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The interview data showed that an individualÂ´s experiences in the recruitment process were rich and vividly remembered, thus illustrating the personal significance of this experience. As the raw data proved so thick the result section will focus on the essential features of the phenomenon (Willig, 2009). Each master theme will be described briefly, before moving on to more detailed explanations of sub themes with extracted quotes from the interviews. Any names that could identify the organisation or employees have been replaced with a fictive substitute.
For clarifying purposes, 'participants' will be used when referring directly to this study's findings, whereas 'candidates/applicants' will be used for general statements/claims.
Mutual self-presentation / impressions / mutual impression making
Pressure to perform
More than impressions: realistic insight
Me as a whole person
Showing the real me
Treated like an equal
Am I good enough?
Organisation holds the power
Need to prove oneself
The theme 'mutual self-presentation' accentuates the significant role both the candidate and the organisation play in recruitment. While first impressions of organisations are formed from the candidate's angle, there is an acute awareness among candidates of a situation of personal performance. Nevertheless, the organisation is perceived to promote their organisation in the attempt of attracting candidates. Activities with this purpose give the candidates a chance for a more genuine organisational insight.
All the participants described limited knowledge of either organisation or position, natural as a new graduate. Thomas and Connor use the words "barely heard of" and "word" indicating receptiveness for first impressions.
Olivia is conscious of her first meeting with organisational representatives because she has had limited interaction with the organisation beforehand.
Olivia: "(â€¦) both the lady I spoke with on the career fair, she was really nice, and the lady who interviewed me for the speed interview was really nice and friendly. So I got a really positive first impression of Johnson Oil. Because those were the only two I had met from Johnson Oil. So it was kind of my first impression".
First impressions are particularly salient for some participants, where Lucy's word "bye" exemplifies how this impression was the first and only she got from a certain company.
Lucy: "I remember the man who said that (â€¦) I remember him because he said: we only accept people with MasterÂ´s. And I just okay, bye then".
Becky is venturing into her first experience as a full-time job seeker and her first impressions are particularly prominent due to the situational novelty.
Becky: "(â€¦) yes, it was my first interview. So you get a bit like oh, well this sounds really good. I remember when I drove home after the site visit I thought: Oh, I really hope I get this job".
Becky's words underline the importance of an early interaction, e.g. a site visit, by implying she is intrigued by the experience and anticipate further job pursuit. Implicit in her words is an expectation of having to perform to achieve a job offer.
Pressure to perform
Becky captures the essence of this subtheme, acknowledging both organisational and own expectations regarding own performance.
Becky: "You feel it, the need to perform and the desire to make a good impression".
Coming straight from University, Daniel describes how candidates relate the emotional laden performance-situation to a similar reference frame for a student.
Daniel: "People get really anxious in situations like these, relates it to exams and oral tests. A lot of people really get stressed about it, they have that: oh no, this has to go well, if not my life is over".
Daniel's words resonate with Lucy's description of how the decisive nature of a recruitment process holds pressure.
Lucy: "Then you either get rejected or accepted. Just like that".
However, the site visit is highlighted as a less pressured arena, possibly a contrast to what Lucy described as a 'single traditional interview'.
Connor: "A positive thing about the first day of the site visit was that you did not really have to perform there (â€¦) Maybe calm your nerves".
Connor's words reveal overall tension in the situation, despite saying that the site visit holds less performance pressure. Connor seems to experience a discrepancy in regards to his own nervousness. He uses expressions like "not that nervous", "far from extremely nervous", "wasn't nervous", "been more nervous" and "was even more nervous" all in relation to the same recruitment experience. Several manifestations of nervousness might be an indication of Connor feeling nervous, yet trying to keep it cool in a pressured situation. The presence of Connor's apparent nervousness is consistent with participants being almost constantly aware of how they portray themselves, consciously acknowledged by Daniel.
Daniel: "You know what kind of situation it is and you should make an effort to show off".
Even during the evening dinner where organisational representatives and candidates meet to socialize and have a few drinks, the situation still holds the stress to perform.
Lucy: "It was, you felt like you couldnÂ´t really just binge on beer and treat it like a party (â€¦) I felt that you had to show that you were able to talk to their current employees. I donÂ´t really know whether they assessed it, or what they were looking for. But I felt that was sort of the point of that dinner".
