An extract from the book Occupational Psychology, by staff of ACS Distance Education- click here.

The recruitment process can be broken down into separate phases: job analysis, sourcing, screening and selection, and lateral hiring.

1. Job Analysis

One of the key roles of an occupational psychologist is selecting the right individuals to take up roles within an organisation, whether recruited from within or outside the organisation. Job analysis is particularly important where new jobs are developed within an organisation, and especially where these particular roles have not previously existed. Even where similar jobs or the same position have been offered previously, it is necessary to update any existing templates for that role to take account of current circumstances. 

The job analysis is used to determine the particular set of skills, knowledge, ability, and other attributes needed to do the job. The findings of a job analysis are used in creating the job description or job/person specifications. Without a well-conducted job analysis the interviewer(s) may select someone unsuitable for the job because they could have misconceptions about what exactly the job requires.  

The job analysis discerns what the job entails and what is needed to do it. An in-depth analysis might also provide details about possible unfavourable consequences of activities within the role successfully. There are a number of possible ways of gathering information in a job analysis as follows:

  • Interviews - managers and employees in similar work roles to those vacant positions which need filling are interviewed and asked to provide details about the particular requirements of the job. Interviews may be unstructured early in the analysis process but more structured later when more specific details are required. Interviews may be conducted with groups of employees. For groups the critical incident technique as outlined in chapter 1 is particularly effective especially where knowledge about the job is not obvious by using other techniques such as observations. 
  • Observations - this relies on observing employees as they go about their work. Sometimes observations are made indirectly through the use of video cameras. Observations may be made over set times. This works best for gathering information about manual jobs or tasks which are of short duration but it is not very useful when analysing task which mostly rely on thought processes.   

  • Self-reports - these are based on an employee's account of what the job entails and so are highly subjective. Sometimes they may form the basis of the analysis.

  • Surveys - these are most useful where there are multiple jobs being analysed and so a lot of data is required quickly. Information may be gathered through questionnaires or job inventories. Questionnaires are often developed from interview and observational data. They usually need to be pilot-tested and revised before being used on a large group of respondents, particularly if they are to be re-used. Questionnaires are also useful for gathering information about job positions in which large numbers of workers are currently employed.  

  • Document searches - various documents may be consulted to help with job analysis. These include things like occupational health and safety records, job descriptions already on file, and records of complaints, hazards or accidents.  

  • Software tools - some software programmes or online tools can be used to search through pools of job descriptions which may be relevant.

Once the analysis is complete it can be summarised in a job description. Usually the job or person specification is included within the job description.

  • Job specification - details the qualifications, experience, skills and personal attributes required of an employee for a particular role; the desirable characteristics. 
  • Job description - a list of roles and responsibilities required for a particular job. It may also include expected future goals and it is used to advertise for new recruits. 

2 Sourcing
This refers to advertising the vacancy. Advertising may be targeted within the organisation, if it is large, or it may be aimed at recruiting from the outside workforce. It involves placing advertisements in suitable locations where they will be seen by prospective employees. This could include newspapers, websites, trade magazines, press releases, and newsletters or journals of professional organisations. Increasingly, social media may be used as a means of advertising positions. Recruitment consultancies and employment agencies may also be used and they can sometimes help to head hunt suitable candidates who are not currently actively looking for a career change. Networking may also provide similar results.   

3.  Screening and Short-listing

This involves whittling down the list of applicants so that only those that meet the predetermined job specifications or selection criteria are retained. This way the pool of applicants is maintained at a size which is manageable. Screening has to meet ethical standards and equal opportunities policies. 

There are various ways in which screening can be assisted. For instance standard application forms which standardise the information collected from applicants can be used to limit the amount of subjective responses and thereby allow a fairer comparison. Also, application forms may include specific statements where the reviewer is able to sign to confirm that the form has been interpreted with respect to fairness and equity. It is also usual for standard forms to make statements with regards to privacy. For instance, they may state who the information is to be shared with and how it will be used in the recruitment and selection process. It might also inform applicants that verification of supplied information will be sought. 

Another way that application forms can be interpreted to streamline the screening process is through adopting a specific scoring procedure. In this way, specific selection criteria can be ranked for importance and applications scored according to this hierarchy. Those that score below a cut-off point may be discarded or if all applications are to be considered for the selection process then the applicants may be ranked ahead of interview. In other cases, applicants who are screened out as not be suitable for the current vacancy may be kept on file, with their agreement, for other possible openings. 

4.  Lateral Hiring

This means selecting someone from within an organisation for a vacancy who is already in a similar role and salary range, or selecting someone from another, usually similar, organisation who works in a comparable position. Typically, they may be offered a better salary or remuneration package in order to tempt them to jump ship.