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Employees are one of the most important resources of any business, and so it is important for organisations to have a thorough recruitment and selection process. This is to ensure that the best possible candidate is recruited to the post. There are many different aspects to consider during the recruitment and selection process, and this essay considers the issues that an organisation should consider as they search for candidates to recruit. The responsibility for recruitment and selection lies predominantly with a Human Resources (HR) department (Armstrong and Taylor, 2014, p.248), although in many organisations it is common for functional department heads to be involved in the process to ensure that technical considerations are assessed during recruitment and selection. Organisations also face the decision as to whether it is preferable to recruit internally or externally, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. There are also legal considerations associated with recruitment and selection which it is imperative that an organisation adheres to (Aylott, 2014 p.11). Accordingly, this essay presents a logical assessment of best practice in recruitment and selection on a life-cycle basis, beginning with job skills analysis and concluding with the final selection process.
Best Practice in Recruitment and Selection
Torrington et al., (2011, p.157) explain that the first steps in recruitment should be pragmatic and straightforward. It is important for the HR department to know how many people they need to recruit, and the skills and capabilities that they must possess. The easiest way to address this problem is to conduct a job skills analysis, carefully considering the content and requirement of job functions including an assessment of technical skills and also intangible or ‘softer’ skills such as communication, innovation or sales ability. Ideally job skills analysis should be incorporated with a strategic assessment of HR requirements so that the organisation can be confident that they have the necessary skills contained within the human capital of the business to achieve long-term organisational objectives (Rivera, 2012b, p.75). Lievens and Sackett (2012, p.463) also recommend a job skills matrix to assess the future potential capability of job functions and to link this to future employee development opportunities. This is a matrix which lists the skills of employees against the skills the organisation requires or would like in the long term.
Having assessed the functions of job roles it is then necessary to create a job description and also a person specification. These are two distinct documents although they are often prepared together (Armstrong and Taylor, 2014, p.250). The job description describes the technical functionality of the role, being as precise and detailed as possible. The person specification addresses the intangible aspects of job functionality to ensure that any potential recruit will fit comfortably within the organisation and has the skills and attributes which the organisation requires. Wilton (2013, p.158) emphasises that it is important for there to be a good fit between an employee and the organisation, so that the employee feels comfortable in their job role and performs to the best of their ability.
Once the job description and person specification have been developed it is then possible to advertise the job role as the first stage in actual recruitment. At this point the organisation must decide whether they should recruit internally or externally. Phillips and Gully, (2009, p.18) explain that internal recruitment can be beneficial for a number of reasons. These include offering current employees opportunities for promotion or personal development, which is proven to motivate employees by demonstrating that there is an opportunity for career progression. Also, recruiting internally can be considered as a lower risk because the organisation is already familiar with the skills and capabilities of the employee. From a pragmatic perspective internal recruitment is also more cost-effective and quicker, so it is easier to fill the job role with less risk to the business. However, disadvantages to internal recruitment can include resentment on the part of employees who are not selected for the role (Phillips and Gully, 2009, p.20). Also, it may be the case that the organisation is looking for specific skills in order to expand the business, and no employees already in the firm have this necessary experience or skill. In these instances it is therefore necessary to recruit externally.
External recruitment can be more challenging. In the first instance it is necessary to determine whether the organisation will use in-house procedures for external recruitment, or alternatively make use of external sources such as recruitment agencies or headhunters (CIPD, 2013, p.1). This decision is often based on a combination of financial considerations and organisational discretion. For example, if an organisation needs to recruit a large number of relatively junior roles then a recruitment agency may be the most appropriate approach. Recruitment agencies are likely to have a large number of potential candidates on their books, and they can undertake much of the necessary background checks and initial skills assessments. This can be a highly resource intensive process which organisations may not be able to manage effectively, hence paying recruitment agencies becomes preferable. Rivera (2012a, p.1000) notes that over time organisations can often establish relationships with preferred recruitment agencies so that the recruitment agencies become familiar with the job descriptions and person specifications, and this accelerates the process. Increasingly, organisations are also making use of online recruitment opportunities, and this is another way of reaching a wide group of potential candidates in a cost-effective manner (Girard and Fallery, cited in Boudarouk and Ruel, 2009, p.39).
Alternatively, if it is a particularly high profile or specialist role organisations may wish to make use of headhunters. These are considerably more costly but can be appropriate if the role is senior or it is a new role which requires a particular skill set. Rivera (2012a, p.1001) explains that headhunters are more commonly used when there is a long lead time for more senior appointees and it is more important that they are a good cultural fit for the business. Furthermore, the more senior the role, the greater the potential risk to the business in terms of financial expenditure. Therefore it can be preferable to use external sources to find the most appropriate candidates.