Illuminated by words like "dread", "nerve-wrecking" and "stressful", the recruitment situation is clearly a pressured situation of performance for all participants, though less so for Thomas. He also acknowledges being evaluated, however he is positive to a job in a densely populated location and is consequently more attractive for the organisation.
Implicit in Thomas' words is that recruitment is a two-way street, where both parties must exercise effort in the attempt of approval from the other part.
Thomas: "(â€¦) about the possibilities, about the position, about the department. Yes, a bit of making themselves interesting".
Becky's words link organisational effort to the current labour market, using words like "they need people" and "they are on to you". Olivia states the valued position of new graduates and the expectation to be treated thereafter.
Olivia: "We are their future labour force and if they want us, they have to, they can't just treat us any way they want".
Both Connor and Daniel use the word 'sell' to explain the behavioural effort of the organisations, implying the candidate is a buyer with multiple possible options.
Connor: "By all means, you have to be nice, positive smiling (â€¦) the right people (â€¦) have to sell it".
According to Olivia and Daniel, organisations seem to vary in their selling behaviour.
Olivia: "Do they think like: oh well, we'll get enough applicants either way, so we can't be bothered to make an effort?"
Daniel: "I don't think they are struggling to get people. But it seems like they are trying to give a positive impression".
The two quotes show opposite approaches to recruitment, where the latter stresses organisational effort to impress a potential employee. All participants attended a site visit, highlighting this as a genuine organisational effort where they all express being impressed by the professionalism and thorough, prepared arrangements. The site visit was also an opportunity for candidates to have a closer look at the organisation to confirm their impression or to get a more realistic, true-to-life image of the organisation.
More than impressions: A realistic insight
Participants often use words as "seem", "appear", "sounds like", explicitly expressing that impressions of an organisation are not necessarily representative of the company's every-day life.
Daniel: "You can read anything on a website and okay, it looks good here, but you never know".
Connor and Lucy describe a new workplace as 'entering the unknown' and 'foreign', possibly referring to how they with uncertainty enter an unfamiliar situation. The site visit offers the candidate a possibility to see and experience the organisation with own eyes. Obviously a single visit is markedly distinctive from the ordinary working day, yet it offers the candidate wider insight of a potential future workplace.
Olivia: You create a greater image of the organisation (â€¦) You get to meet, to see people who actually work there and I mean, more than one person. And you get lots more information about the actual work and you get to have a look around (â€¦) we were given a tour, in the workshop, the lab".
The site visit stands out in participant's experience, contributing to their desire for the job. Especially Lucy, Olivia, Thomas and Becky emphasize strong feelings in their expression of "really, really wanting this job" after the site visit.
Finally, the site visit is seen as a bilateral benefit for both organisation and candidate, which Becky's word captures nicely.
Becky: "It gave me the opportunity to get to know them, the company, and them a good opportunity to get to know us".
Lucy's words witness of appreciation of a more comprehensive process, with the interpretation of both candidate and organisational perspective.
Lucy: "It was something more than just an hour across a desk".
Me as a whole person
Becky and Lucy's words lead to the theme of the importance of being seen in the recruitment process. Linking back to self-presentation relates to being a candidate applying for a job, however participants are complete human beings with more to them than a CV and a transcript of grades. Being treated not only like a candidate, but also a person involves being given a chance to show who they are through a general good interpersonal treatment from recruiters.
Showing the real me / showing who I am
Coming into the recruitment process the participants are basically seen as a candidate, represented by their CV and application. The emphasis on "personality", "personal characteristics" and "several sides" signifies how the candidate wants to be considered as a "whole".
Becky: "(â€¦) for them to get to know us. In all kinds of settings (â€¦) so you would think they are left with quite a good impression, right? Compared to someone who just read your CV".
The chance to interact in different settings allows for portrayal of personal aspects not necessarily evident by one's CV. Although the company dinner was described as an impression-management situation, it is also seen as a more casual, social event.
Lucy: "Socially, during the dinner, it wasnÂ´t all about grades (â€¦) It seemed like they wanted to see the whole package".
That the organisation invites the candidates out to dinner, placing them in a more relaxed setting, could be seen as an indicator of the organisation wanting to get to know you as a person. This recognises the value of the whole you, not only as a candidate contributing with work-related skills.
Becky: "(â€¦) they want to get to know you. See what kind of person you are".
