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Recruitment and selection - R&D using the Internet part II
Recruitment and selection - R&D using the Internet part II
Edited by Maggie McCourt-Mooney
Keywords: Recruitment, Selection, Testing, Technology
Having identified in the first of this series of three articles several recurring themes in recruitment and selection (see Vol. 15 No. 3 of this journal) I embarked upon a more specific search. As well as using search engines, I made use of Proquest, an information service provided on the Web by Bell and Howell and available by subscription or through academic libraries.
Three of the themes previously identified - the changing work environment, developments in testing and assessment and the use of technology - formed the basis of the searches and provided useful links amongst a plethora of sites of tangential interest only.
The changing work environment
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) at http://www.shrm.org proved to be oft quoted as a link and with good reason. A topical issue in the USA is the apparent exodus from the workplace of "Baby-Boomers", or those members of the workforce who were born in the 1940s and 50s. It appears, however, that not every member of this generation wants to leave the workplace; on the contrary, there is evidence that a number of Baby-Boomers want to continue working beyond the usual retirement age. Not surprisingly, these employment trends are posing significant recruitment and retention challenges for HR professionals.
The implications for recruitment and retention need also to be interpreted alongside another trend - the ageing issue. Baby-boomers' parents are now in their third age and are living longer on average. It is becoming necessary for organisations to address the issue of eldercare in order to both attract and retain candidates who happen to have ageing parents. As well as day-care for children it is likely that day-care for elders will also be on the HR agenda.
The SHRM site is not, however, focused exclusively on the USA and has a resource of international links not only to the SHRM's International Chapter but also to country reports across the world. These provide very useful summaries of the prevailing influences in economic, social and legal terms and provide a context against which to track changes specific to a particular country.
In following one of the international links, I found a South African site at http://www.workinfo.com/ This is a very informative site for legislation, particularly on Equity and Affirmative Action, and one that highlights the specific issues facing South Africa. Although overall the site is quite limited in scope, it is worth visiting to keep up-to-date with current issues in the workplace in South Africa.
A further link from SHRM's site was to the Federation of European Employers at http://www.euen.co.uk The plethora of legislative measures affecting employers in Europe are set out very simply and clearly. Certainly the increasingly legislative context within which organisations need to work in Europe is evidenced here. This site provides food for thought about the implications for making the recruitment process watertight, not only to comply with legislation, but also to ensure employees act within the spirit of legislation at all stages in the process.
The SHRM's homepage provides a link to Watson Wyatt World-Wide, a global consultancy at http://www.watsonwyatt.com Of particular interest to me was this consultancy's development of the Human Capital Index, a means of measuring an organisation's human assets and using it to plan for the future in terms of recruitment and development of employees.
Developments in testing and assessment
Turning now to my next theme of developments in testing and assessment, the primary tool I used for this particular search was Proquest. I wanted to go beyond the "shop front" approach of many Web sites and find relevant research rather than simply product information.
Initially, I decided to narrow my search to one aspect of testing and assessment pre-employment screening. This search provided several interesting and informative journal articles on the subject ranging from an historical perspective to guidance on legislative implications and current products available in the market place.
As a starting point, a very thorough and up-to-date consideration of pre-employment screening was found in American Business Review by Philbrick et'al. (1999).
Interestingly the starting point of this article was the increasingly litigious society and the cost of hiring particularly when there are labour shortages. The authors quote the tendency to "hire in a hurry" and reiterate the problem of worsening shortages that organisations are likely to face when Baby-Boomers retire.
From a US legislative standpoint the authors place emphasis on ensuring that any recruitment procedures are related to employee success on the job and "do not have a disparate impact on any protected class". They equally emphasise the onus on the employer to demonstrate if required that any pre-employment screening method is reliable and valid.
Philbrick et al. (1999) review a range of approaches to screening making the initial distinction between "screening in", which is "an attempt to get the best employees" and "screening out", or "an attempt to exclude those applicants believed to have potential problems". Philbrick et al. do not recommend use of the polygraph and unstructured interviews but provided they are in no way discriminatory, the authors do advocate the use of:
carefully designed application forms;
competency based screening;
structured interviews; and
Some practices which Philbrick et al. suggest may have some use in certain circumstances include:
personality testing to help avoid job mismatching;
integrity testing; and
hand-writing analysis - with the following proviso.
