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Recruitment and selection - R&D using the Internet - Part I
Recruitment and selection - R&D using the Internet - Part I
Edited by Maggie McCourt-Mooney
As co-author of a forthcoming text book on management aimed at international managers and those studying towards an MBA, I decided to complement desk research by checking what else may be available on the Internet. One of the subjects requiring current references (both academic research and best practice in organisations) is recruitment and selection. In a series of three articles I will begin by describing the way in which I planned and conducted the search using the Internet, highlighting current research interests; I will consider these in more detail in a forthcoming issue and then conclude by identifying developments around the world in organisations' strategies and practices in recruitment and selection, referring to relevant Web sites en route.
The process of recruitment and selection
Desk research has already identified that essentially the process of recruitment and selection still follows the pathway from establishing whether there is a need to recruit through to appointing someone and validating the selection decision. The process is a logical one, with many potential traps, and my opinion is that anything on the Internet will either be about constantly improving that process or about managing other influences which are not always in the direct control of organisations. These include factors such as the social and legislative contexts within which organisations operate, changing patterns of working and increasing use of technology, and a growing body of consumer knowledge which enables potential recruits to make informed decisions about which organisations are likely to be good employers.
Searching the Web
In order to check out the currency of these changes I planned to first establish the appropriate keywords and likely sources. The sources would need to include both academic research and current research interests identified by professional organisations. Other research organisations and consultancies involved in researching and developing products and services to support the recruitment and selection process would also be of interest. Last, but not least, the current practices of organisations which are recruiting employees would need to be considered.
A further distinction needed to be made in the search between sites of interest in the field of psychology and industrial and organisational (I-O) psychology in particular and those sites relating to human resource management (HRM) and recruitment and selection. Keywords such as recruitment and selection would yield too much data so several tried and tested sites were used to narrow down the search: The Internet Survival Guide of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (http://www.allserv.rug.ac.be/~flievens/op.htm); Human Resource Management Resources on the Internet (http://www.nbs.ntu.ac.uk/staff/lyerj/hrm_link.htm); PsyPhile - a Psychology Portal (http://members.xoom.com/psyphile/)
Some initial impressions
Having identified the plethora of potential links, the current news and research interests of the professional organisations seemed to be a useful starting point and a potential source of other links.
The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), a division of the American Psychological Association (APA) (see http://www.siop.org), proved useful in containing the full programme of research reports from the 1999 conference. With a summary of the focus of each research paper and a list of contributors it was possible to identify several key themes relating to recruitment and selection.
The changing work environment, e.g. the need to consider adaptability in the workplace and then the implications for selection; making selection decisions in a busy managerial environment; selection for a changing workplace.
Attracting recruits to organisations, e.g. initial company images; use of company Web sites to recruit; research on applicant's reactions.
Managing diversity, e.g. developing culturally appropriate selection processes; training of interviewers and assessors; assessment centre validity.
The use of technology, e.g. computerised adaptive testing (CAT); dynamic computerised in-basket exercise; designing technology based assessments; computerised multi-rater feedback; designing a behaviour description interview for the Internet; using technology in screening.
Developments in testing and assessment , e.g. interpersonal acumen scale; situational judgement inventory; personality assessments and their validity.
Attitudes of selectors and candidates, e.g. faking; perceptions of over-qualification.
Who are the research partners?
The SIOP site was also extremely useful to identify the researchers - academics, consultants, research companies and managers from organisations representing the public and private sectors. A new feature for 2000 is an on-line version of the society's journal - TIP, The Industrial-Organisational Psychologist. A quick scan of the contents showed that while there was little of direct relevance to recruitment and selection there was an interesting series of replies to a previous article on MBAs in I-O Psychology which will prove useful in general research for the textbook.
Sourcing further information about contributors was quite difficult as an extensive search demonstrated the highly variable quality of academic institutions' Web sites and the range of information on faculty members and research interests. The inclusion of research interests and current and future research projects can only be helpful.
Aon, an HRM consultancy, provided input to a number of papers presented at the conference. Their site provides topical research papers and details of future research projects including one entitled "Reactions to technologically novel assessments" (see at http://www.hrservices.aon.com) While primarily offering a show-case including demonstrations of their services and products, their approach to research and their range of interests take them into another league. Visiting their site certainly sparked off several other trains of thought which have been stored in my "ideas" database for future reference.