Given the chance to show multiple aspects of oneself seems reassuring on the candidate because they get across who they really are. Connor describes the importance of having given a "correct image" of him-self. Olivia looks ahead by emphasizing how showing who you are can contribute to feeling accepted and wanted in the organisation.
Olivia: "Maybe you feel a bit more confident when you start the job, because I know that they know something of who I am already".
For candidates to show the real self, they are dependent on interest from the organisation. Connor emphasize wanting to "work for someone who seems interested". In the interaction between organisation and candidate, the communication between the two is somewhat determined by the other part. Thus, how organisational representatives treat you become important.
All the participants highlight characteristics of the organisational representatives they met, using words as "friendly", "nice" and "helpful". The meeting with representatives stand out in their experience and interacts with the master theme of self-presentation. Candidates form an impression of the organisation as a whole, but recruiters are the salient representatives whom this impression is largely based on.
Becky: "First and foremost, it is about the people you meet and talk with".
In resonance with first impressions, both positive and negative treatment in an early interaction can be of decisive nature, where one interaction can lead to wider inferences about the organisation.
Olivia: "If sheÂ´s like that, is that how everyone in this company is?"
Participants talked about their recruitment experiences in ways that indicate situations of stress, nerves and pressure. Lucy was so nervous in one situation, she explicitly says she did not sense or notice anything. Yet her following words indicate the importance of interpersonal treatment.
Lucy: "I was extremely nervous to do the presentation in English, so I didnÂ´t notice anything. I remember Charlotte (organisational representative) was there, she was smiling".
How organisational representatives interact with candidates can reduce the nervousness they feel in a high-pressure situation, as further described by Olivia.
Olivia: "I was obviously a little nervous, but I felt calmer when I spoke to her, because she was really nice and really easy to talk to".
How recruiters and organisational representatives treat candidates is a symbol of several aspects. For a newcomer, visible behaviour can be the first hint of the general interpersonal atmosphere in the workplace. Proper treatment is also an indicator of genuine interest.
Connor: "IÂ´ve come across those who just sit staring one their phone and all kinds of things, showing no interest whatsoever. That is not particularly fun".
The treatment in itself recognises the candidate as an actual person, contributing to feelings of respect and equality.
Treated like an equal
A simple word says a lot about equality in this setting:
Daniel: "At all times, how they talked with us".
Rather than being talked at or even down to, the word with symbolizes a conversation between two equal parts. New graduates are in the transition between student-life and work-life with the inevitable role-shift from being a student to being a working professional. Participants were explicitly aware of their role as a student, with the following extract as a tentative suggestion of this role's inferiority.
Olivia: "Even though we are only students".
Olivia's words, echoed also by Thomas and Becky, implies how participants see themselves and possibly the reference frame by which they enter the recruitment process. Lucy further elaborates on this:
Lucy: "For you to not have the feeling that the other person (organisational representative) is better than you (â€¦). That he comes down to your level".
The last sentence indicates presence of a difference between organisational representatives and candidates, however interpersonal treatment can weigh up this unbalanced relationship. Similarly, Thomas described feelings of equality when the recruiters put themselves in the candidate's position. When being subjected to a situational judgment test (SJT) his initial stress by the situation was reassured by knowing the recruiters understood the challenge.
Thomas: "It (SJT) was extremely difficult and they were aware of that (â€¦). They had been through it in the department, tried it out on each other. So they were aware of how difficult it was".
The recruitment process necessarily holds situations of uneven power. Although somewhat accepted, the participants still express appreciation of attempts of equalizing the balance. Daniel appreciates the presence of a 'collegial tone'. In contrast, Olivia used the word 'interrogation' to describe how an interview could feel like. Close to all the participants distinguished between the words 'interview' and 'conversation'. The latter clearly signified more of a dialogue between two equal parts, where elements of humour, laughter and off-topic subjects was permitted.
Becky: "You almost felt like it was not a interview. It was more, we just sat around a table talking".
Am I good enough?
The final master theme relates to both master theme 1 and 2. Self-presentation is partially experienced as mutual, but from the candidate's perspective the situation holds pressure to perform, fear of failure and need to achieve. Interpersonal interactions with organisational representatives are determinants of success in the struggle to show whom you are. Yet to achieve the ultimate outcome of recruitment, obtaining a job offer, it comes down to whether the organisation thinks you are the best candidate for the job. 'Am I good enough' is thus characterized by the uncertainty felt by candidates in a competitive situation lacking control. Feelings of insecurity originate from recruiter's actions as well as candidate's own cognitive processes.
