The approach of HR towards Recruitment

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With the increasing globalization and the companies having money and material at their disposal, the workforce of the organization make's the ultimate difference. The credit for a successful firm and the blame for a failure can be credited to the employees, thus, making the recruitment process the very pivot around which the success of the organization revolves. This renders more importance to the selection of the most suitable recruitment process of a company.

Recruitment and selection (R & S) generally form the first recognized interface which the candidates have with the organization. R & S form the first two major parts of the employment cycle for any organization. By the means of this process the organization aims to identify what kind of employees are desired, obtain the suitably qualified people, place them in the job and help them to grow. R & S therefore is a very critical function of Human Resource Management. Any organization will fail to achieve its strategic objectives if appropriate people are not selected and recruited.

Most definitions about R & S contain common fundamentals of; the focus on attraction, identification and retention of staff. R&S are often treated as one term but there is a difference and both are separate terms. Recruitment can be defined as "searching for and obtaining potential job candidates in sufficient numbers and quality so that the organization can select the most appropriate people to fill its job needs" (Dowling and Schuler, 1990) and selection is "predicting which candidates will make the most appropriate contribution to the organization - now and in the future" (Hackett, 1991). Arnold et al (2005) while defining have given importance to job description and person specification. Hence, recruitment is a process of attracting individuals who may meet these specifications and selection as the process to measure differences between these candidates. Thus R & S involves making predictions about future behaviour. (Lecture notes Occupational psy.)

Considering the cost of training, replacement procedures etc, it is important for HR managers to choose the best suitable method for R & S for their organisation.

The key questions to look at during this process can be defined as: do we recruit externally? Who do we want? How do we attract them? How can we identify them? The whole process entails defining competencies and the ideal candidate, attracting good candidates and measuring them on various methods and choosing the candidate that best suits the profile.

Approaches to R&S

Past research has highlighted three different paradigms for R & S. According to Schmitt and Chan (1998) the most widely recognized approach to R&S is the psychometric paradigm. This lays stress on the organisations ability to identify measure and select the applicant with the best knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) for the Job. Under this perspective, a job is defined in terms of the tasks it entails and then the characteristics of the person who would be best suited for the role are developed. Under this approach the seven point plan developed by Roger in 1952, which provides for seven headings under which the applicants qualities can be categorised seems to be well established and also forms a best practice across UK (IRS 2003a). The applicant plays a passive role under this approach by providing data to the organisation by undertaking all the tests administered to assess their skills. Three factors are fundamental to this approach : "Individual difference, in which applicants are regarded as having discernable and stable differences; job roles which can be performed only one way and can be objectively captured and quantified to create a criterion space; and there is rationality in the decision making of organisations and their agents."(Searle 2009).

Herriot 1987 suggested an alternative approach called the social process approach, which is more dominant in the fast changing global context. This paradigm lays focus on the social interaction between the applicant and the recruiting firm. Under this approach both the central parties have an active role to play. This approach see's an applicant as having not just a specific set of KSA's but as having multiple facets and expertise, that the person can bring to the role and in turn changing how their role is undertaken. This paradigm lays importance to the development of a rapport between the central parties, by promoting a favourable environment through which mutual trust can be enhanced. This approach provides an equal opportunity to both the applicant and organisation to continuously assess and adjust their views of each other time and again; giving them a clear picture at the end if either would like to back out.

One of the most recent approaches to R&S is the Person Organisation (PO) Fit paradigm. It can broadly be defined as the compatibility between an applicant and organisation (Kristof, 1996). It has been defined by researchers and practitioners as the match between an applicant and broader organisational attributes and a key to maintaining the flexible and committed workforce in a highly challenging and competitive business environment (Bowen, Ledford and Nathan, 1991; Kristof, 1996). This approach emphasis that environment influences people's behaviour and performance. So being successful at one particular job in a particular environment does not imply success in a similar job at another organisation. For this approach to be effective, HR managers should try to understand why a person has performed well in their existing position and then compare and consider, if similar conditions apply in the new job. This paradigm lays stress on thinking beyond whether an applicant has certain set of skills to perform the task; it lays focus on considering how suited an applicant is to the organisation. Advocates of this paradigm suggest that while recruiting, the applicants style, approach, pace of change and informal ways of working should also be taken in consideration.

Each organisation and HR managers have different philosophy of what approach they would like to use to recruit people. Research done under Organizational and occupational psychology, has a lot to say about the effectiveness of various selection methods, but it is always necessary to understand the approach the HR department of an organisation has so as to determine the focus and achieve the objectives.

Before selecting what methods to use for selection it is necessary to understand what method would be effective for the particular set up. Two basic criteria's that help to evaluate the effectiveness of a selection method are reliability and validity. These are the two emergent issues that any HR manager faces, before zeroing down on a particular selection method.