The other significant issue raised by Philbrick et al. is the importance of being aware of potential employees' negative reactions to some of the approaches to screening or to particular screening tools. Equally important is the need for the employer to manage this response in a reasonable way.
So the legislative context, the diversity of the workforce and potential labour shortages are combined to provide a minefield through which employers need to walk very carefully. Let us now consider some of the new approaches to pre-employment screening that can be timesaving and good value for employers and appear to be fair to potential employees.
Pre-employment screening tools
At the simplest level, the development of 24-hour telephone pre-screening as reported, in HR Magazine seems to have provided potential candidates with more flexible arrangements. "HR Easy Inc analysed 10,000 calls received during one 24 hour period to its clients using its customised programmes that screen applicants via a touch-tone phone. Sixty nine per cent were place outside traditional business hours" (Rubis, 1998).
Another example of this approach is provided by Stores New York (see Schulz, 1998) and illustrates how small retailers are able to identify likely applicants through two tiers of questioning in an automated program. In this example, the retailers, Hot Topic and Stew Leonard, advertised the vacancy and gave details of a toll free telephone number. When an applicant completed the session successfully, an interview with a live human being was scheduled automatically. This leads me to wonder how the employer copes with a potential large number of successful applicants? And are the questions really designed to test people's stamina and endurance as well as their suitability for the job?
Russell (1999) gives further evidence of the likely popularity of such automated methods. He asserts that nowadays the latest business tools are economical in terms of time and money, taking often no longer than 15 minutes and often being able to be processed in-house. Russell suggests this applies to programs to screen out marginal performers early typically after a brief interview but he does not quote specific programs. However he does provide a link to the Workforce Stability Institute at http://www.employee.org which provides a more considered approach and caution on how to use any tests:
In choosing to use tests, consult with people who are both experienced and knowledgeable in the overall design of selection systems rather than a specific product or methodology.
Ensure the tests are reliable and valid measures are related as closely to the job as possible.
Check for adverse impact.
The use of technology
Technology is now is a permanent feature of our lives and the primary examples of pre-employment screening approaches highlighted in my search using Proquest did feature the use of newly developed software in connection with advanced telecommunication equipment.
That is not the whole story by any means and some other Web sites of interest were found which illustrate the differing ways in which technology is being applied to the recruitment process.
The Internet Business Network at http://www.interbiznet.com states that it is "Defining Excellence in Electronic Recruiting". Going beyond simply stating the types of products available on the Web, it highlights processes such as JITR (Just In Time Recruiting) as exemplified by Intel and Microsoft and the use of "résumé Spidering", to deal with the critical business issue of speed of sourcing potential applicants. One example is a Resume Robot pioneered by ITTA.
A link to Job Street.com at http://www.jobstreet.com takes us away from the USA and into the Asia Pacific region. Potential candidates can post a résumé for free and get an on-line adviser to help with their job search. Job Asia, at http://www.jobasia.com/ is one to bookmark for those who are looking for work in that region. The site is a particularly rich source of information for those looking for work in the field of IT. On a recent visit to the site there was an on-line Internet Careers Fair taking place over a period of weeks. On-line applications can also be made through a Jobs Billboard.
However, these highly useful sites were the exception rather than the rule. Many sites offer a showcase of products based on technology and no doubt many are useful tools. It is important though first to find evidence of any product's reliability and validity for your purpose in recruiting. Any technologically based product, no matter how apparently cost or time effective, needs to be appraised in the same way.
In the final article in this series, I will focus on how organisations around the world are developing their recruitment strategies and practices.
Philbrick, J.H., Bart, B.D and Hass, M.E. (1999), "Pre-employment screening: a decade of change", American Business Review, June.
Rubis, L. (1998), "Job candidates like 'after hours' screening"', HR Magazine, May.
Russell, C, (1999), "New technologies improve selection", HR Focus, June.
Schulz, D.P. (1998), "Small retailers turn to pre-employment screening services", Stores, May.