The organisation holds the power
Contrary to what one might expect given the economic climate outlined, participants perceive themselves as the party of lesser power. Daniel describes organisations as 'spoilt of choice'. His following words are similar to those of Olivia and Lucy.
Daniel: "(â€¦) no need to advertise a lot or brand themselves to get applicants".
Seen in relation to previous discussed themes, where the candidate is concerned with making an impression and showing their true self, it still comes down to the final choice of the organisation.
Olivia: "You feel vulnerable because you feel you have to show from your best side, but at the same time you don't really have a say".
Attending the site visit holds for an interesting view of this unequal power relationship between candidate and organisation. While Connor, Lucy and Becky describe being asked whether they 'wanted' to attend, Thomas and Olivia uses the word 'summoned' to describe their invitation. The former illustrates a scenario where the candidate has a choice, whereas the latter is more similar to an assumption the organisation take for granted.
All participants acknowledge their occupations attractiveness in "today's labour market", nevertheless this appears more of an expressed statement rather than a lived-by statement. The following two extracts illustrate the discrepancy experienced by participants.
Becky: They want to start recruiting early I assume, in times like these".
Connor: "I didn't feel that significant for the companies".
Noteworthy is the fact that all participants, except for Thomas, place the organisation in the decisive role in regards to a job offer. While Thomas' potential position is bound by specific organisational and individual factors (*As not to comprise participants confidentiality, no further information is disclosed), all the others express doubt as to whether they will even get an offer. Lucy's following words illustrate how the majority of participants did not appear to consider their own choice in the process.
Lucy: "I was constantly thinking about it. What I would hear back, if I would hear back".
The perception of being subject to the organisations final decisions contributes to insecurity and uncertainty on the candidate's behalf. BeckyÂ´s words illustrate this vividly, explaining how she felt forgotten in the anticipation of a job offer.
Becky: "If it is normal that it should take this long? Or if maybe they forgot me. I don't think they had forgotten meâ€¦ Maybe a little".
Despite the awareness of the current labour market, when in the midst of a recruitment process participants consider themselves as just another applicant among the "tons of people want to work at their organisation".
Participants feeling small, insignificant and irrelevant manifests in two directions. It is both a direct consequence of recruiter's actions, as well as characteristics participant's attribute themselves. Daniel's words graphically illustrate the theme on both levels.
Daniel: "Say 6000-7000 applicants for the jobs in this area, so it doesnÂ´t really matter. They won't see you anywhere in the recruitment process and either way they wouldn't remember you, because 1000 students came to their stand".
This quote reflects feeling literally like just one in the crowd, where a lack of individual consideration might contribute to negative emotions. It also implies how participants view themselves: not feeling important enough to stand out.
Participants differ in level of education, salient for those holding 'only' a Bachelor's degree. Organisations clearly distinguish between MSc's and BSc's, exercising their power by explicit rejection.
Becky: "You can forget all about sending us an application, unless you have a Master's".
Becky's words are resonant with similar experiences of Lucy and Olivia. Further, all participants describe experiences where they have been subject to foul treatment from recruiters.
Olivia: "She (recruiter) looked at me and said: Maybe he will give you a speed interviewâ€¦ or he won't".
Olivia's experience demonstrates lack of mutual respect and is a witness of unnecessary use of power. Her description of "being in their way", possibly understood as being of no interest for the recruiter and indirectly for the organisation, does not really resonate with an organisation in need of workforce.
Olivia captures the emotional strain of feeling small in the recruitment process by words like "vulnerable" and "submissive". Her words witness of how Olivia perceives herself in a subordinate position when initiating contact.
Olivia: "Kind of small when wandering around, asking to get an interview".
Having to 'ask' for an interview contributes to the understanding of the organisation's superiority. 'Wandering' indicates an act of insecurity and uncertainty. This links back to how the participants label themselves as "only a student", elaborated by uncertainty about own qualities.
Becky: "I didnÂ´t feel I was in a position to push the salary or anything, being a new graduate having nothing to offer other than myself".
Daniel has previous experience due to a summer job. His insight into organisational operations may contribute to more confidence and less uncertainty in regards to own abilities and knowledge. Daniel still acknowledges the feeling of being a 'visitor' when attending the site visit, further elaborated on by Lucy.
