Recruitment and Selection
What is recruitment and selection?
Recruitment is the process of having the right person, in the right place, at the right time. It is crucial to organisational performance. Recruitment is a critical activity, not just for the HR team but also for line managers who are increasingly involved in the selection process. All those involved in recruitment activities should be equipped with the appropriate knowledge and skills.
Harnessing knowledge about how we behave can help recruiters to improve outcomes for the organisations they represent. It looks at how behavioural science approaches can sharpen our approaches to attraction, selection, and the candidate experience.
SMEs may face more challenges than most because limited time and resources as well as competition from larger companies can make it much more difficult for smaller firms to find and recruit the best candidates.
The recruitment process involves working through a series of stages:
- defining the role
- attracting applications
- managing the application and selection process
- making the appointment
Defining the role
Before recruiting for a new or existing position, it is important to invest time in gathering information about the job. This means thinking not only about the content such as the tasks making up the job, but also the job’s purpose, the outputs required by the job holder and how it fits into the organisation’s structure. This analysis should form the basis of a job description and person specification/job profile.
The job analysis leads to writing a job description. This explains the job to candidates and helps the recruitment process by providing a clear guide to all involved about the requirements of the job.
It can also be used to communicate expectations about performance to employees and managers to help ensure effective performance in the job. Latest thinking suggests that job descriptions should focus on the work someone needs to achieve rather than the skills and experience, as this is more likely to result in choosing someone with the right abilities.
Person specification/job profile
A person specification or job profile states the necessary and desirable criteria for selection. Increasingly such specifications are based on a set of competencies identified as necessary for the performance of the job.
Competency frameworks may be substituted for job or person specifications, but these should include an indication of roles and responsibilities.
Find out more about CIPD’s competency framework
Find out more about IHRP’s competency framework
There are many ways to generate interest from potential candidates.
It’s important not to forget the internal talent pool when recruiting. Providing opportunities for learning and development and career progression increases employee engagement and retention and supports succession planning.
Employee referral schemes
Some organisations operate an employee referral scheme. These schemes usually offer an incentive to existing employees to assist in the recruitment of friends or contacts. But employers should not rely on such schemes at the expense of attracting a diverse workforce and they should complement other methods.
There are many options for generating interest from individuals outside the organisation.
Our research shows that the most popular methods for seeking candidates include employer’s corporate website, recruitment agencies, commercial job boards and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. There is growing expectation from candidates to be able to search and apply for jobs online and via mobile devices. Many organisations also use social media to identify candidates, but employers need to exercise caution.
Advertisements should be clear and indicate the:
- requirements of the job
- necessary and desirable criteria for job applicants (to limit the number of inappropriate applications received)
- the organisation’s activities
- job location
- reward package
- job tenure (for example, contract length)
- details of how to apply and the deadline.
Other common ways to attract applications include building links with local colleges/universities, working with the local jobcentre, using networks, holding open days. Using uncommon outreach methods can increase the talent pool.
External recruitment services
Some organisations use external providers to help with their recruitment. Recruitment agencies or recruitment consultants need to have a good understanding of the organisations and its requirements. They offer a range of services such as attracting candidates, managing candidate responses, screening, and shortlisting, or running assessment centres on the employer’s behalf. These services might also be provided by an outsourcing provider.
Managing the application and selection process
There are two main formats in which paper or online applications are likely to be received: a curriculum vitae (CV) or an application form. Some organisations allow candidates to apply with their LinkedIn profile.
Application forms allow for information to be presented in a consistent format, and therefore make it easier to collect information from job applicants in a systematic way and assess objectively the candidate’s suitability for the job. They should be appropriate to the level of the job.
Application form design and language is also important – a poorly designed application form can mean applications from good candidates are overlooked, or that candidates are put off applying. For example, devoting lots of space to present employment could disadvantage a candidate who is not currently working. To comply with discrimination law, it may be necessary to offer application forms in different formats.