How often and constantly a method is used to select individuals is referred to as Reliability. "Reliability is characteristically presented in terms of a correlation coefficient, r. It is the correlation between two scores". Reliability is measured from 0 to 1.0, a perfect correlation would give the score of r = 1, meaning that there is an expected relation between the two scores and a complete random score will give the value of r= 0. In the field of human behaviour such perfect scores do not exist in reality. Therefore what is required are considerable deviations from randomness, so that the manager is sure that the selection methods used to make assessments and take a decision are reliable and dependable.

The three most important types of reliability to be checked when considering selection methods are; testee reliability, tester reliability and test reliability. This can be understood in the following way: if a measuring tape is used to measure a desk, then the tape should give the same result every time for it to be a reliable method of measurement. If the results vary due to the sensitivity of the tape to various factors, then the tape is of little value. This is called as Testee reliability or test- retest reliability. Now if two people using the tape come up with the same result consistently over a period of time it is known as the Tester reliability. Thus it refers to the reliability of the measurement process. If the tape is a reliable instrument of measurement then any part of the tape measure that denotes a particular measurement, will be the same as the other part i.e. that each part will be divided equally to denote equal measurement. This is called Test reliability. In selection a "personality test that generates consistent results over a period of time, with managers administering the test, find the candidate suitable the group of questions which relay to the assessment of the personality dimension of 'extroversion', have the same scores for the measure of extroversion, the personality test is therefore said to be reliable" ( Sue Newell,2006)

Predictive Validity or criterion based reality is the type of validity that is important in choosing a selection method. Validity in selection process means establishing a relationship between the results from selection and on the job performance. It is based on the assumption that those chosen as good during the selection process would perform well and vice versa. After a duration of job, the correlation between the prediction made during the selection process and the actual performance is calculated. It aims at avoiding false positives i.e. employees who were labelled as good but do not perform well and avoiding false negatives. The various difficulties faced in the process of validating selection methods are difficulty in implementation when small number of employees are recruited over a duration and the hesitance of the employers to appoint the candidates who are predicted to be poor performers. In order to avoid this, the concurrent method of validation is used. Assuming that the current employees have variable job performance, if the method can distinguish between good and poor performance it should capably do that in the selection of applicants too. The new selection process calculates the score which is related to a measure of job performance and if it successfully distinguishes between good and bad performance, it is assumed to be valid. It helps to improve the effectiveness of the selection methods.

Selection Methods

In the dynamic and fast paced work environment, a wide variety of methods are available for selection of employees in an organisation.

Shackelton and Newell (1991) have noted that even with a wide variety to choose from interviews still remains the most common method for selection, though it is being combined with additional methods quiet often now. Herriot (1993) has identified interviews as the most important tool for assessment, as it provides an equal opportunity to both the parties to formally meet and assess each other. Past research has shown that interview in its unstructured form gives unreliable and invalid results, as information extracted is different for each individual and also interviewers; hence comparisons cannot be made reliably before selecting (Posthuma et al. 2002). "This has led to developing interview formats which play down these subjective biases, are job related and standardized so that same topics are covered with all candidates". The Situational interviews, the patterned interview and content analytical interview are the finest known forms of structured interviews. The response of employees in hypothetical situations forms the basis of situational interviews, which assumes that intentions are good predictors of behaviour (Latham et al.1980). Past behaviour in situations forms the basis of the patterned interviews, where questions are asked to demonstrate how candidates have reacted to situations in the past. The belief that talented people talk differently forms the basis of the content analytical interviews. Research has indicated that structured interviews have more predictive validity and has a positive effect on the fairness of interview outcomes i.e. r=0.51. (Huffcutt and Roth 1998, as stated in Stephen Bach 2007; Robertson and Smith, 2001).

There has been a wide spread increase in the usage of psychological testing as they provide for greater objectivity in the selection process. They are being used more often for graduate schemes and management level candidates. (Shackelton and Newell 1991; IRS 1997). Psychological testing can be further divided into personality tests and cognitive tests. Both the tests measure different aspects of a candidate's profile.

The upper limit of performance of a candidate in the present conditions is assessed by cognitive ability tests. These tests are timed and consist of an array of multiple choice questions that aim to assess the numerical and comprehension skills. These tests can be used for distinct job levels catering to specific roles. The job performance validity for cognitive tests is around r=0.51. Robertson and Smith (2001) advocate the use of cognitive tests and suggest that they are one of the most efficient means of selecting to enhance job performance.

To discern candidate's behavioural mannerisms and dispositions, personality tests are administered by organisations. Personality measurement can be very useful when certain personality constructs are linked to specific job competencies (Barrick & Mount, 1991).

