Why is selection such an important management tool? How can managers ensure that the selection process is reliable and valid?
"The pressures of competition, cost saving, downsizing and skill shortages have made recruitment a key human resources activity" (Stone, 2000). Previously, "staff have often been the overlooked assets of a business" (Small Business Guide). However, companies now have realised that having good human resources will give them the edge in the highly competitive world. Thus, recruitment and selection becomes vital for a company’s success as it is this process that they will obtain their human resources; the company needs to identify the type of personnel they wish to obtain, then develop an appropriate method of hiring the correct person. It is the role of the manager then to ensure that this process is reliable and valid, as if it is not, people who are not suited to the position may be hired as a result, which may have a negative effect on the company.
Human resources provide a means of differentiation between companies. Management techniques that were previously used to gain a competitive advantage such as total quality management and operations management have now essentially become benchmark strategies for successful companies. An organisation needs to attract appropriately qualified candidates if it is to survive and grow. Thus, "it is vital for this reason that recruitment and selection be viewed strategically and that it reflect the organisation’s business objectives and culture" (Stone, 2000)
"Recruitment begins with identifying human resource requirements and ends with receiving applications. It involves determining where qualified applicants can be found and choosing a specific means of attracting potential employees to the organisation" (Stone, 2000). From all possible candidates, it is then up to the managers to make the selection process and determine which candidates are most suited to the position and to work for the company. The selection process involves many methods, including interviews, application forms, personality and aptitude tests, background investigations, preliminary screenings etc. Some of these methods are ‘better’ than others in certain respects, however, hopefully by having many of these methods when selecting personnel will ensure the process is as valid and reliable as possible. "In selection, validity refers to the extent to which a predictor (such as an aptitude test) correlates with criteria identified as measuring job performance. Reliability refers to the consistency of measurement of a predictor. A predictor is reliable if individuals obtain essentially the same score or ratings or rankings each time they are tested or assessed" (Stone, 2000). A selection methods must be both relatively valid and reliable or else it will not help in selecting the right person; what is the point of having someone do a test if its result have no effect on measuring how they will perform?
The interview is one of the most popular methods of selection. Unfortunately, this popularity does not mean it’s the most valid or reliable method of selecting the right person. The low level of validity and reliability can result from stereotyping by interviewers; the subjective nature of this procedure may allow bias such as favouritism and politics to enter into the selection process; the interview procedure is not standardised; and it is not useful when there are large numbers of candidates need to be selected as it is too time consuming (HR-Guide). In order to make the interview a better selection tool, managers must act to improve its validity and reliability. Suggestions include avoid asking question questions that are unrelated to the job; avoid stereotyping applicants; avoid giving too much weight to specific characteristics; try to put the applicant at ease during the interview; communicating clearly with the applicant and maintain consistency with the questions asked to each applicant. If all these are met, then the interviews becomes a far more valid and reliable selection tool and would go a long way in getting the best candidate for the job (HR-Guide).
Personality tests are another commonly used selection tool. It is a selection procedure that measures the personality characteristics of applicants that are related to future job performance. Personality tests typically measure one or more of five personality dimensions: extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience (HR-Guide). However, there may also be problems if these tests were taken too seriously. Because there is no correct answer to the questions used, scores obtained would sometimes ambiguous or inaccurate. The reliability may also be questioned as there is no way to find out if candidates have been telling the truth in the tests or if they were answering questions based on what they thought they should be like in order to get the job. In order to make the personality test more valid and reliable, managers must select tests carefully. The test must be analysed first to see if it is valid and reliable before used as a selection method. Personality tests should also not be used exclusively; rather, they should be used in conjunction with other methods of selection such as the interview to improve the validity and reliability of the selection process.
Furthermore, work sample tests can also be a great way to see if a potential candidate is suitable for a position. A work sample test is where the applicant is placed in a scenario he would be in if he/she were selected for the job and monitored to analyse their performance. Advantages of this test is that it is seen to be highly reliable and valid as it is putting the person in the position that they would be in if selected, similar to a ‘try before buy’ scheme. However, this method can also be costly and time consuming as it can usually be administered to one candidate at a time. Moreover, even though it is great if a specific task can be completed in a short amount of time, it cannot easily be used if the job requires tasks that take weeks to complete (HR-Guide). To ensure that the work sample test gets the most information, managers should try and make the specific sample to be as closely related to what the person would be doing as possible and if equipment is required, get the person to use as most of it to get the best idea of how capable the applicant is.