CVs and LinkedIn profiles
The advantage of CVs or LinkedIn profiles is that they give candidates the opportunity to present themselves in their own way rather than being restricted to a standard application form. However, CVs and LinkedIn profiles may include lots of additional, irrelevant material which undermine their consistent assessment. Also, the one-click apply on LinkedIn can increase the quantity but not the quality of applications.
Dealing with applications
All applications should be treated confidentially and circulated only to those individuals involved in the recruitment process.
All solicited applications, such as responses to advertisements, should be acknowledged and, where possible, so should all unsolicited applications. Prompt acknowledgment is good practice and presents a positive image of the organisation.
The ‘candidate experience’
The recruitment process is not just about employers identifying suitable employees for the future, it’s also about candidates finding out more about the business and considering whether the organisation is one they would like to work for.
The experience of candidates (both successful and unsuccessful) at each stage of the recruitment process will impact on their view of the organisation. This could be both from the perspective of a potential employee and, depending on the nature of the business, as a customer.
Selecting candidates involves two main processes: shortlisting and assessing applicants to decide who should be made a job offer. It is a crucial stage in the overall recruitment process.
Candidates’ applications may arrive as a curriculum vitae (CV) or an application form. Whatever form they are in, it’s important to make sure that everyone involved in the selection process, from the shortlisting stage onwards, understands not just the need to avoid unfair discrimination and the potential risk to the organisation’s reputation should a candidate make a claim, but the benefits a diverse workforce can bring to an organisation.
Technology plays an increasingly important role in recruitment ranging from attracting candidates through to the selection process. Online recruitment can mean employers receive large numbers of applications from unsuitable candidates, but there are tools and techniques that can help slim down the number of potential candidates.
A range of different methods can be used to assess candidates. Some are more reliable than others in terms of predicting performance in the job, and some are easier and cheaper to administer than others. Whatever method is used, recruiters should tell candidates in advance what to expect from the selection process, including how long it will take and the type of assessment they will undergo. Employers should also check whether the applicant has any need for adjustments due to a disability.
Selection decisions should be made after using a range of tools appropriate to the time and resources available. Care should be taken to use techniques that are relevant to the job and the business objectives of the organisation. All tools used should be validated and constantly reviewed to ensure their fairness and reliability.
The role of selection interviewing
Interviews are very widely used in the selection process. It’s important that selection interviews are conducted professionally. A poor interview experience can undermine the employer’s brand as candidates might share their unfavourable impression of the organisation with other potential applicants and customers. Giving feedback to candidates following an interview demonstrates appreciation of their time and interest.
For the employer
For the employer, the interview is an opportunity to:
- gauge candidates’ experience, ability to perform in the role and suitability for the team
- discuss details such as start dates and terms and conditions
- explain the employee value proposition, including training provision and employee benefits
- give the candidate a positive impression of the organisation as a good employer.
For the candidate
For the candidate, the interview is an opportunity to:
- understand the job and its responsibilities in more detail
- ask questions about the organisation
- decide whether they would like to take the job if offered it.
Despite their popularity as a selection method, evidence highlights the limitations of the traditional interview. In general, it’s a poor predictor of a candidate’s performance in the job, as information is gathered in a relatively unsystematic manner. Judgements can be made for a variety of reasons that differ between candidates and even shift during the interview.
Drawing on a range of research, here are some of the common weaknesses of interviews:
- The self-fulfilling prophecy effect. Interviewers may ask questions designed to confirm initial impressions of candidates gained either before the interview or in its early stages.
- The stereotyping effect. Interviewers sometimes assume that characteristics are typical of members of a particular group. In the case of sex, race, disability, marital status or ex-offenders, decisions made on this basis are often illegal. However, the effect occurs in the case of all kinds of social groups.
- The halo and horns effect. Once interviewers rate candidates as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in some respects, they often replicate this judgement across the board, reaching unbalanced decisions.
- The contrast effect. Interviewers can allow the experience of interviewing one candidate to affect the way they interview others who are seen later in the selection process.