The big five model featuring; openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism by Costa and McCrea, 1985 is one of the most favoured design to assess behavioural dispositions. According to validity verification conscientiousness is the principle predictor of job performance i.e. r = 0.22 (Robertson & Smith, 2001)

Assessment centres can be defined as consisting of a variety of exercises planned to assess the full range of skills and personality attributes of a candidate by multiple assessors. Assessment centres integrate a variety of methods, the core element being recreation of actual work tasks in order to observe job related behaviours (Cooper & Robertson 1995). Assessment centres have an advantage as by putting together a series of exercises and running it through a couple of days, the validity of selection can be improved. They also provide an extended opportunity to the potential employee to know the organisation and work culture better, as most of the exercises would simulate the kind of work that would be involved in the organisation. A mutually beneficial environment is provided to both the recruit and recruiter to understand what is required and will be provided.


Though the above mentioned approaches are time tested, but their application varies from structure and the scale of the organisation. This acts as a limitation to zeroing down to one perfect approach for any and every organisation.

The psychometric paradigm's reliability and validity has come under question due to the shifting work patterns, global locations and less predictability concerning the future, the stability of the job role criterion is being challenged. The objectivity of the organisation in the context of selection, remains uncontested under this approach, despite of research evidence about "cognitive limitations of individuals and the bounded rationality of human decisions" (Simon,1960 ; Zedeck,1986).Research suggests that the psychometric approach has mostly been followed in organisations who on regular basis have large multiple profile openings like government agencies, armed forces etc. as recruitment in such organisations involves large scale processing with various applicants, and it assumes that each job can be put down into a set of key skills and applicants can be compared. Thus smaller organisations cannot effectively implement this approach.

The social process approach has its own constraints, as only organisations desiring applicants for senior management positions, with specific skills and defined competencies that would enhance the delivery of the job use this approach for recruitment.

The only found drawback to the PO fit approach is the chances of excluding a suitable candidate on the basis that 'face does not fit' are quiet high. Thus it requires that the job should be defined in detail to the applicants as overselling a job can result in high attrition rates, leading to increase in costs of recruitment and selection process.

It is not only important for an organisation to have an appropriate approach to recruitment, but it is also necessary to have reliable and valid selection methods.

Interviews are the most widely used tools for selection (Wilk & Cappelli, 2003) but a number of "biases have been identified including; race, gender, appearance, age, attitude, non-verbal behaviour and physical setting" ( Avery & Campion, 1982). Interviews do not necessarily add to the validity of the predictions, as it is not essential for each interviewer to come out with the same result and ask the same questions. Superficial appearance, dialect, accent and over rating any negative information reduces the reliability of interviews as a selection tool. Even structured interviews can only be useful if jobs specifications are detailed and proper knowledge has been provided as to how to perform the task, as then prediction is possible. Interviews can be very biased and subjective in nature.

Psychometric testing has its own limitations in terms of ethical, social and technical issues.

People who are more familiar with technology are bound to perform better and it's a well known fact "black Americans score lower than whites on cognitive tests and women perform better than men in verbal ability" (Bobko et al, 1999; Schmitt and Mills 2001). The CIPD has also bought into consideration the ethical issues involved with psychometric testing. It is also a costly method as compared to others. Psychometric test alone cannot aid selection; they need to be clubbed with some other form of testing to get the whole picture.

Assessment Centres are again a very costly option and require highly trained observers. The observers may have their own biases and perceptions which need to be kept in mind. It is necessary for all assessors to be sufficiently trained as the process is not strong till everyone involved is fully prepared. Occasional lapses can lead to obliteration of good work. It requires huge amount of planning and funding.Issues about discrimination and selection of minority groups are again a problem.


R & S form the key processes at the commencement of the HR cycle. Its impact is quiet wide considering it can alter the composition and the culture of the organization very strongly. It cannot be denied that employing proficient people is of supreme importance as a poor R & S decision can cost the company almost 30 percent of the employees' first year earnings (Hacker 1997). For a HR manager to be effective the goals and objectives of the organization should be very clear and depending on the demands of the organization a combination of approaches as well selection methods can be used. Considering all the methods, there is no perfect fit that can be applied to all organizations; Large, medium or small. Considering the pitfalls and past research, irrelevant criterion for discrimination on the basis of gender, age, race or disability hinders the effectiveness of any approach. These are sensitive issues that need to be dealt with carefully, as these do not affect an individual's capacity to perform in any manner. During R & S huge amount of information is exchanged between the organization and the candidate. Both the central parties have certain expectations and it is not necessary for either to meet all of them. The negotiations and understanding that, none can have fixed characteristics, leads to either hiring or rejection. There has been a growing trend towards practicing the PO fit approach to R&S as it has shown to improve work related outcomes like job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Bowen et al , 1991 ; Boxx et al 1991). It is not necessary to bank on predictive validity of methods for selection as at times some methods with limited predictive validity give a clear picture of what to expect. The most effective approach to R & S can be where there is congruence of values, goals and attributes of both the individual and the organization.