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15.2: Finding Qualified Job Applicants

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    What you’ll learn to do: Describe effective strategies for recruiting qualified job applications.

    Recruiting is the art of attraction, a process that requires a clear understanding of what makes the company unique as well as what type of person a company wants to attract. Recruiting is often a process of discovery and evaluation for both company and candidate.

    The reality is there’s no one best place to work. In the retail space alone, candidates can choose from cult brands including Apple, Ikea and Lululemon as well as a number of beloved regional brands. With so many “Best of” and “Great Place to Work” options and the unemployment rate at historic lows, the market for talent is competitive.

    read more

    Take a look at these reviews on great places to work:

    • Great Places to Work
    • Business Insider’s “The 10 best retail companies to work for in 2017, according to employees

    In this section, we’ll discuss effective strategies for identifying, attracting and recruiting qualified candidates, including equal opportunity laws to be aware of throughout the hiring process.

    Learning Outcomess

    • Create a compelling job advertisement
    • Identify methods for finding qualified potential employees
    • Describe the laws designed to prevent bias and discrimination in hiring
    • Describe techniques to help screen a potential employee
    • Discuss the usefulness of creating additional assignments for potential candidates to complete

    Writing a Job Advertisement

    Managers know more than anyone else about what a particular position involves and what kinds of skills an employee needs to do the job effectively. They may be the one to request the creation of a new position. They are very likely to be asked to help define an existing job or a new job. They, with the help of HR professionals, will describe the tasks and responsibilities of the position, as well as the qualifications required.When you read job advertisements, do you ever wonder how the company comes up with the job advertisement?

    Company Brand

    Creating a compelling job advertisement is similar to writing a compelling marketing pitch. The first step in the process is attraction, defined as “a quality or feature of something or someone that evokes interest, liking, or desire.” It’s no surprise, then, that one of the best practices for recruiting is for an organization to cultivate a strong employment brand.

    In a recruiting best practices perspective post[1], Wood Personnel asks: “How is a new job with your company like a new car? ‘Brand’ matters.” The post goes on to explain that “job seekers . . . treat new job searches the same way they treat major purchase decisions. They use digital tools to conduct extensive brand research before making a final choice.” In order to attract the best candidates, hiring managers need to clearly define their employment brand. Here are a few specific recommendations to help you do so:

    • Clarify your corporate culture
    • Understand your market position
    • Set performance expectations
    • Help candidates determine whether they would be a good fit before they even apply

    perspective point

    A clear and compelling employer value proposition not only tells candidates why they want to work for you, but it also reminds current employees why they’re there.

    Practice Question

    You’ve been tasked with writing the advertisement for an opportunity that will be opening due to a promotion. The best way to attract qualified job applicants is to include the following in the job ad:

    • Include company culture and position impact details as well as minimum requirements.
    • Focus on the education, skill set, and task requirements of the job.
    • Focus on the compensation and benefits associated with this position.

    Include company culture and position impact details as well as minimum requirements.

    Job Analysis

    In order to advertise a job, you first have to understand what that job entails (at least to best current knowledge, as jobs are often shifting in their scope). Job analysis is often done with the help of Industrial and Organizational (I-O) psychologists. There are two related but different approaches to job analysis—you may be familiar with the results of each as they often appear on the same job advertisement. The first approach is task-oriented and lists in detail the tasks that will be performed for the job. Each task is typically rated on scales for how frequently it is performed, how difficult it is, and how important it is to the job. The second approach is worker-oriented. This approach describes the characteristics required of the worker to successfully perform the job. This second approach has been called job specification (Dierdorff & Wilson, 2003). For job specification, the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that the job requires are identified.

    Observation, surveys, and interviews are used to obtain the information required for both types of job analysis. It is possible to observe someone who is proficient in a position and analyze what skills are apparent. Another approach used is to interview people presently holding that position, their peers, and their supervisors to get a consensus of what they believe are the requirements of the job.