Turning now towards the field of HRM, The Society for HRM (see at http://www.shrm.org) is conducting research of its own. This is presented largely as workplace trends and surveys. Some of these are conducted from the site itself and may perhaps be described as polls, but several cover recruitment and selection - for example, a recent report on cover letters and resumes.
The general tenor of the site reinforces the views expressed earlier that the social context in particular is changing for organisations. Their forthcoming research report "Recruiting and retaining a diverse work-force" highlights the significance of this issue and will be worth reading on publication.
Similar themes are mirrored on other HR sites through their links, e.g. WorkIndex, Cornell University's site (see at http://www.workindex.com)
The changing workplace
So, if the changing workplace is as significant an issue as it appears, then the people entering the labour market must be influenced in some way by these changes. What might their expectations be? What kind of workplace might they want to work in and what do they want to avoid? Certainly legitimate research questions to ask as identified by SIOP.
In following my curiosity this time I found an interesting link to The Great Place to Work® Institute© (see at http://www.greatplacetowork.com). Evidently responding positively to a growing market, this site presents a model which is used as a diagnostic tool to analyze workplaces. Robert Levering, a workplace expert, has contributed to Fortune magazine on the subject of what makes a good employer and also researched and written " The 100 best companies to work for in America". Trust is a key word in the model and several examples of the advantages of working to Levering's definitions are presented. A reprint of his most recent work "A great place to work - What makes some employers so good and some so bad?" will also soon be available. A league table of any kind does not necessarily prove anything as it depends upon criteria and the range of measurements. But league tables might, like graphology, prove very popular; the research base and evidence will need to be examined very carefully.
Is this site then a further indication of the growing body of consumer knowledge being made available to potential job applicants? Will we begin to see selection criteria checklists against which job applicants can rate individual organisations? An individual's job search often involves searching for hard data on the organisation in the form of company reports, financial status, share price, market research etc. What we are talking about now is softer data which are being codified and placed in the public domain not only in the printed word but also via the Internet. It links with identified trends in presenting a social as well as a financial audit in company or organisation annual reports and with ongoing discussions as reported by the American Psychological Society (APS) on the importance of human capital (see at http://www.pyschologicalscience.org) Perhaps an area to watch for the future.
A company example
Going back to some of the contributors to the SIOP conference a further interesting link can be made to a company which presented a paper on "Selection for a changing workplace", Lucent Technologies (see at http://www.lucent.com) This organisation is already renowned for its rapid growth and for its high profile of how it aims to embrace and manage diversity, a recent innovation being, for example, the publication annually of a Supplier Diversity Annual Report.
A very attractive site, it has several pages devoted to attracting future employees (see at http://lucent.com/work/work.html) Using the style of e-mail it provides links to each of the pages, e.g. success@lucent is introduced with the following quotation: "Imagine a company that wants your talent not your life". Very much positioned as a diverse, flexible organisation which rewards high performance, its claims are supported by testimonials from existing employees, new recruits and by the number of recent awards won for its employment practices. After being suitably impressed by the site I then wanted to know how they screen applicants as they are obviously very popular and must be inundated with applications. That is something I will endeavour to find out and will report back on findings.
Summarising then, organisations are required to become more transparent in the way they run their businesses or concerns and this approach appears to be gaining credibility with potential job applicants. Whether this will create a ripple effect in the labour market and/or skill shortages will remain to be seen. What is emerging is a complex set of social factors. These are linked with increasing access to technological developments. In turn this appears to be making some information more readily available to job applicants on the one hand and providing potentially valuable recruiting tools for organisations on the other hand. Further research will be needed to uncover specific findings or indications of significance.
Research so far has been confined largely to the USA, not by design but by default in terms of following the most oft cited links. It is not intended that the US experience will dominate the next two parts, which will indeed focus upon whether the research issues and practices reflected here are mirrored in other parts of the world, particularly in the Asia Pacific Region and in Eastern Europe. A very brief scan of links to other parts of the world indicated that the search method adopted might need to change in order to access these data.
In the next part of this article some of the specific research interest areas will be searched on the Internet for currency and relevance to organisations world-wide and similarities and differences in approach to recruitment and selection will be discussed.