The Changing World – Of Job Recruitment and Selection

Employers around the world need sustained performance. Job seekers, aware of the uncertainties of the global marketplace, have primary concern for their own future employability. The problem of meeting the needs of both is complex and organisations are only now feeling their way towards flexible and adaptable solutions.

The global employment scene has changed so significantly in recent years that no country or organisation can feel exempt from the effects of the factors listed below.

Uncertainty is constant and stability is giving way to the need to adapt quickly and flexibly to meet changing situations. Management’s traditional hierarchical structure and its deliberative processes is not geared to today’s demand for rapid response and follow up.

In this environment staff selection and retention faces many new challenges.

The employers

Employers face greater competition, changing trading circumstances, new technologies and the vagaries of political decisions. Further, they can no longer give their employees any assurance of promotional opportunity or of long-term employment. But they must maintain both their short and longer term planning in the belief they will continue successfully operating in the face of this continuous change.

To survive, they must be participants not observers in the power plays of the marketplace. But they need sound base from which to operate and this means stable and competent workforce able to be grouped and re-grouped to meet emerging situations.

In selecting staff the traditional approach has been to ask four key questions:
* Can this person do the job? (Knowledge, skill, experience)
* Will this person do the job? (Motivation)
* Will this person fit in with us and our clients? (Compatibility, personality)
* Will this person grow and adapt with us? (Potential)

Interviews, augmented perhaps by testing and referees’ reports, have sought evidence to build comparative profiles of the applicants and to select the best. The desired appointee would fit in to an established or planned position, would meet the agreed criteria, be committed to purpose, and show appropriate initiative and adaptability.

There are, though, two points sometimes overlooked with this selection pro-cess. Firstly, selectors or selection agencies tend to focus on identifying the experience and qualities of applicants to extract as much information as possible to build their profiles. Generally, they don’t or are unable to discuss the nature of, or the conditions in which, the appointee is expected to perform in typical period, or the background pressures, values and culture of the workplace environment. The high loss of people resigning early in their appointment, particularly at more senior levels, is evidence of this gap – and the total cost of selection and subsequent replacement is very high.

Secondly, the aim is to find an appointee who will fit into the position with minimal disruption, but this may not always be the best approach. perceptive organisation might say, “This applicant doesn’t really meet our desired profile, but has qualities we certainly need. How can we best fit him/her in?”

The job seekers

The pattern of advertising vacancy and appointing the most suitable applicant has always been to meet employer demand, but now job seekers have their own agenda.

In broad-brush terms, job seekers can probably be divided into two categories – self-navigators and the dependents.

Self-navigators are more aware of today’s workplace climate, its pressures, its demands and its uncertainties. They know they must be the architects of their own futures and that the jobs they accept will be the stepping-stones to their own futures. Many will be qualified or partly qualified and all realise their learning will be continuous. For some, their self-assurance has yet to be tempered by reality. They exude sense of reaching out. They no longer believe in the currency of the traditional offer of “a good steady job with prospects”.

In general terms, and predictably, their needs might be expressed as:
• Challenge and opportunity to demonstrate their potential.
• To learn things which will enhance their employability.
• To find out quickly the real content of job offer and its parameters.
• Recognition of special effort.
• Staircasing opportunity options.
• To work with an organisation and boss they can trust.

Many feel no obligation to stay in their first jobs. They see it as an opportunity to compare this with what else is offering. Their loyalty has yet to be earned.

Dependents may share many of the ideas and feelings of the self-navigators but, for variety of economic, personal and other reasons, they are more concerned with the need to find and hold job which will generate an acceptable income, even if it does not now offer opportunities for subsequent advancement.

They will be motivated to conform with requirements and will willingly comply with the operational directions, but whether or not this becomes commitment to purpose will be dependent on the relationship skills of their direct managers.

Dependents, will be realists. Many will recognise the continuing need to update knowledge and skill to maintain their employability, and they are likely to pursue other opportunities when they arise – but the need for secure base will be dominant.

Jobs for the unskilled will diminish unless governments, both central and local, make special efforts to create meaningful work in areas which can have public value. Greater responsibility lies with the education system to ensure that young people are better equipped to face life outside the school gates.

The selection dilemma

There is clearly selection dilemma. To retain operational viability the employer must attract and maintain key staff, but must keep numbers to an essential minimum while costs and operating practices are held under rigorous scrutiny. The future is unclear.

The job seeker needs to build record of workplace experience and demonstrate willingness, skill and ability in position the existence of which may be decided by circumstances beyond the ambit of the employer.

This dichotomy will not go away and ways must be found of resolving it effectively to meet the needs of both employer and employee.

No appointee comes with any guarantee of success, particularly today. Each appointment is an act of faith and of hope and there has to be some period of mutual adjustment by both parties.

It can be argued that new salaried staff at all levels should be subject to trial period, probably for three months. This would need to be specified in the formal offer of appointment so that in the case of genuine error of judgment the appointee can withdraw with dignity. However, if the employer wishes to terminate the appointment, the due process of termination must then be followed.

The recruiter’s dilemma

What level of responsibility and accountability can be expected of the recruiter or the recruitment agency who did the interviewing and the research leading to the appointment or the shortlisting?

The employer’s responsibility is to employ or shortlist those who conform most closely to the agreed criteria. After the appointee takes up position and performance is matched with expectations there should be feedback to the recruiter to confirm or contradict the assessments made. How else is the recruiter evaluated?

Some employers withhold portion of the recruitment agency fee until the appointment has been validated. Others require the agency to find suitable replacement if the nominee proves unsatisfactory.

Does the recruiter have an obligation to the applicant? This is debatable. The process seeks to look beyond the persona of the applicant, to see the real person and build mutual trust. If the applicant is unsuccessful no further action is expected. But if an appointment is made and subsequently show

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