“Pop-corn kernel is hard, indigestible and seemingly worthless. Add a bit of heat into it, and watch it transform before your eyes. Every now and then people in life can do the same thing.”Executive Proverb.
IntroductionRecruitment and selection is an integral part of human resource management and more specifically as part of the human resource planning process. As future graduates we wanted to get a better understanding of what awaits us in terms of securing future employment. Recruitment and selection is widely researched and discussed by HRM academics, therefore there was a great wealth of materials available.
The objectives for this project were as follows:•To distinguish between theory and practice;• To provide an overview for present students of current recruitment and selection processes;•To share the firsthand top tips we received while conducting our research;•To get the widest possible understanding of the recruitment and selection process, through researching a variety of different industries.
The structure of our project is fairly straight forward. The project begins with a review of the resources consulted while conducting our research for our project. Following the literature review we discussed the methodology for the research that was carried out by our group members. The project then progresses to the discussion of our extensive findings. The project then concludes with our recommendations to organisations which we believe would assist them greatly in innovating their recruitment and selection process.
Review of the literatureThere are many academic articles dealing with the subject of recruitment and selection, which highlight a range of different topics in this area, such as:
•Attracting excellent recruits.
•How to combat skill shortages.
•The process of effective interviewing.
•The importance of validating submitted information on CV’s and Cover Letters.
•The advantages and disadvantages of on-line recruitment.
•The recruitment and selective process of top senior executives.
The recruitment process of selecting outstanding people is emphasised in the article “How to recruit excellent people” (Grout, J. (2002), ‘How to recruit excellent people’, People Management, 2nd May, pp.44). This article highlights that the most important impact on the candidate is achieved through the image or the brand of the company. Highly successful candidates are enticed by organizations that recognise high performance and have an excellent rewarding system. Therefore in order to attract the finest candidates an organisation must maximize their appeal by understanding employee needs and meeting those as efficiently as possible. Excellent candidates are scarce therefore a company must invest heavily in advertising.
The company must ensure that the advertising projects the thriving qualities of the company while at the same time not infringing job specifications. More and more companies are recruiting through electronic sources; “The use of online recruiting has tremendous potential benefits for corporations”.(Feldman, D. and Klaas, B. (2002) ‘Internet Job Hunting’, Human Resource management, summer 2002, pp.191) Companies increase their chances of intriguing highly skilled worker, by investing in design and layout of company’s website.
Another verification of the increasing popularity of the internet is the fact that American companies are searching the internet for potential candidates as highlighted in “British firms lag behind surfing USA” (Welch, J. (1999), People Management, 11th February, pp.13.). When high performance candidates are drawn into the company, they will assess the quality of the company through the internal environment. The company must therefore work hard to ensure that positive yet hardworking atmosphere is perceived by candidates.
Once a candidate has been identified by a potential employer, it is vital to keep them interested in working for the company. This can be done by ensuring an effective and professional interview process. A good interview can help maintain a positive impression of the company on the candidate. The interview process is also essential in recruiting the most suitable candidates for the available position. There is a useful article written by Hoynes, M. (2005), (‘How to interview effectively’, People Management, 8th December, pp.40.), which stresses the most valuable elements of the interview process. The company is advised to train all interviewers in attaining the most relevant information from the candidates and keeping their interviewing techniques sharp through training and refreshing courses for their interviewers. Some of the most significant interviewing techniques highlight the importance of preparation beforehand and emphasise the value of structured interview. The interviewers are advised to vary their questions and keep them relevant to the topic.
They must also keep in mind that it’s a “two way thing” (Hoynes, M. (2005), ‘How to interview effectively’, People Management, 8th December, pp.40.) and that the interviewee is also assessing the organisation. The interviewer must therefore project a good impression of the company to the candidate. As most short listed candidates will be unsuccessful in their job application, it is therefore essential to “leave a good impression” (Hoynes, M. (2005), ‘How to interview effectively’, People Management, 8th December, pp.40.). Another vital component of the interviewing process is “tracking your recruits” (Hoynes, M. (2005), ‘How to interview effectively’, People Management, 8th December, pp.40.). This allows the interviewer to investigate as to whether their recruits have been successful within their new job; this in turn serves as a good feedback system on companies recruitment process. One of the main reasons for loosing employees is underperformance.