    How accurate and reliable is a job analysis? Research suggests that it can depend on the nature of the descriptions and the source for the job analysis. For example, Dierdorff & Wilson (2003) found that job analyses developed from descriptions provided by people holding the job themselves were the least reliable; however, they did not study or speculate why this was the case.

    learn more

    The United States Department of Labor maintains a database of previously compiled job analyses for different jobs and occupations. This allows the I-O psychologist to access previous analyses for nearly any type of occupation. This system is called O*Net (accessible at The site is open and you can see the KSAs that are listed for your own position or one you might be curious about. Each occupation lists the tasks, knowledge, skills, abilities, work context, work activities, education requirements, interests, personality requirements, and work styles that are deemed necessary for success in that position. You can also see data on average earnings and projected job growth in that industry.

    The O*Net database describes the skills, knowledge, and education required for occupations, as well as what personality types and work styles are best suited to the role. See what it has to say about being a food server in a restaurant or an elementary school teacher or an industrial-organizational psychologist.

    Selling the Job

    With the employer brand clarified and the job defined, we can move on to selling the job. What differentiates a compelling ad from one that isn’t noticed, or worse, rejected, is emotion. That is, in order to make a job advertisement compelling, you must make an emotional connection. Brand and Marketing Strategist Alex Honeysett’s recommendations for writing a compelling blog post also apply to writing a compelling job ad: “Now more than ever, people want to connect with brands in a human way.”[2] And candidates are seeking that same humanity in potential employers. Her two key recommendations: share a story and write with a specific person in mind. The rationale for the latter point: “By writing with one person in mind, your tone, story, and message will be much more focused and detailed than if you’re writing to a nameless, faceless group of people. And your readers will connect to that focus and detail.”[3]

    The following 9 step job ad development process is a combination of Honeysett’s recommendations and Betterteam’s job posting template[4]:

    1. Write a compelling headline
    2. Craft a compelling hook
    3. Write with a specific person in mind
    4. Pitch the position with emotion as well as the key facts
    5. Tell the company’s story—and invite the candidate to be part of it
    6. Sell the area
    7. Summarize, selling the package
    8. Close with a call to action
    9. Have a member of the target audience read and comment

    Read more: CareerBuilder’s 5 Best Practices for Defining Your Employer Brand:

    Finding Potential Employees

    CareerBuilder’s advice for building an employer brand is equally applicable to getting the word out about a job opportunity—specifically: “be everywhere.”[5] As noted above, job candidates search for jobs essentially the same way they make purchase decisions, managing multiple points of contact including college and company career pages, job boards and social media sites as well as attending live events. If the possibilities seem overwhelming, use the candidate research you conducted to narrow the options. That is, if you have a clear understanding of who your ideal candidate is—a specific person in mind—you can use that information to inform your choice of touchpoints.

    Practice Question

    The recommendations to “be everywhere” and to keep “a specific person in mind” may seem like straightforward advice; however, it is often difficult to take one-liners and turn them into actions. Which of the following is the best interpretation of these two recommendations?

    • There is no one "best" way to reach qualified candidates. To improve your odds, identify who your ideal candidate is and research how best to reach that person.
    • Potential applicants often don't know what they're looking for or where to find it, so it's important to keep your ad general and post to major boards and social media.
    • Finding qualified applicants is a numbers game. Focus on maximizing your ad's exposure (the quantity of job seekers reached) and the applications received.

    There is no one "best" way to reach qualified candidates. To improve your odds, identify who your ideal candidate is and research how best to reach that person.

    So how do you find the perfect candidate for a job opening? There are several techniques. Advertising in newspapers and trade publications can be effective. Most recruiters also use online sources to find job candidates. For example, sites such as Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder are very popular. Employers can list jobs on these sites and can search through resumes to find potential employees.

    is social media a good idea?

    Is Facebook, Instagram or Twitter a better means of connecting with potential employees? Pew Research Center social media use data can inform that decision. A few excerpts from their Social Media Use 2018 findings:

    • Americans ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter even when compared with those in their mid- to late-20s.
    • Pinterest remains substantially more popular with women (41 percent of whom say they use the site) than with men (16 percent).
    • LinkedIn remains especially popular among college graduates and those in high-income households. Some 50 percent of Americans with a college degree use LinkedIn, compared with just 9 percent of those with a high school diploma or less.
    • The messaging service WhatsApp is popular in Latin America, and this popularity also extends to Latinos in the United States—49 percent of Hispanics report that they are WhatsApp users, compared with 14 percent of white Americans and 21 percent of black Americans.