Lucy: "I felt so stupid. You feel like a littleâ€¦ (â€¦) You see everyone passing by in the corridors, those who actually work there (â€¦) you are a foreigner".
Thomas' experience differed somewhat to the remaining participants, where situational factors related to the position he was considered for, led to less uncertainty.
Thomas: "I had the impression that I would get the job and I knew I would say yes".
Yet it is interesting to note how the joint themes still emerge from Thomas' words from a closer analysis. He points out lack of knowledge, experience and questions the adequacy of his Bachelor's degree. Thomas uses the word 'chicken' to describe how he feels, an eloquent metaphor to describe his and other participants experience. The Norwegian meaning of chicken can be related to feeling fearful, apprehensive and frightened. It can also symbolize a student's inferiority in relation to an adult (rooster). Thomas further undermines himself by attributing insignificance to choice and location of his University.
Thomas: (â€¦) Bachelor's degree from a small school in the woods of Northern Norway".
Change this to similar location in the UK for confidential purposes?
In Thomas' case, the geographical location of the job he is offered is weighed heavily. Thomas' experience of uncertainty and insignificance might then be related to doubts as to whether he is good enough for the job.
Need to prove one-self
A central aspect of experiencing uncertainty in the recruitment situation is in relation to if you, as a candidate and a person, are good enough. As recruitment and selection occurs simultaneously, the combination of the two processes inevitably involves a choice of candidates over others. Participant's insecurity and lack of power is evident.
Lucy: "I am lucky if I get the job, there were a lot of talented candidates there, very intelligent people. I was nervous afterwards, how it all went. There were a lot of skilled people there".
The need to prove one-self illuminates the importance of master theme to be seen as a whole person. For new graduates the aspect of grades is particularly salient. Participants describe experiences where their grades have been questioned by others or even themselves. There is an appreciation of a recruitment process that partly removes pressure by looking beyond grades. Olivia values the recognition of her 'many sides'. Daniel's words also reflect back on the importance of a person's various qualities, accentuating the candidate as a complete human being.
Daniel: "People have different reasons not to get top grades. You can be equally good, if not even better at a job".
As far as the recruitment process goes, you can only prove so much. A comprehensive recruitment and selection process thus provides participants with confirmation and reduces uncertainty for when entering the work life.
Connor: "If you have been through that, you feel like you actually deserve to be there".
Candidates experienced positive emotions when the job offer ultimately came and one could look back at the recruitment process as completed. For Lucy, the job offer was a confirmation of being good enough, as she had considered re-siting an exam to improve a grade. She changed her mind about the re-sit.
Lucy: "I sat in the lecture and received a phone call from Johnson Oil (â€¦) I came back in, sat down and thought: I can't be bothered with this, I have a job now, you know? It hit me straight away, no need to improve my grade, I don't need to now".
For Olivia, who had previously doubted herself, using words like "at least I am good enough on those things, there has to be something good about me", the job offer was a relief. Her words sum up the happily outcome of the participants recruitment experience.
Olivia: "There were lots of applicants and I am very pleased that I made it all the way through".
In accordance with guidelines for IPA, the participant's accounts have been foregrounded in the results section, to subsequently be discussed in relation to relevant psychological theories (Rizq & Target, 2008). The themes will be discussed by the double-hermeneutic interpretation applied by the author. It is recognised and considered that the themes naturally interact, as they are all components of a whole experience (reference).
The study explored graduates' experiences of the recruitment process. Results indicate that going through recruitment is a personal, emotional and cognitive process. Across participants, the process was experienced as an important one of high involvement and effort, advocating the individual importance of this phenomenon (Billsberry, 2007; Rynes, 1991; reference). This is in stark contrast to previous findings claiming the subjective experience of the recruitment process is of no real significance to initial and continuous organisational attraction in comparison to objective factors such as job characteristics (Powell & Goulet, 1996; Thomas & Wise, 1999). The strong influence of the recruitment process itself might be explained in relation to sample. New graduates may have limited or no previous job search- and work experience, whereas experienced candidates have been found to focus more on job characteristics (Feldman & Arnold, 1978). The findings from this study thus contribute to the view of graduates as a distinct group of candidates (Powell & Goulet, 1996).