As noted previously there are also legal considerations as part of the recruitment process. These commence with the advertising of the job role, which under UK and EU legislation must be entirely non-discriminatory (Aylott, 2014, p.66). This includes wording of the advert for the role, and also the actual process of recruitment which must be entirely fair and transparent. This is another reason why headhunters and recruitment agencies can be beneficial, as they can help to ensure adherence to legislation and regulation in this area. It is also worth noting that there are changes in progress within the regulation in this area meaning that candidates shortlisted for more senior roles must demonstrate gender parity (Aylott, 2014, p.67). Hence, headhunters can be helpful for drawing up shortlists prior to the next stage of recruitment.
Having drawn up a shortlist of potential candidates, either internally or externally, the next step in the process is to narrow down this shortlist. There are a number of possible means of doing this which can include interviews, psychometric testing and assessment centres (Breaugh, 2013, p.395). As might be imagined, each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages, and it is also not uncommon to utilise these techniques in combination. The decision as to which type of recruitment method to adopt depends on the nature of the job role and the potential risks associated with the job function (Hall et al., 2013, p.358). In any event, it is absolutely imperative to ensure that there is complete fairness and transparency in the recruitment and selection process, not only because of the need to adhere to legislation and regulation, but also to ensure that each candidate has a fair experience. This is because this has implications for long-term recruitment and selection of high calibre candidates (CIPD, 2013, p.1).
Guion (2011, p.9) explains that interviews remain as one of the most common forms of assessment when determining whether a candidate would be suitable for a job function. The length and intensity of the interview depends on the nature of the job function. As alluded to above, it is commonly the case that recruitment and selection is the responsibility of the HR department, although it is often the case that functional department heads are involved in the process to assess the technical competence and capability of the candidate. In any event the potential candidates should be assessed against the job description and person specification (as described above) and during the course of the interview it is sensible to take notes so that at a later stage the shortlisted candidates can be compared to one another (Chapman and Webster, 2003, p.117). For some more senior roles it may be the case that more than one interview is conducted with different members of the organisation. Kline (2013, p.25) acknowledges that although interviews are very popular, there can be concerns with unintended preference, a concept known as the "golden halo effect”. This occurs when the interviewers subconsciously prefer candidates who they considered would be a good cultural fit. This is why it is important to have complete transparency in the interview process.
Psychometric testing and aptitude testing are also extremely popular techniques for assessing potential candidates during the selection process. Suff (2012, p.9) explains that aptitude testing is an assessment of the numerical, verbal, and general logical reasoning capability of an individual. Psychometric testing is more intensive and includes an assessment of personality traits. Psychometric testing is not an exact science, but over time a large body of empirical data has been gathered which helps to increase the reliability of such testing. Generally speaking psychometric tests are a useful indicator of underlying personality traits, and can be a good means of an organisation assessing whether an individual candidate would be a good fit for the business. Cushway (2014, p.26) explains that psychometric tests can be useful if an organisation is looking to recruit an individual with particular personality traits in order to help generate a cross functional team. In contrast, Suff (2012, p.10) suggests that psychometric testing is more valuable as a supporting indicator, along with other selection techniques such as interviews and assessment centres.
Assessment centres are the most intensive form of employee selection. They typically comprise a number of small tests and presentations to simulate the likely working conditions and to assess how an individual performs under pressure and how they work in teams (Armstrong and Taylor, 2014, p.232). During the course of an assessment centre it is likely that the candidate will have to give a presentation, solve a problem with imperfect information (to simulate real-life), and also work in a team environment. Assessment centres are highly resource intensive but are considered to give the most accurate picture of how a candidate would be likely to perform if they were recruited to the organisation. The costs of running an assessment centre are high, so in the main they are reserved for more senior job functions, or for graduate recruitment schemes. They are also more commonly used by larger organisations that have the resources to maintain a talent management pipeline (McClean and Collins, 2011, p352). Stahl et al., (2012, p.35) believe that assessment centres can be somewhat artificial as all the candidates are aware that they are in competition for a defined number of job roles, and this may encourage them to distort their behaviour. Stahl et al., (2012, p.35) also believe that there is a greater risk of the golden halo effect during assessment centres as the assessors get to know candidates throughout the duration of the assessment centre.
It is necessary to mention that references from previous employers or other respected individuals can play a small part in the recruitment and selection process. However, such is the nature of legislation relating to references, many organisations simply use them to verify that a candidate has been previously employed and that they do not have a tendency to high levels of sickness absence or any other obvious undesirable tendency, for example an extensive disciplinary record (Torrington et al., 2011, p.182). As references must be entirely factual, personal observations of the previous employers are generally not found in references in the UK. Some organisations may also wish for shortlisted candidates to undertake medical checks. This is likely to be more common in job functions where there is either a particular medical need for high levels of health and fitness because the job is particularly strenuous, or because the organisation has a long-term commitment to employee health and well-being. In either event organisations are only likely to take up references and ask for medical checks for candidates whom they believe they will offer the job post (Torrington et al., 2011, p.183).