According to an article by Prickett, R. (1998) (‘Recruiters ‘fail to check CV qualification claims’, People Management, 29th October, pp.13.) a quarter of all CV’s contain lies and 125 of the Scottish surveyed companies failed to check validity of inward information. One suggestion to combat this nuisance is to make their potential workforce sign a declaration stating that all paperwork given is valid and contains only truthful information. Some HR Managers argue that these declarations are unnecessary and waste time needlessly, however, if a person developed a taste for submitting false information in the early stages of application, how can a company later rely on data such as that presented in R&D projects? In order to decrease the percentage of unsuccessful and underperforming employees in the future the companies are advised to perform various recruitment and selection techniques. Tests can be useful in assessing the capabilities of a candidate.
“Tests can be seen as giving a credibility to selection decisions” (Torrington, D. and Hall, L. (1995) Personnel Management, 3rd ed, Prentice Hall, pp.238.) For example, general intelligence tests are used to test the mental ability of candidates. This can be beneficial for the company as it informs them of the candidate’s intelligence level and their “capacity to retain new knowledge” (Torrington, D. and Hall, L. (1995) Personnel Management, 3rd ed, Prentice Hall, pp.238.). Other tests include special aptitude tests, trainability tests, attainment tests as well as different personality and interest tests. These techniques can be useful in choosing the most suitable candidate and contribute to elimination of the aforementioned problem of false declarations in CV’s and Cover Letters. When selecting a particular assessment an employer must bare in mind that, some tests will not be appropriate for certain jobs.
For example, IQ tests are often used in IT departments, while presentation and group discussion are more suitable for executive roles. ‘Those in favour of testing in general point to the unreliability of the interview as a predictor performance…” (Torrington, D. and Hall, L. (1995) Personnel Management, 3rd ed, Prentice Hall, pp.238.)Despite the number of methods recruiters use to select the right candidate for a position, the problem of a skills shortage still remains a big issue. In order to recruit a successful and applicable employee, a company may need to consider changing their recruitment process and eliminate certain barriers such as age limits ‘which prevent the recruitment of highly experienced older people’ (Fowler, A. (1999), ‘Catch as catch can’, People Management, 14th January, pp.40-41).
The role of Managing Director is a particularly difficult one to fill. Companies must pay great attention to the wording of their advertising and particularly include so called ‘vocabulary of leadership’ (Den Hartog, D. N, Caley, A, Dewe, P. (2007), “Recruiting Leaders: an analysis of leadership advertisements”, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol 17. no 1, pp.58-75) in order to attract suitable type of leader. As well as effective advertisements, the company must also ensure that the total employment package is ‘sufficiently competitive’ (Fowler, A. (1999), ‘Catch as catch can’, People Management, 14th January, pp.40-41) and appeals to the potential employee. Many companies feel confident in adjusting their pay rates in accordance with market average, however, this ideal is misleading, as half of other companies are paying higher wages, and attracting better and harder working people. It is universally known that higher achievers enjoy their rewards.
The article ‘Excellent Reception’ by Catherine Edwards explains how Vodafone (UK) have developed what has proved to be a highly successful recruitment process when hiring leaders. Their main area of success has been identifying high achievers and helping them to develop their careers and earn promotions. Vodafone accepts the fact that the best leaders ‘remain efficient, profitable and creative’ in the mobile phone industry (Edwards, C. (2005), “Excellent Reception”, People Management, 29th September, pp. 38-40) Leading is a difficult task; it demands character, ambition and persistence, it is for this reason that potential leaders are so hard to find.