- The similar-to-me effect. Interviewers sometimes give preference to candidates they perceive as having a similar background, career history, personality, or attitudes to themselves.
- The personal liking effect. Interviewers may make decisions based on whether they personally like or dislike the candidate.
Structuring the interview can help improve its ability to predict performance in the job and a growing number of employers take this approach. A structured interview means that:
- questions are planned carefully before the interview
- all candidates are asked the same questions
- answers are scored using a rating system
- questions focus on the attributes and behaviours needed in the job.
There is a risk, however, of having an overly rigid approach in which there is little opportunity to ask the candidate supplementary questions and the candidate does not feel at their ease. So, a balance needs to be made.
Our behavioural science research suggests that to avoid instinctive or hasty judgements interviewers should pre-commit to a set of interview questions that are directly related to performance on the job and focus the interview on collecting information rather than on decision-making. Insights from the interview should be fed into the decision along with data from other selection methods.
Making the appointment
Before making an offer of employment, employers have responsibility for checking that applicants have the right to work in Singapore and are appropriate for the work.
A recruitment policy should state clearly how references will be used and what kind of references will be necessary (for example, from former employers). These rules should be applied consistently. Candidates should always be informed of the procedure for taking up references.
References are most frequently sought after the applicant has been given a ‘provisional offer’.
Any physical or medical requirement should be made clear in the job advertisement or other recruitment literature. Employers should also take care before making selection decisions relating to a candidate’s mental or physical health. They need to think creatively and innovatively about where they can make reasonable adjustments, such as flexible working, where someone has a disability.
Offers of employment should always be made in writing. But it is important to be aware that a verbal offer of employment made in an interview is as legally binding as a letter to the candidate. Unsuccessful candidates should be notified promptly in writing and if possible given feedback. As a minimum, feedback on any psychometric test results should be offered.
Joining the organisation
Well-planned induction enables new employees to become fully operational quickly and should be integrated into the recruitment process. Please refer to the section below on the importance of inductions.
The recruitment process should be documented accurately, and access limited to recruitment staff for confidentiality reasons. Its good practice to monitor applications and decisions to ensure that equality of opportunity is being allowed. Information should be kept for sufficient time to allow any complaints to be handled.
Importance of effective inductions
Induction refers to the process where employees adjust or acclimatise to their jobs and working environment. As part of this, ‘orientation’ can be used for a specific course or training event that new starters attend, and ‘socialisation’ can describe the way in which new employees build up working relationships and find roles for themselves within their new teams. Some people use the term ‘onboarding’ to cover the whole process from an individual’s contact with the organisation before they formally join, through to understanding the business’ ways of working and getting up to speed in their job.
Every organisation, large or small, should have a well-considered induction programme. It should provide all the information that new employees need, without overwhelming or diverting them from the essential process of integrating into their team.
The length and nature of the induction process depends on the complexity of the job, the background of the new employee, and the size and nature of the organisation. One size does not fit all, and a standardised induction course is unlikely to satisfy anyone
The purpose of induction
The purpose of induction is to ensure that employees are integrating well into or across the organisation for the benefit of both parties. Research demonstrates that induction programmes benefit both employers and employees. For employers these include improving the person-job fit, reducing turnover and absenteeism, and increasing employee commitment and job satisfaction. For employees, starting a new role in a new organisation can be an anxious time and an induction programme enables them to understand more about the organisation, their role, ways of working and to meet colleagues.
A good induction programme contains the following elements:
- a clear outline of the job/role requirements
- explanation of terms and conditions including key policies
- practical information such as office opening hours, telephone, and IT systems
- orientation (physical) – describing where the facilities are
- orientation (organisational) – showing how the employee fits into the team and how their role fits with the organisation’s strategy and goals
- an awareness of other functions within the organisation, and how the employee fits within that
- meeting with key senior employees (either face to face or using technology)
- health and safety information – this is a legal requirement
- details of the organisation’s history, its culture and values, and its products and services
- practical information such as office opening hours, how to contact IT, and when the fire alarm tests take place
- remote/flexible working tools and access to work systems, if applicable.
