Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Human resources: recruitment and selection
Human resources: recruitment and selection

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2 Effective recruitment and selection

The key to successful recruitment is to ensure that the criteria of suitability are overt and relevant to the job itself. Once these criteria are agreed and shared it is possible to make more rational decisions about someone's suitability for a job, based on evidence rather than ‘gut feeling’ or instinct. Effective recruitment and selection should not be about the luck of the draw. Systematic planning and preparation will increase the likelihood of taking on the right person. The key to effective recruitment is preparation: knowing the job and what is required of someone to perform it well. The costs of recruiting the wrong person can be significant. The cost of employing someone may be at least twice their salary when factors such as training, expenses and employer's contributions to their pension are added.

Incorrect assumptions about class, gender, ethnic group or physical ability, or any other type of discrimination, can cloud your objectivity in recruitment and selection. At worst this may contravene legislation that exists to protect individuals from discrimination. Other prejudices may be generated by particular organisational traditions regarding the ‘type of person’ considered suitable. However, it is important to ensure that the qualities of the successful applicant match what the organisation requires, perhaps in terms of being forward looking, customer focused or market orientated. It is easy to discriminate in the recruitment and selection process through personal responses and reactions to certain types of people. The recruiter's perception is often influenced by striking characteristics or similarities to themselves. This is called the ‘halo’ effect and can work in either a positive or negative direction (the latter is sometimes called the ‘horns’ effect). The halo effect acts as a filter to any information that contradicts first impressions. For example, someone who attended the same college or university as the recruiter would be at an advantage, while a person not wearing a suit would not be management material. It is often the case that people judge more favourably those individuals with whom they have something in common. Ultimately, you are seeking the best person for the job and any discrimination, intentional or not, may prevent you from achieving that.

Before we look more closely at the recruitment process, spend about ten minutes on the following activity.

Activity 1

Timing: 0 hours 10 minutes

Basing your ideas on your own initial reactions to the characters outlined below, complete the table to describe what would typically be the characteristics associated with them. Do not take too much time to think – just jot down ideas as they come to you. To demonstrate, we have suggested how some people might see the first example; you may not agree with the stereotyping evident in the suggested characteristics!

JobAge rangeGenderPoliticsHobbiesCar
Social worker27–43EitherLiberal or Green, left-wingCamping cycling ramblingOld Volvo or Saab
Supermarket checkout operative
Building labourer
Senior civil servant/government official
Personal secretary to managing director
Police inspector
Fundraiser for a charity

We all harbour stereotypes of what types of people are suitable or unsuitable for particular jobs, and everyone will complete the table differently. However, let us look at a couple of examples. Did you think that the supermarket checkout person would be male or female? The majority of people completing this exercise would have an expectation that a checkout person would be either a very young single female or an older woman who works part-time. They would be unlikely to associate working on a supermarket checkout with a middle-aged man. What cars did you suggest the building labourer and accountant might drive? Which one was more likely to own an executive car? What would you expect the senior civil servant's hobbies to be – gardening or sky diving? The point of this simple exercise is to make you aware of the stereotypes and expectations that may exist about people associated with particular jobs. When recruiting for any job, take care that you are not simply looking for a certain type of person because they are normally associated with the work of the vacant post.

When recruiting people, be alert to any personal prejudices or preferences you have which are not linked to the ability to do the job. Try to set these aside in favour of objective criteria of suitability related to the skills, experience and ability needed to perform the job. But should these criteria relate solely to the job or task requirements? We consider the issue of fit with the wider organisation in the next section.