There are many other techniques that a company can implement in order to “combat skill shortages” (Fowler, A. (1999), ‘Catch as catch can’, People Management, 14th January, pp.40-41). The article ‘Catch as catch can’ proposes number of techniques for organisations “trying to fill posts that are affected by skill shortage” such as changing the method by which goods and services are delivered, this leads to increase in efficiency and creates time for “skilled people” to perform more demanding jobs. It is sometimes useful to question organizational need for new recruits; perhaps restructuring organisational production techniques may reduce or eliminate the need for scarce skilled workforce. In times of crisis, employers may provide more attention to overtime and home working, although this approach increases productivity, employers are running the risk of reducing staffs overall moral, since some workers have family matters to attend to and will be reluctant to wave of their leisure time.
In conclusion, it is important to stress that recruiting “excellent candidates” is a difficult task. High performance candidates are known for being fussy, therefore companies must work hard to impress and attract solid employees who enjoy their jobs more than rewards; having said that, a good rewarding system is essential for companies to retain and motivate these types of people. In certain areas there are fewer vacancies than candidates; companies must ensure that the right person is selected for the right position, performing a job interview and validating information submitted on CV’s is one of the best methods for achieving this scenario, as well as diverting to various other assessing techniques, such as IQ and aptitude tests.
Highly sophisticated workers respond to successful companies, therefore companies must invest into a good advertising campaign and make these ad’s available, in modern society internet has proven to be an excellent method of achieving this. Despite the number of successful and effective recruiting and selection techniques developed by some companies, it is not always necessary to recruit new employees to “combat skill shortages”; restructuring business and the manner in which it operates may yield efficiency and completely eliminate the need for new recruits.
Research methodologyIn order to gain a practical insight into the processes concerning recruitment and selection, our team decided to interview four different people working within four different organizations.
Our first interview was with Magda, a full-time cashier working for Zara, a Spanish organization which is one of the largest fashion companies originating in Europe. Zara forms part of the larger company Inditex which is one of the largest distribution companies in the world. Zara is one of the forerunners in the fashion retail industry in Europe today and has stores on almost every continent. The fashion retail industry is one of the most lucrative industries today due particularly to the trend of fast fashion.
Magda was interviewed over the phone while on her lunch break and the interview was more conversational than interrogatory. The interview was relatively short as Magda found Zara’s recruitment process efficient and straight-forward.
The second interviewed Martin Tobin, General Manager of the European Recycling Platform (ERP) Ireland. The ERP was created in 2002 as the first ever pan-European takeback scheme to effectively implement the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.
The ERP develops and operates a common waste management procurement platform designed to meet the specific requirements of electronic and electrical producers. The company promotes cost effective and innovative recycling strategies while actively embracing the concept of individual producer responsibility as set out in the EU directive. The ERP also opens up opportunities for pan-European recycling services and cross border competition in the waste management service market. Led by companies such as ERP Ireland, Ireland is helping to shape the rapidly expanding waste electronics recycling industry in Europe.
The interview took palace in the offices of ERP Ireland over the course of a half hour. There was a short informal chat, followed by Martin Tobin answering our prepared questions. Some of the questions could be considered to be leading questions but many were open ended so as not the influence the answers with our knowledge of the theory.
Our next interview was with Aimee, an administrator of the order management department in Microsoft. Microsoft is a huge multinational company, founded by Bill Gates, and specializes in the development of software components. We chose to interview a member of the Microsoft workforce because of the company’s size and reputation.
Our interview took place in Aimee’s office in Sandyford, Dublin and was approximately an hour and a half long. The interview can be broken down into two parts. We initially asked ten questions on what a company is looking for in the recruitment process and how to do best in an interview situation. We then asked another ten questions about the recruitment and selection process within the Microsoft organization, particularly within the department that Aimee is employed. Most of the questions were open ended, allowing us to get as much information as possible about the recruitment process in this organization.