A prominent finding from this study is how the organisation-candidate interaction is highly salient in the graduates' experience. The acknowledgment of both parties in a recruitment process resonates with the social process paradigm, outlined by Herriot (2002). Recruitment represents the beginning of an employment relationship, starting during the social process and may be of particular salience for an exceptionally aware and sensitive graduate in a situation of novelty (Billsberry & Gilbert, 2008). Findings will subsequently be discussed as to how this social interaction plays out, both resonating and conflicting with the social process paradigm.
The first master theme illuminates how the participants experience both themselves and the organisation playing an important role in recruitment. Results indicate that both parties attempt to influence the other party, resonating with the foundation of the social process paradigm (Herriot, 2002). Also, there is an underlying assumption that both parties have the possibility to withdraw from the process, consistent with how the social process paradigm is outlined (Herriot, 2002).
Findings reveal the importance of the site visit in participant's experience, contradicting earlier findings by Taylor & Bergmann (1987). The findings from this study suggest that the site visit is an essential component in the candidates' recruitment experience, as it allows for broader organisational insight, genuine impressions and interpersonal interaction. The application of signalling theory to recruitment research is useful to comprehend the influence a site visit can have, however previous research has called for a better understanding of the signalling mechanisms behind a site visit (Turban, Campion & Eyring, 1995). The results suggest gradates use simple, concrete and visible signs. Candidates are able to make wider inferences about the organisational climate by picking up cues of dress code, organisational appearance and employees behaviour. Also, the chance to directly observe one's possible department and office are found important in the present findings. As the recruitment situation holds limited information for a candidate (Larsen & Phillips, 2002; Rynes, 1991), the site visit might be experienced as counteraction to reduce suspense.
Results indicated a strong desire of wanting the job even more after attending a site visit, concurring with previous findings of a positive site visit as an important factor in job acceptance decisions (Turban, Campion & Eyring, 1995). The results do righteousness to Breaugh's (2008) claim in regards to the potential importance of a site visit. While not undermining the crucial importance early recruitment activities have on attraction (Taylor & Bergmann, 1987), the findings also offer support to the equal importance of activities occurring at later stages (reference, Saks & Uggerslev, 2010).
Me as a whole person
The second theme indicates how a graduate desires the recruitment process to be more than a simple selection procedure from the organisation's side. By utilising an approach that embraces the candidate as a whole person, the organisation is underlining the significance of the other party in the process. The findings resonate with recent development in the field of recruitment, altering from the traditional psychometric perspective to the social process paradigm (reference). A greater focus on the person is in resonance with the recent development of a shift in recruitment practices also in the UK (Branine, 2009).
In the participant's experience, the struggle to show who they really are is salient. The findings might be understood in the light of the study Cole, Rubin, Feild and Giles (2007), demonstrating that recruiters are markedly influenced by a candidate's résumé to consider a candidate's employability. A new graduate might attempt to reduce information asymmetry, feeling that the organisation has insufficient knowledge of their characteristics based on a narrow résumé (Stiglitz, 2000).
The findings from this study underline the importance of an applicant being seen as more than a candidate, but also as a person. The interpersonal interaction between recruiter and candidate is thus highlighted in the participants' experience as a way of being acknowledged as a human being in the process. Treatment is an indication of whether the organisation holds an underlying assumption of recruitment as reciprocal two-way process. The study by Connerley and Rynes (1997) suggested that recruiters believe their own behaviour has a direct relationship with recruitment success, however findings from this study imply a discrepancy between recruiter's knowledge and behaviour. Consistent with previous studies of both qualitative and quantitative nature, the results strongly support the importance of proper candidate treatment (Boswell et al, 2003; Chapman et al., 2005; Rynes et al., 1991).
Given the prevalence of insecurity as a salient emotion in the candidate's experiences, one could have expected recruiter behaviour utilised as confirmatory signals. However, in contrast to previous findings, the results do not suggest recruiter behaviour as indications of an anticipated job offer (Chapman & Webster, 2006). Rather, recruiter behaviour were experienced as either contributing or interfering with the candidate's attempt to perform in the recruitment situation. Recruiter behaviour was also used to make wider inferences about potential co-workers and organisational climate, in contrast with previous suggestion by Breaugh (2008). The results suggest that candidates view recruiters as representatives of the organisation, similar to previous findings (DeBell, Montgomery, McCarthy & Lantier, 1998). Consistent with previous findings, this study shows how signals are transmitted throughout the organisation-candidate interaction (Boswell et al., 2003; Goltz & Giannantonio, 1995; Turban, 2001; Turban, Campion & Eyring, 1995).
