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The “rain dance” of selection in construction: rationality as ritual and the logic of informality

Cliff Lockyer (Fraser of Allander Institute, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Dora Scholarios (Department of Human Resource Management, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 12 June 2007




Recruitment and selection in the construction industry is ad hoc – the search for workers to match immediate employment needs is unsystematic, usually conducted in a short‐termist manner, and often contributes to, rather than overcomes, persistent recruitment difficulties and skill shortages. The purpose of this paper is to explore the recruitment context and selection practice in the Scottish construction sector, and proposes a model of the selection decision process which may provide an explanation for this apparently unsystematic approach.


A survey based on a sample from the 1998 Scottish Chambers of Commerce Business Survey database was used to examine the pattern of recruitment, contextual influences on recruitment, the qualities sought by employers, and the extent of use of various recruitment and selection methods. Further qualitative data was gathered from a subset of construction and surveyors firms to explore the nature of selection processes.


The data highlighted the lack of rigour in recruitment and selection and the presence of formalised procedures only in the larger firms. Qualitative evidence shows an emphasis on the visual assessment of work, the importance of site managers in making decisions, and the presence of local industry networks.

Research limitations/implications

The survey could provide only an indicative description of practice amongst Scottish firms and larger scale accounts of practice would be useful. Nevertheless, the contribution of the qualitative research was to explore the dynamics of selection for a rarely studied work context.


Construction firms are found to share many of the constraints in adopting formal HRM practices already identified in small firms in unpredictable environments.



Lockyer, C. and Scholarios, D. (2007), "The “rain dance” of selection in construction: rationality as ritual and the logic of informality", Personnel Review, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 528-548.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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