Who needs an induction programme?
All staff, both full- and part-time need an induction programme. Some groups have specific needs, for example graduate trainees, people returning from career breaks, long-term absence or maternity/paternity leave, senior appointments, technical specialists, directors. Tailor-made programmes should also be available for groups such as job-sharers, temporary staff, promoted staff, transferred staff and remote workers. Increasingly organisations are working in a more networked way using contractors and consultants or entering strategic partnering arrangements.
Induction programmes are important for employees working as part of such arrangements to ensure they are clear about the objectives of the arrangement and about the culture, values, and ways of working that will be in place, as these may be different to their ‘home’ organisation.
What happens without an effective induction programme?
New employees get off to a bad start and never really understand the organisation itself or their role in it. This may lead to:
- poor integration into the team
- low morale, particularly for the new employee
- loss of productivity
- failure to work to their highest potential.
In extreme cases, the new employee leaves, either through resignation or dismissal. Early leaving results in:
- additional cost for recruiting a replacement
- wasted time for the inductor
- lowering of morale for the remaining staff
- detriment to the leaver’s employment record
- having to repeat the unproductive learning curve of the leaver
- damage to the company’s reputation.
The induction process
The structure of an induction course depends on the size and nature of an organisation and on the type of recruit. The process begins at the recruitment stage and continues into employment. New recruits need to know the organisation, the culture and the people, and their role. For a large company, the process is likely to be a combination of one-to-one discussions and more formal group presentations, which may be given within an induction course.
While the line manager is responsible for a new recruit’s induction, they would not be expected to cover all the elements personally. A typical allocation of induction tasks could be:
- Line manager/supervisor: explain the departmental organisation, the requirements of the job, expectations of the new starter, the purpose and operation of any probationary period and the performance management system.
- HR: provide a welcome to the organisation and newly recruited employees. Will need to ensure either through the individual’s line manager or personally that important information (such as bank details, right to work documentation, etc) is collected and that the employee knows what to expect from the induction programme.
- Safety officer: explain health and safety issues.
- Section supervisor or a nominated colleague: provide an escorted tour of the department and introduce fellow workers; then give day-to-day guidance in local procedures for the first couple of weeks.
- Senior manager(s) and/or HR: give an overview of the organisation, its history, its strategy and objectives, products and services, and culture. Sometimes this is offered via a video or e-learning.
- L&D officer (or line manager): describe available learning, training, and development services, then help to develop a personalised development plan. Provide details of other sources of information during induction such as the company intranet or interactive learning facilities.
- Company representatives from trades unions, sports, and social clubs, etc: give details of membership and its benefits.
- Mentor or ‘buddy’: where inductees are allocated a ‘buddy’ colleague to provide support more informally and help speed up the settling-in period.
- Introductory one-to-ones: scheduled with key members of the organisation in the same or other teams or externally, that the individual will be interacting with. Often the existing post holder will schedule these as part of a handover or someone on the team will set these up in advance of the new recruit’s first day so that they have some meetings in their diary during the first couple of weeks with the organisation. This gives the individual the opportunity to meet more people in the organisation, understand their role and how they can work together.
What to avoid
- Providing too much, too soon – the inductee must not be overwhelmed by a mass of information on the first day. Keep it simple and relevant.
- Pitching presentations at an inappropriate level – they should be suitable for everyone in the audience and for their roles within the organisation.
- HR rather than local managers providing all the information – it should be a shared process.
- Creating an induction programme which generates unreasonable expectations by overselling the job.
The induction process should be monitored to determine whether it’s meeting the needs of the new recruits. Monitoring should include opportunities for feedback at the end of the induction process, and also information from turnover statistics and exit interviews – particularly from those who leave within the first 12 months of employment.