concluded.