The importance of the recruiter trait of 'personableness' was supported also in this study, strengthening previous findings (Chapman et al., 2005; Connerley & Rynes, 1997; Rynes, 1991). The results from this study suggests the candidate infer from signals based on any organisational representative, as opposed to previous research suggesting potential colleagues has the greater influence (reference - possibly Fisher, Ilgen & Hoyer, 1979). This underlines the importance of awareness and possibly recruitment training for all organisational representatives interacting with potential employees (Boswell et al., 2003; Maurer, Howe & Lee, 1992).
Am I good enough?
Findings reveal how participants experience themselves as the inferior part and perceive an unbalanced power in the organisation-candidate relationship. This contrasts to previous studies emphasizing how organisations must compete in the persuasion of desirable candidates (Ferris, Berkson & Harris, 2002). Instead, findings from the present study suggest candidates scrutinize themselves more than they do the organisation. Thus, the final master theme both illuminate and question the social process paradigm compared with outlooks from the other master themes. Herriot (2002) points out that an organisation might take a stand on recruitment design, however deviation from this design in terms of candidate treatment might undermine the impression one is trying to make.
'Am I good enough' provides for a different perspective of what predicts actual job choice. Previous studies have attempted to distinguish what specific factors leads to the decision of accepting a job offer (Aiman-Smith, Bauer & Cable, 2001; Maurer, Howe & Lee, 1995). However, the results indicate that participants did not question the possibility of own choice, but rather viewed the organisation as the final decision-maker. Resonating with findings by Boswell et al. (2003) and Maurer, Howe and Lee (1992) participants seem to form a general impression based on the whole recruitment experience. In contrast to findings by Boswell et al. (2003), this suggests the general impression provides a foundation upon which a job offer is accepted, rather than a conscious clear-cut decision made by the candidate. This illuminates previous findings, highlighting how the organisation can continuously influence a candidate during a multi-stage recruitment process (Saks & Uggerslev, 2010).
Overall, the results hold a discrepancy in regards to the social process paradigm. There appears to be a cognitive dissonance (reference, Festinger?) in how the candidate experiences own role in the recruitment process. The participant explicitly states verbally their attractiveness as newly graduating engineers. Results also suggest that organisations do attempt to arrange their recruitment process as a mutual two-way interaction by presence at campus fairs and holding site visits. This is consistent with the view that both organisation and candidate make a choice regarding the other part (Lievens, Decaesteker, Coetsier & Geinaert, 2001; Schwab, 1982 - find reference, possibly Herriot, 1992;).
On the other hand, the participants express emotions that questions whether the equal, balanced nature of a two-way process is actually experienced by new graduates. A tentative suggestion is therefore whether the social process paradigm is less reflected in a graduate's recruitment experience. The inherent nature of a young, inexperienced student seem to complicate the social interaction between what is supposed to be two equal parts.
In relation to the contextual setting of this study, there might be an underlying expectation of findings indicating that graduates are self-confident going into the recruitment process. Previous research has found candidates to be more critical of the recruitment process in a flourishing labour market (reference; Ployhart, 2006; see Dineen & Soltis (2011) if not any other). Also, self-esteem has been found to influence job-search (Ellis & Taylor, 1983). Findings from this study prove somewhat different, where the permeating presence of insecurity, uncertainty and self-doubt was prevalent. The finding in itself is not unexpected, resonating with previous findings of applicant uncertainty (Rynes, Bretz & Gerhart, 1991). However, the intensity and extent of these emotions is surprising, especially given the labour market that seem to signalise an insatiable demand for engineers.
McCarthy and Goffin (2004) points out that in general, little research has investigated the role of anxiety in a job search context. The strength of the findings in this study may partially be explained by research method, as a limitation of previous studies has been the use of simulated scenarios (Heimberg, Keller & Peca-Baker, 1986). As opposed to an experimental setting, this study reflects the gravity of the situation, in addition to applying a qualitative method infrequently used in recruitment research. This may have proved valuable to give this new insight of a candidate's experience.
Several limitations of the study are acknowledged and will subsequently be discussed.