Once the organisation has decided who they will recruit, it is necessary to draw up a contract of employment, and to send a formal offer letter to the preferred candidate, setting out the terms and conditions of employment. Aylott (2014 p.112) observes that it is surprising how many organisations do not maintain good record-keeping in this regard, and it is imperative that if the candidate accepts the role they return a signed copy of the contract and terms and conditions. It is also good practice for an organisation to formally write to the unsuccessful candidates and briefly explain why they were not recruited for the post (CIPD, 2013, p.1). This helps to improve the overall candidate experience thus supporting the reputation of the organisation and wider marketplace. If job requirements change in the future, maintaining a good relationship with potential candidates makes it is much easier to offer them a job role in the future (Klotz et al, 2013, p.110). Finally, Aylott (2014, p.32) explains that under UK legislation, unsuccessful candidates may exercise the right to challenge why they were not recruited for the role. This is why it is important to maintain scrupulous records throughout the recruitment and selection process and demonstrate complete fairness and transparency.
As it may be some time between acceptance of the job post and the candidate starting in the role, then this is a good opportunity for the organisation to prepare the new employees induction in advance. It is also best practice for an organisation to allow access to the employee handbook when recruiting an employee. A good induction is one where the new employees has the opportunity to meet their colleagues and receive basic training in aspects such as health and safety and organisational systems (Covert, 2011, p.9). This is entirely pragmatic as it is an opportunity for existing employees to meet their new colleague, and also to ensure that the new employee has a thorough grounding in the organisation so that they become rapidly embedded and are able to make a difference as soon as possible. This is often an issue for organisations as it can take time for new employees to become familiar with organisational culture. Therefore an induction is a good way of starting this process.
Finally, the majority of new employees are likely to be operating under a probationary period in the first few months of employment. There are legal implications to this, meaning that it is important for an organisation to clearly set out their expectations for the new employee, and also to offer the employee as much help and support as possible in the early days of their employment (Cushway, 2014, p.34). It is in no party's interest for there to be a high turnover of staff. Not only because the recruitment and selection process is extremely costly and resource intensive, but also because it is also disruptive to an organisation and long-standing employees. Hence, it is preferable to invest the necessary level of resource, time and effort in recruiting the right employee in the first instance.
To summarise, the first steps in effective recruitment and selection are to establish the requirements of the job role, and also the preferred attributes of the individual who will eventually fulfil this role. It is important at this early stage to be as precise and as comprehensive as possible, and also to be aware of the need for transparency in the process. This is because the description and person specification not only form the foundation of the job advert, but also they become the benchmark against which potential candidates are assessed, and successful employees are measured (Guion, 2011, p.240). Although resource intensive, it is worthwhile to spend time and effort refining the job description and person specification.
Once the shortlist of candidates has been prepared, either from internal or external sources, it is necessary to assess all potential candidates to determine their suitability for the role (Phillips and Gully, 2009, p.17). There are several alternative means of achieving this including interviews, testing and assessment centres. As elucidated above, there are advantages and disadvantages to all of these methods, and this is why it is often the case that more than one technique is used. It is important to reiterate the importance of transparency and fairness throughout the entire selection process.
Having selected a suitable candidate the organisation should then formally write to the employee enclosing the employment contract and terms and conditions of employment (Aylott, 2014, p112). An organisation may also wish to take up references and ask the candidate to have a medical assessment. It is best practice to formally communicate non-selection to unsuccessful candidates, as this is not only helpful for maintaining organisational reputation, it may have future practical benefit. Throughout the entire process of recruitment and selection scrupulous record-keeping is strongly recommended. Once a candidate has accepted a position of employment, it is then good practice to offer an induction period. This helps the new employee to settle in, and helps to increase productivity and reduce employee turnover.
This essay has set out the current recommended best practice in respect of recruitment and selection. It has illustrated the complexity and resource intensive nature of the process, and also emphasised the importance of prior planning and preparation to ensure that the most suitable candidates are shortlisted for the role, and that they have the necessary skills and attributes. As has been discussed throughout the essay, there are a number of alternative methods for actually selecting a candidate for the job role, and the determination of which of these methods is used relies on the specifics of the job itself and also the long-term HR and human capital requirements of the organisation. In an ideal scenario, the recruitment and selection process is cross-functional in nature, involving both HR and department heads, and is also linked to the long-term strategic requirements of the business. Throughout the entire process it is imperative to maintain fairness and transparency, and to focus on recruiting the best possible candidate in order to reduce the possibility of subsequent employee turnover.
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