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Matchmaking under uncertainty: how hiring criteria and requirements in professional work are co-created

Gerbrand Tholen (City, University of London, London, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 14 December 2022

Issue publication date: 21 March 2023




The aim of the study is to understand how the hiring process develops in cases where there are no explicit or formal requirements. How do implicit and informal criteria and requirements impact the process of selecting the right candidate?


A qualitative approach was employed through the use of semi-structured interviews with 47 external recruitment consultants in the south of England.


In contrast to what is assumed in mainstream Human Resource Management literature, employers do not rely on a comprehensive implicit understanding of what is needed in cases where there are no explicit criteria and requirements. Instead, high uncertainty makes the development of criteria and requirements incremental and negotiable but also problematic. The analysis shows that three mechanisms compensate for the lack of certainty in the hiring process. First, interviews with applicants shape how the hiring criteria develop. Second, market signals of what is available in the labour market help construct the criteria and requirements. Third, criteria and requirements are interpreted and negotiated during interactions with recruiters and others.


Hiring without explicit requirements and criteria is often understood as rather unproblematic and/or not fundamentally distinct from hiring with them. The study shows that in these cases the process becomes more unpredictable and more open to interpretation and negotiation.



Tholen, G. (2023), "Matchmaking under uncertainty: how hiring criteria and requirements in professional work are co-created", Employee Relations, Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 603-614.



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