    In hiring, you should also consider candidates suggested by existing employees, talk to people who walk in to inquire about jobs, reach out through college recruitment events and job fairs, and contact individuals who have received certification through programs such as Udacity. Another option is to work through recruiters called “head hunters” who find individuals with the right skills and invite them to apply for a particular position.

    Newspaper want ad-style graphic calling for a social media manager.

    In many cases, jobs are opened up to internal candidates before they are advertised to the wider world. When that happens, jobs are advertised through company newsletters and bulletin boards and candidates go to HR to apply for the job.

    To that point, employee referrals are one of the best sources of qualified candidates. In Fundamentals of Human Resource Management, the authors state that

    “employee referrals tend to be more acceptable applicants, who are more likely to accept an offer and, once employed, have a higher job survival rate.”

    Three caveats to be aware of with regards to employee referrals:

    1. an employee might mistakenly assume job performance competence based on friendship;
    2. employee referrals may lead to nepotism or hiring individuals who are related to persons already employed by the company
    3. employee referrals may reinforce the status quo rather than advance a diversification objective.

    Bias and Protections in Hiring

    Equal opportunity is one of our nation’s core values and should be a core company policy. As discussed in Module 13: Social Diversity, seeking out diverse candidates is a Human Resource best practice. Having a policy of recruiting diverse candidates reflects an awareness of demographic and socio-cultural trends as well as allowing your company to tap into the broadest range of expertise, skills and global and cultural insight—factors that drive growth and innovation.

    However, we still live in a society where individuals that belong to a majority group often benefit from a system that places minority groups at a disadvantage. There are several laws in place that seek to deter this type of discrimination.

    As an SHRM article emphasizes: “Discrimination costs employers millions of dollars every year, not to mention the countless hours of lost work time, employee stress and the negative public image that goes along with a discrimination lawsuit.” Equal employment opportunity isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the law. Specifically, it’s a series of federal laws and Executive Orders designed to eliminate employment discrimination. Illegal discrimination is the practice of making employment decisions such as hiring, compensation, scheduling, performance evaluation, promotion, and firing based on factors unrelated to performance. There are currently 7 categories protected under federal law: age, disability, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race and color and religion and sex.

    Some hiring criteria may be related to a particular group an applicant belongs to and not individual abilities. Unless membership in that group directly affects potential job performance a decision based on group membership is discriminatory (Figure 1). For instance, some jobs may require the employee to perform a physical task, such as lifting and carrying heavy objects; in such cases the physical capabilities of applicants may be considered. However, most office jobs do not have such physical requirements, so it is discriminatory to ask about physical capabilities.

    Practice Question

    Interview questions should focus on the job duties, relevant skills and qualifications and related success factors. Which one of the following questions is not considered fair game?

    • Are you able to meet the physical demands of the job?
    • Do you have any disabilities that might affect your performance of this job?
    • Are you able to change your schedule on short notice?

    Do you have any disabilities that might affect your performance of this job?

    To combat hiring discrimination, in the United States there are numerous city, state, and federal laws that prevent hiring based on various group-membership criteria. For example, did you know it is illegal for a potential employer to ask your age in an interview? Did you know that an employer cannot ask you whether you are married, a U.S. citizen, have disabilities, or what your race or religion is? They cannot even ask questions that might shed some light on these attributes, such as where you were born or who you live with. These are only a few of the restrictions that are in place to prevent discrimination in hiring. In the United States, federal anti-discrimination laws are administered by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

    Photograph A shows the side profile of a pregnant woman. Photograph B shows a cross, a star of David, and a crescent displayed next to one another. Photograph C shows an older person with a cane walking down the street.

    Figure 1. (a) Pregnancy, (b) religion, and (c) age are some of the criteria on which hiring decisions cannot legally be made. (credit a: modification of work by Sean McGrath; credit b: modification of work by Ze’ev Barkan; credit c: modification of work by David Hodgson)

    The EEOC’s mission is to stop and remedy unlawful employment discrimination. Specifically, the EEOC is charged with “enforcing protections against employment discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex.” Congress has expanded the agency’s jurisdiction over the years and the EEOC is now responsible for enforcing the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (APA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). In 1972, Congress expanded Title VII protections to include federal government employees and granted the EEOC authority to pursue independent litigation against private employers under Title VII.

