One of the most important decisions comes when having to select an employee to fill a job vacancy. In the current labor market, highly qualified applicants are scarce and, among the existent ones, it is hard to spot the ideal candidate. Sometimes it is so urgent that a position be filled, that a person may win the job by default, or sloppy selection criteria may be applied. A “quick fix” may ease workload for a while, but it might prove lethal for the business viability itself in the long run. Therefore, a larger attention in the selection process can provide the business with employees who will finally produce the desired results.
The analysis of the employee selection process is a fairly new practice. During the 70’s, any systematic attempt to sort out skills was often unpopular (Lee, 50). This began to change during the 80’s and into the 90’s, when an estimated 80% to 90% of companies used pre-employment testing (Brindow and Spencer, 80). As Chris Lee states, “we are returning to a focus on individual competence […] objective standards are coming back in both education and employment” (Lee, 49). Another survey by researchers Randall, Cooke and Smith established that 95% of employers who tried testing for screening sales candidates were still using it (Randall, 53). All the data shows the inclination of the modern businesses to highly stress on everything that will maximize the effectiveness of employee selection and, consequently, employee performance.
Processing an applicant for a job normally entails a series of steps, which are determined by the size of the organization, the types of jobs to be filled or the number of people to be hired. The selection stage should be backed up by an effective recruitment process, which greatly depends on job analysis and job description. Job analysis is “a process to identify and determine in detail the particular job duties and requirements and the relative importance of these duties for a given job. Job Analysis is a process where judgements are made about data collected on a job” (HR – Guide). Its purpose is to establish and document the “job relatedness” of employment procedures such as recruitment, selection, training, compensation and performance appraisal through its product, the job description.
During the selection process, the job description is used in creating an accurate advertisement for the job and attracts the proper candidates, that is, the persons that most probably will fit for the specific job. A realistic job preview, based on an accurate job description and specification (the qualifications demanded for the job), will help applicants understand what the job entails and make more informed decisions as to whether they want to apply for the job or not. According to Gregorio Billicopf of the University of California, “selected applicants who understand both the positive and negative sides of a job, are most likely to stay and succeed”. (Billicopf, 18).
After the recruitment process has been concluded and the applicants have sent their resumes, the first step of the selection process should take place; screening the resumes. CV’s provide basic information for use in the next step of the selection process and are used to screen out the unqualified applicants. For instance, if the position requires the ability to use a word processor, the resume provides a clear picture whether the person owns this ability or not. Resume screening is a standard procedure in most organizations during the selection process, despite their size, activity or culture.
After the resume screen – out, the remaining applicants will be invited for an interview, which is the most important step in the selection process. It supplements information obtained in other steps in the process to determine the suitability of an applicant for a specific opening. Organizations use several types of interviews. The structured interview is conducted using a predetermined outline that is based on the pre-mentioned job analysis, while unstructured interviews are not based on any outline, and use open – ended questions. The structured interviews should be preferred over the unstructured ones, as the former helps the interviewer maintain control of the interview that all pertinent information on the applicant is covered systematically by also providing the same type of information on all interviewees.
On the other hand, unstructured interviews may provide a more relaxed atmosphere, but they “lack of systematic coverage of information and are very susceptible to the personal biases of the interviewer” (Byars & Rue, 141). Organizations use three additional types of interviewing techniques to a limited extent; the stress interview, which puts the applicant under pressure while the interviewer adopts a hostile attitude toward the interviewee in order to detect who is highly emotional and who is not, the board or panel interview, in which two or more people conduct an interview with one applicant, and the group interview in which several applicants are questioned together.
A successful interview requires training in the skills, techniques and requirements of successful interviewing. All these will include an effective preparation for the interview, such as scheduling a time and location for it, review of all paperwork of the applicant and the current position description and specification and making a list of interview questions that will help in collecting the information needed for the decision. When the applicant arrives, the interviewer should help him / her feel at ease by showing him / her polite and friendly attitude and let him / her know about the organization.
During the interview, the answers the applicant will give will prove to be valuable source of information. Carefully selected open – ended questions should be asked so that the answers given will help determine the suitability of the applicant to a particular position. Additionally, this will encourage the interviewees to supply more in depth information. But still, this should follow a specific and consistent outline in order to ensure a uniform method of questioning, which will be applied to all applicants. It is also important to allow silence for thinking and reflection by the applicant, so that he / she slowly reveals his / her basic competencies, which often determine the interviewee’s advantage over the rest of the applicants and affects the hiring decision.