Important to disclose is the act of translation taking place in this study (Temple & Young, 2004). All the original data from this study was in Norwegian, however themes and quotes have been presented in English. In addition to the inevitable interpretative process of double hermeneutics, translation is also an interpretive process. Translation was done by the researcherÂ´s discretion, with the risk of linguistic nuances lost in the process (van Nes, Abma, Jonsson & Deeg, 2010). However, it was believed important to capture the experience in a language common to both researcher and participants (Esposito, 2001) and subsequently trust the researcherÂ´s bilingual skills for an idiomatic translation. The researchers first-hand knowledge of both languages and culture was considered helpful in the process (Schulz, 2007). In addition, a fellow psychologist student was consulted to validate translations.
Following up on Rynes' (1991) suggestion, this studyÂ´s sample consisted of candidates whom received a job offer. A possible limitation of this sample is the retrospective account of seeing the recruitment process in hindsight. The vividness of the experience may have faded, however the researcher noted that participants seemed to remember details that indicate the opposite. How the recruitment process was experienced could also have been socially biased or adjusted in posterity. This leads to another limitation, namely that the sample by the time of interviewing had recently started their new job. Social desirability and identification with the organisation of employment could have led to biased answers. The participants could also have been reluctant to speak their mind of negative experiences related to their new employer (Lawler, Kuleck, Rhode & Sorensen, 1975). Nevertheless, this was attempted avoided by allowing any experience of recruitment to be the topic of discussion and not necessarily linking the experience to the organisation in question. Also, it was explicit that participants found it comfortable talking to someone from outside the organisation, as well as sharing characteristics of being or having recently been a student.
In line with the approach of IPA the questions on the interview agenda were somewhat nondirective. Lack of motivation, imperfect memories or limited personal insight could thus have led to underreporting in the personal experience of recruitment. Nevertheless, the rich data gathered from interviews does not suggest this to have occurred.
Qualitative research in general does not attempt to generalise and IPA is particularly concerned with an individualÂ´s experience. Nevertheless, this study was done in a Norwegian context, which may question the applicability of findings to other settings. Also within the geographically dispersed population of Norway there are large differences. While the supplies of engineers are in shortage across the country, the economical premises are superior in the western region. It is therefore possible that a recruitment experience by someone in a less privileged labour market may differ. However, by openly describing the context of the study, the reader may draw inferences to similar settings or at least understand the contextual foundations as a background for this study.
Adding to the current study, it would be of interest to go beyond the sample accepting a job offer. A study involving the whole applicant pool would give insight into the same recruitment experience from two separate angles; those who did and those who did not accept job offers.
This study has provided insight from a retrospective view, thus spawning the interest for an even more comprehensive understanding of the recruitment experience. A longitudinal study could trace candidates throughout the whole process, with assessments at various time points contributing to truly capturing the dynamic nature of recruitment.
As a background to this study, the overall context, the Norwegian economic climate and the labour market of engineers has been emphasized. Future research should explore graduate's experiences of a recruitment process also in different socio-economical settings with samples of other occupations. It would be of interest to compare to other settings to evaluate the importance of context in recruitment.
Lastly, as suggested from findings by Barber, Wesson, Roberson and Taylor (1999), recruitment practices will vary according to organisational size. This study was done in an organisation recruiting 25 new graduates, however both smaller and larger recruitment processes might vary considerable from this.
Implications and conclusion
By a phenomenological approach, this study has explored new graduates' experiences of the recruitment process. Insight from this perspective has proven useful in a number of ways, providing for rich data beyond cold facts. As new graduates will make up a large per cent of the future workforce (reference), it is important to recognise certain implications from the present study.
Uggerslev et al. (2012) meta-analysis points out recruiter behaviour as a significant variable of candidate attraction that organisations actually have some control over. This study has demonstrated the important role a recruiter plays, thus implying the importance of careful selection and training of recruiters for organisational benefit and success.
With the Norwegian context of a boosting economy in lack of engineers, the findings from this study indicate the acknowledgment of both parties in the recruitment setting. While graduates might experience an unequal balance in the relationship, the restoration of equilibrium is important for the candidate's experience. Looking ahead, the author tentatively suggests acknowledging the importance of a good recruitment experience as a building stone for a well functioning employment relationship.
Notwithstanding that the analysis of experience is done across individuals and with sensitivity to a specific context, it is hoped that the reader will take away an enriched understanding of experiencing a recruitment process from a new graduateÂ´s perspective.