    Note that state and local laws may provide broader discrimination protections. If in doubt, contact your state department of labor for clarification. Note as well that laws are subject to interpretation. For example, an EEOC notice[6] emphasizes that their interpretation of the Title VII reference to “sex” is broadly applicable to gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. And, further, that “these protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws.”

    Practice Question

    Which of the following statements BEST reflects the importance of diversity in terms of business performance? Seeking a diverse pool of candidates ________.

    • Minimizes the risk of a discriminatory hiring complaint.
    • Is good for company branding and public relations.
    • Reflects candidate preference and employee performance factors.

    Reflects candidate preference and employee performance factors.

    In summary, avoiding discrimination is not only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing to do from a Human Resource and risk prevention standpoint. Complying with the law reduces a company’s legal risk and an equal opportunity environment may increase employee productivity, retention and morale. Businesses may also be eligible for tax benefits associated with making your business accessible to or hiring individuals with disabilities. For additional information, refer to Appendix A of EEOC’s “ADA Primer for Small Business.”

    more resources online

    • EEOC’s Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law: This publication includes feature articles on timely issues in equal employment opportunity law, as well as summaries of recent Commission decisions and federal court cases, as they affect Federal government employees.
    • EEOC Publications, Including discrimination fact sheets

    Screening Applicants

    The objective of using various screening techniques and levels of screening is to filter out candidates that either don’t meet the stated minimum requirements or aren’t a good fit for cultural or other (i.e., job realities or salary expectations). Screening is simply a process of elimination. The goal is to ensure that those candidates who are invited to participate in a face-to-face interview are, in fact, highly qualified.

    There are four primary techniques for helping to screen potential candidates that also represent phases in the screening process:

    1. Evaluation by Association: Use the posting location—i.e., an industry or professional association-specific job site—as an initial screen.
    2. Application: Conduct an initial assessment based on review of a candidate’s cover letter, resume and application. May also include review of a candidate’s business (i.e., LinkedIn) and/or social networking (i.e., Facebook or Twitter) profiles. To avoid investing time assessing a candidate that isn’t viable, incorporate pre-screening questions that require the candidate to attest that he or she meets the stated minimum criteria. In this phase, the objective is to eliminate candidates that don’t meet the basic requirements for the position based on fundamental factors including minimum experience and education, salary expectations and/or willingness to relocate or meet work schedule requirements, if applicable.
    3. Assessment: Conduct a preliminary assessment of skills. This can be done in conjunction with or subsequent to the application review process. Depending on position requirements, a more in-depth assessment of a candidate’s level of skill and aptitude may be appropriate.
    4. Screening Interview: An initial telephone interview is a second level of active screening that’s used to assess the candidate’s objective and motivation, relevant education and experience and to get a sense for the candidate as a person. In the course of approximately 20–30 minutes, an interviewer can confirm application and resume details and assess a range of soft skills—for example, active listening and communication—as well as engagement and overall level of poise and professionalism. The objective is to eliminate candidates that don’t warrant the time and cost of an in-person interview or in-depth skills assessment.
    5. External Verification: Verify stated educational qualifications and check references.

    Using these techniques in combination with an online application system allows companies to reduce the time and costs of a paper-based recruiting and screening process and may reduce liability associated with compliance reporting and record retention.

    learn more

    Check out SHRM’s Guide to Application Tracking Systems.

    Practice Question

    You’re an executive recruiter specializing in the retail industry. A client has asked you to develop a short-list of qualified candidates for a new sustainability role. You’re on a deadline and it’s critical that you assemble a pool of highly qualified candidates. Which one of the following options should not be at the top of your action items:

    • Circulate the opportunity through Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)
    • Circulate the opportunity through the American Sustainable Business Council
    • Post the opportunity to all the major job boards and social media sites.

    Post the opportunity to all the major job boards and social media sites.

    Portfolios, Practice Projects, Etc.

    Regardless of an interviewer’s (or interview panel’s) experience, judgement, or relevant expertise, an interview is largely a matter of faith. That is, trust in the candidate’s statements and resume. If position dynamics require a new employee to hit the ground running, it makes sense to assess a candidate’s level of skill and knowledge relative to the stated job requirements.

    what do you think? using cutoff scores to determine job selection

    Many positions require applicants to take tests as part of the selection process. These can include IQ tests, job-specific skills tests, or personality tests. The organization may set cutoff scores (i.e., a score below which a candidate will not move forward) for each test to determine whether the applicant moves on to the next stage. For example, there was a case of Robert Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate who applied for a position with the police force in New London, Connecticut. As part of the selection process, Jordan took the Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT), a test designed to measure cognitive ability.