A basic competency is a knowledge, skill or behavior essential for one to function as an effective member of the specific organization and is an essential part of the selection criteria developed and reviewed before the interview questions are written (Univ. of Michigan, 38). Finally, it is important to record actual answers to questions as opposed to evaluative or conclusive comments. This will minimize subjectivity and biases, factors that may prove lethal during the hiring process, because the persons adopting them will most probably end up with the wrong decision and an unsuitable new employee.
Even though the interview will certainly tell a lot about the candidate’s qualifications, the only reliable way these qualifications can be measured are tests. The applicants can be tested before, during or after the interview. Tests can be classified as power versus speed tests, as well as written, oral or practical tests. They can measure knowledge, ability, skills, aptitude, attitude, honesty and personality (Billikopf, 20). Whatever the type of the test used, however, the integrity of test questions needs to be guarded. Many tests have undergone validation and reliability studies. The type of test to be used during the selection process depends on the size of the organization, its activity as well as the nature of the position that is to be filled.
Aptitude tests measure a person’s capacity or potential ability to learn and perform a job. Some of the more frequently used tests measure verbal ability, numerical ability, and perceptual speed, spatial and reasoning ability. Psychomotor tests measure a person’s strength, dexterity and coordination. Job knowledge tests measure the job related knowledge possessed by a job applicant. Proficiency tests measure how well the applicant can do a sample of the work to be performed. The last ones are the most frequently used by employers worldwide, in all types of organizations.
Other types of tests are interest tests, which are designed to determine how a person’s interests compare with the interests of successful people in a specific job, personality tests which attempt to measure personality traits, polygraph tests with the use of the polygraph, a device that records physical changes in a person’s body as he or she answers questions, and physical examinations (drug and AIDS testing or even genetic testing). The last ones are normally required only for the individual who is finally offered the job, and the job offer is often contingent on the individual passing the physical examination. “The exam is given to determine not only whether the applicant is physically capable of performing the job but also his or her eligibility for group life, health and disability insurance” (Byars, 143). Because of the expense, physical examinations are usually one of the last steps in the selection process.
The final step in the selection process is choosing one individual for the job. There are usually more than one qualified persons, but if the previous steps in the selection process have been performed properly, the chances that a value judgment based on all the information gathered will be successful improve dramatically. Because people sometimes falsify their credentials and backgrounds, though, it is important to check references. Additionally, people sometimes interview well but have a record of not actually performing as well as they have led the interviewer to believe. Therefore, it is important to check out any areas in which there are doubts or uncertainties. Reference checks are also a form of insurance. “The hour or two it takes to conduct a reference check is far less time than the time it will take to deal with performance, attitude or behavior problems” (Univ. of Michigan, 36).
The people that the responsible person for the selection has to contact are former supervisors, people whose names the candidate has given as work references to establish the working relationship, people that the employer knows personally who have worked with the candidate and people recommended by any of the above who are said to know the candidate’s work. However, some employers may hesitate to provide negative information about a former employee out of fear of lawsuits. Only people known and trusted can be relied on to give an accurate picture of a potential employee, and, even then, people have different perceptions and personalities, factors that must be considered when weighing employer references. After the evaluation process has been completed, the one most suitable applicant will finally be selected.
Recruiting and selecting the right people for the organization is a challenge, and every situation is unique. Innovation, persistence and the ability to communicate the strengths of the business and the benefits of the positions offered, will attract high quality employees. Selecting among them will be hard, but if the selection process steps are implemented properly, the final decision will prove to be really beneficial to the organization. No matter who makes the final decision – the human resource department, the manager of the department or even the owner of the firm -, this decision should be backed up by the correct procedure, otherwise the consequences could be extremely costly, if not lethal. All managers should be trained on the selection process for the benefit of the organization.
Billikopf, Gregory. “Labor Management in Agriculture: Cultivating Personnel Productivity”. University of California. 2003. p. 2-5, 18-23.
Brindow Peter, Spencer Leslie. “When Quotas Replace Merit, Everybody Suffers”. Forbes. Feb 1993. p. 80.
Byars Lloyd, Rue Leslie. “Human Resource Management”. 8th edition. Mc Graw – Hill. p. 141-144Job Analysis: An Overview. The HR – Guide. Oct 2002. May 2006.
< http://www.job-analysis.net/G000.htm>Lee, Chris. “Testing Makes a Comeback”. Training Vol. 25. Dec 1988. p. 49-50.
M-Pathways Employment Steering Committee Sub-Group Report. “Conducting a Successful Employee Selection Process”. University of Michigan. Apr 2001. p.20-35.
Randall, James. “A Successful Application Of The Assessment Center Concept To the Salesperson Selection Process”. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management. May 1985. p. 53.