Finally we interviewed Katrina Novotna, a part time worker for the past seven months in Indus, a fine dining restaurant in Drogheda. Indus is a highly successful restaurant specialising in Indian food. Indus is ‘Ireland’s first Indian fine dining restaurant offering fresh local produce cooked to the highest international standards.’The interview with Katrina was relatively informal and lasted no more than ten minutes. The questions were structured so as to gain the best understanding of the recruitment and selection process Katrina went through for Indus. The main facts were recorded in a diary and later reviewed in comparison to the theory of recruitment and selection.
Analysis/DiscussionThe bulk of the most developed theory surrounding Recruitment and Selection suggests that the competitive edge of a company will depend on the calibre of its workforce. Joe Duffy BMW, one of Ireland’s most long-standing and lucrative motor dealerships, for example, echoes this in their company motto, ‘it’s our people who make the difference’. We chose to interview four companies at the forefront of their respective industries to ascertain if the extensive theory available on Recruitment and Selection was functioning in a real sense.
The companies chosen were European Recycling Platform (Ireland), a division of the pan-European waste management company ERP and a major player in the rapidly developing green economy, Microsoft (Ireland), the universally known computer giant, Zara a worldwide fashion retailer and Indisun a highly regarded restaurant that forms part of a successful chain of Indian restaurants in Ireland.
Much of the literature available on Recruitment and Selection indicates that pre-recruitment Job Analysis is an integral part of the Recruitment and Selection process. Schneider and Smith (1986) define job analysis as a means of identifying human behaviour necessary for adequate job performance; a job analysis tries to establish the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for the position. Once a job analysis has been carried out the organisation has a clear indication of the particular requirements of the job, and where that job fits into the overall organisational structure.
A job analysis, in theory, should form the basis for developing important recruitment and selection aids, a job description, a person specification and the terms and conditions of employment. The theory gave us many suggestions as to how our organisations might implement a job analysis. We put it to our organisation that some of these methods might include questionnaires for current employees, interviews with current employees on either an individual or group basis , managerial observation or hiring a third party expert analyst.
We found the reality of the situation to be that the HR department would usually work with the direct manager whom the successful candidate for this position would report to and that the team manager’s identification of ‘gaps in his team’ and other input would be necessary and invaluable. This indicated to us that a managerial observation and critical incident method were being used. Occasionally the organisation would need to call on external expert analysts if for example a new piece of legislation was passed that impacted their activities, such as a new EU directive, and they would feel it necessary to buy in the expertise for the development of the job description and perhaps the interview process too in order to expertly assess the suitability of the candidates.
Job descriptions in the organisations generally constituted statements of the core responsibilities of the position and were in line with Russo et al 1995 outlining job identification, relationship with others, job content and performance standards/objectives. Microsoft proved to us that a more modern adaptation of Rodger (1952) and Munro-Fraser’s (1954) person specification categories were at work in their organisations.
Some of our findings in this area included that at entry level; they favour knowledge over experience as training will be a big part of these roles anyway, while at a more senior executive level, experience will take precedence. Focus, confidence, coping well under pressure and a team worker were all considered key attributes. It is clear that the job description and person specification formed the basis for the short listing matrix later used by our organisations in the selection process.
Recruitment theory indicates that recruitment can be said to have three important functions.
1)To recruit a pool of suitable candidates for the vacancy.
2)To deter unsuitable candidates from applying.
3)To create a positive image of the companyAnderson and Shackleton (1986) suggest that the quality of recruited candidates depends largely upon the organisations recruitment practices, and that the relative effectiveness of the selection phase is inherently dependant upon the calibre of candidates attracted.
Recruitment theory suggests that whether to recruit internally or externally is a big question facing organisations. Our findings indicated that internal recruitment is highly regarded and frequently used by organisations. We found that most jobs were advertised internally first as organisations have an obligation to develop current employees by providing opportunities for promotion, job rotation or indeed enlargement. Our organisations found this to be a major motivator. Refer a Friend programmes were found to be used quite widely, whereby current employees can refer a friend and be rewarded if the candidate is successful. In-house recruitment was also favoured owing to the often high costs of external recruitment methods. Some recruitment agencies, we learnt, charged 18% of the successful candidate’s annual remuneration package.