    Jordan did not make it to the interview stage because his WPT score of 33, equivalent to an IQ score of 125 (100 is the average IQ score), was too high. The New London Police department policy is to not interview anyone who has a WPT score over 27 (equivalent to an IQ score over 104) because they believe anyone who scores higher would be bored with police work. The average score for police officers nationwide is the equivalent of an IQ score of 104 (Jordan v. New London, 2000; ABC News, 2000).

    Jordan sued the police department alleging that his rejection was discrimination and his civil rights were violated because he was denied equal protection under the law. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision that the city of New London did not discriminate against him because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the exam (The New York Times, 1999).

    What do you think? When might universal cutoff points make sense in a hiring decision, and when might they eliminate otherwise potentially strong employees?

    There are three broad categories of job-specific testing that we’ll discuss: work samples and simulations, cognitive ability tests, and personality tests.

    Work Samples & Simulations

    Work samples and simulation tests are used during the candidate evaluation process as a way for employers to evaluate job-specific skills and aptitude. A work sample consists of having a candidate perform a work-related task or subset of job tasks, generally in the actual workplace using the requisite equipment, processes and procedures. A work sample allows the employer to “preview” the candidate’s performance and also gives the candidate a realistic job preview. In a simulation, the candidate would engage in a highly structured role-play designed to represent broad aspects of a the job, for example, assessing an applicant’s problem solving, communication, and interpersonal skills. OPM notes that performance should be evaluated “by trained assessors who observe the applicant’s behavior and/or by measuring task outcomes (e.g., the degree of interpersonal skills demonstrated or the number of errors made in transcribing an internal memo[7]).” When administered and evaluated correctly, this assessment technique is one of the strongest predictors of job performance.

    Cognitive Ability Tests

    The McQuaig Institute describes a a cognitive ability or mental agility test as “a tool to measure aspects of general intelligence, such as mental agility and speed of thought, analytical thinking, the ability to learn quickly, and verbal reasoning skills.” Psychological research indicates that cognitive ability is one of the most accurate predictors of job performance and the tests are significantly more accurate predictors of job performance than interviews or experience. To be precise, the correlation between cognitive ability and job success is 0.51 (1.0 would be a perfect or 100% predictor). This compares to a correlation of 0.36 for reference checks, 0.18 for years of experience and 0.18 for unstructured interviews[8]. An example of a Cognitive ability test is a general aptitude test (GAT). Limitation: As with any test, practice and using test strategies can decrease the validity of the test. Also, researchers have noted the racial differences in test results, with validity (as a predictor of performance) lower for blacks and hispanics[9]. To avoid the risk of discrimination, use this test in combination with other evaluation methods.

    Personality Tests

    Personality assessments such as the Big Five or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can provide insight into a candidate’s personality and whether he or she would be successful in a particular role or prospective company culture. As described by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the Federal Government’s chief human resources agency, “Personality tests are designed to systematically elicit information about a person’s motivations, preferences, interests, emotional make-up, and style of interacting with people and situations. This information is used to generate a profile used to predict job performance or satisfaction with certain aspects of the work.” According to the OPM, “personality tests have been shown to be valid predictors of job performance in numerous settings and for a wide range of criterion types (e.g., overall performance, customer service, team work), but tend to be less valid than other types of predictors such as cognitive ability tests, assessment centers and work samples and simulations[10].” One caveat: As a self-reported test, the effectiveness of personality tests is dependent on a candidate’s commitment to test accuracy. Some individuals people may attempt to “game” the test, providing what they think is the “right” answer rather than an accurate response. For best results, verify that a test is designed to identify misrepresentations.

    Practice Question

    You are managing the hiring process for a retail regional director position. The individual in this role will be responsible for planning, budgeting and directing the strategic and day-to-day business activities of 5 districts and 100 stores within a geographic region. There will be no training or hand-holding; the successful candidate will be expected to hit the ground running. Which of the following assessments would be least applicable in this situation:

    • cognitive ability test
    • work simulation
    • personality assessment

    personality assessment

    3. Ibid.

    15.2: Finding Qualified Job Applicants is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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