The most important thing managers have to keep in mind while selecting a person is what kind of person they are looking for that would be best suited for the job. In order to be able to find the best candidate, the must have a detailed job description and figure out exactly what they are looking for and then advertise the need to fill this position. The aim of advertising is to make people aware of a vacancy and make people apply for it. Successful advertising does not mean receiving a large number of applicants, it means attracting applicants from suitable candidates (Small Business Guide). Having a good job description will make it much easier to select the right person. Instead of having to select from hundreds of applicants, a good job description will give applicants a much better idea of what the company is looking for and thus reduce the number of applicants by weeding out those who were not suited for the job. An inaccurate or too broad of a job description may lead to the hiring of an incorrect person for the job.
Selecting the wrong person can lead to failure and cost the company money. Managers and human relations professionals must step in and help their companies save money by getting in the selection process early on. They should plan on what type of candidate they will require in the future before the need actually arises. It is hard for a recruiter to act under the gun when management tells him/her that a person is needed immediately to perform a certain job. They need to be given time to assess candidates to determine whom is most suitable for the job and thus increasing the reliability of the selection process (HR Magazine Online).
Thus, the consequences of incorrect selection further highlight the importance of selection as a management tool. If selection goes wrong, there are many costs attached to this error, some direct, and some indirect. Direct costs include the cost of re-advertising, the wasted time of interviews, recruitment officers etc as well as time of personnel that may have trained the person. Furthermore, if a person is not fit for the job, they will not be happy in it; this can affect general employee moral and have a negative effect on output of the company as a whole. It can also lead to work disruptions, frustration, the quality of products may be reduced, and the time of colleagues put into welcoming the person would all be wasted if the person were incorrect for the job. "An organisation’s ultimate success depends on the best applicants being selected. Jobs and people must be correctly matched to ensure both employee satisfaction and organisational effectiveness" (Stone, 2000). If the job and person are incorrectly matched, as Microsoft’s Director of Recruiting puts it, "The best thing we can do for our competitors is to hire poorly" (Stone, 2000).
In order to hire the correct employees, the choice of selection criteria should be consistent with the organisation’s strategic decision and culture. "Employee selection strategies when aligned with the organisation’s business strategies produce a positive contribution to organisational performance" (Stone, 2000). It is then up to the managers to determine the organisation’s business strategy and work out what types of employees the company needs to maximise its potential, as without the correct people, the organisation cannot advance. To be able to select the right people, the organisation needs a valid and reliable selection process that is based on the job description. It is then from this that the right candidates can be selected
Also, "for an organisation to achieve its human resource objectives, selection decisions must conform to the corporate policy. A good policy is essential as it communicates clearly what a company’s selection goals are" (Stone, 2000). Management must know exactly what they are looking for in order to hire the right person. They must know: what quality of person are they looking for, the source of people, who will make the decision to hire, the selection methods that will be used to select, as well as the objectives of hiring the person (Stone, 2000).
Thus, selection is such an important management tool as it is the human resources of a company that determine its competitiveness in a world where most competitors have similar physical assets. The company with the most efficient human resources will have an advantage over those that do not. Incorrect recruitment not only costs companies money and time, it can also result in employee dissatisfaction and decreased moral. Thus, it is vital that the selection process goes accurately and correctly. The right person can add a lot to a company’s success, the magnitude of this influence will of course depend of the position, but each recruitment is important for the well being of the organisation. A good selection process involves the process being reliable and valid. That is, the process must reflect accurately on the capabilities of the applicant with regards to the job he/she is applying for. It is only then that the right person can be selected. So managers must act to ensure that the selection process fits the definitions of reliable and valid as discussed earlier. They must also ensure that the job description is accurate and precise. If all of these criteria are met, the organisation should be able to attract the correct pool of candidates to select from and they can select the best one for the specific job. And if this continues with all recruitments, the organisation will have a great workforce and that usually means the company will thrive and grow. Alternatively, if the selection process is poor, the organisation will get an average to poor workforce and will not be able to compete with other organisations that do. That is why selection is such an important management tool; proper selection leads to good human resources, which leads to the competitive edge over others.
1. Daft, Richard L., 2000. Management 5th ed. Orlando: Mike Roche.
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4. Poe, Andrea C. (2002), Selection Savvy. HR Magazine Online [online] 47 (4). Available from - http://www.shrm.org/hrmagazine/articles/0402/default.asp?page=0402agn-global.asp [Accessed 16 Apr 2002]
5. Stone, Employee Selection (Ch. 6 & 7) pp 173-244