However, where external recruitment was required, perhaps as the theory suggests to inject some new blood and to act as a stimulus for the organisational dynamic , our organisations did look to the external labour force, through agencies, to screen candidates for interview. In line with recruitment theory, they also made use of previous applicants and employees, e-recruiting through general job sites and company web pages and advertising in the press. We found that they did not make use of union referrals, universities or government training schemes but there was a suggestion that these may be industry specific.
Dale (1995) suggests that there is an inherent tendency for organisations to compare applicants against each other rather than against the job requirements, and the biases and heuristics of the short lister provide the underlying rationale that determines suitability. Our organisations try to combat this by scoring candidates 1-10 in all key categories of the position in a rating matrix based on the core responsibilities of the position. This is designed with the aid of the person specification and job description, as mentioned previously.
Selection, theoretically, is increasingly seen as a negotiation process between the employer and candidate. The theory tells us that the three main areas an organisation should be concerned with in the selection process are suitability, validity and reliability . Suitability of the candidate, validity of the selection method used and reliability of the selection method used. We found that despite all the selection tools now available to an organisation such as psychometric testing, assessment centres, and work examples, the traditional process of CVs or application forms used in conjunction with structured rounds of interviews are still heavily favoured.
Reference checks were also heavily relied on despite doubts over their validity. This was reiterated in an article by Pricket, R. that found that 25% of all CVs contain lies and that 125 of the Scottish companies interviewed failed to check the validity of inward information. However, it was interesting to note that one of our interviewed organisations had developed on this traditional practice with a web based computer programme www.candidatemanager.net . The programme stores information such as CVs, dates of application, interview scores, etc.
To attempt to counteract errors and biases in selection, our organisations imposed probationary periods on new hires and an assessment at the end of this probationary period is used as feedback as to the effectiveness of the recruitment and selection processes in place at the organisation.
In conclusion, our team would surmise that the relationship between the extensive theoretical materials available and the reality of organisations’ recruitment and selection processes is reminiscent of the ‘Chicken and Egg’ theory in that it is not clear if these practices are carried out and then written about extensively or pondered by the academics of Human Resource Management and then adopted by the organisations. Upon examination of the results of our research we feel that they enjoy a symbiotic relationship which is conducive the continued development of recruitment and selection processes.
Conclusions & RecommendationsDespite variety of recruitment and selection techniques available interview remains still the most widely used selection technique. It has withstood the test of time and a barrage of negative press. Throughout the course of the research it became abundantly clear that the theory of recruitment and selection is much in line with the practice of organisations today, and also that the two share a symbiotic relationship; with one fostering the development of the other. For example it is clear that the competitive edge of the company will depend on the calibre of its work force, is in widespread practice. The findings of our interviews indicated that companies are not making good use of the wide variety of recruitment and selection tools available to them, such as psychometric testing, IQ testing, presentations, assessment centres, etc.
There was overwhelming evidence that internal recruitment is heavily favoured in organisations and this is greatly supported by a body of reasoning we would concur with, such as cost effectiveness. We also established that there are many other ways of combating skill shortage rather than recruiting new employees; such as making production more efficient and restructuring the workforce. This is an important point to consider especially in times of economic leniency. It came to our attention that companies are not adequately verifying information submitted to them in the recruitment and selection process which can result in poor performance and high staff turnover.
Our first recommendation would be that companies spend more time and develop new techniques for verifying this information. We would also advise that companies to make better use of selection tools available to them such as mentioned above as these can possibly give a better indication of future job performance than just an interview. E-recruitment is the fastest growing technique available in the recruitment field, yet some companies continue to miss out on this opportunity, therefore companies are advised to invest heavily in developing this area further. We would also recommend that companies invest more resources into continued training of interviewers, due to the fact that interview is skill in itself, and needs to be kept sharp.
Gunnigle, P. Human Resource Management, 3rd edition (2006) Pg 117.
Prickett, R. ‘Recruiters fail to check CV qualification claims’ in People Management 29th October 1998, Pg. 13.