ecruitment and selection is a longway from the recommendations of personnel textbooks, distinction must be taken intoaccount between explicit recommendations and guidelines, on one hand, and, on the other,implicit suggestions stemming from the authors own stance. The implications of distancingfrom, or identification with, such explicit recommendations and implicit suggestions will beviewed in this paper as well as forms of overt and covert resistance, or adhesion, assumedin actual practice. Also central to the argument is what the whole issue means in terms ofboth existing problems and potential future problems for the employer and the candidate,for organizational management, the labour market and macro-economic welfare andprogress in general. Employment decisions have traditionally been regarded as a privilege exclusive tomanagement.Order now
Many of the US personnel textbooks emphasize this aspect and describe theprocess in terms of hurdles over which prospective employees have to try to leap to avoidrejection (Torrington and Hall, 1991:283). In the UK recruitment and selection is an issuewhich has in the past kept a low profile in personnel textbooks, though the trend haschanged (e. g. , Torrington and Hall, 1991, Keith Sisson, 1994), which appears to point outto an evolution from the paternalistic perspective according to which recruitment tends to bedominantly viewed from the angle of providing candidates for the selector to judge. Recommendations are being made with respect to the various stages of the process ofrecruitment and selection, from approaching and seeking to interest potential candidates todetermining whether to appoint any of them. Codes of practice and guidelines for theirimplementation have been produced with emphasis on different aspects, e.
g. , on recruitmentstarting with a job description and person specification, by IPM; on fair and efficientselection, by EOC (1986); on avoidance of sex bias in selection testing, by EOC (1992);on avoidance of improper discrimination, by ACAS (1981) and negative bias against age,by IPM (1993); on non-discriminatory advertising, by CRE and EOC (1977, 1985); andon the use of cognitive and psychometric tests, by IPM and BPS (1993). 1. Moreover, legislation promoting equality of opportunity has underlined the importance of using well-validated selection procedures (Torrington and Hall, 1991), and directives suchas those issued by CRE (1983) and EOC (1985) emphasize the need to comply withanti-discrimination legislation and this way enhance opportunities to disadvantaged groups.
Greater formality will both make the concealment of racial and sexual discrimination moredifficult and will permit more effective retrospective surveillance by senior management andbodies such as the CRE (Jenkins, 1982), thus to some extent remedying the weakness ofmuch of the EO literature in not frontally addressing the different types of discriminatorydecision, be it determinism, particularism, patronage or rational-legality (Jewson & Mason,1986). As a counter-argument, however, the definition of the employers role as thatof implementing and monitoring formal procedures can be seen to absolve senior staffof the responsibility for further investigation of the causes of continuing inequality(Webb & Liff, 1988). In fact, case studies have shown that such directives can be misused and theirintention subverted as often happens with respect to IPMs recommendations on jobdescription and person specification (Collinson et al. , 1990: 96-108), and,furthermore, the legal definition of justifiability is sufficiently vague for the legislation to be ineffective; andthe workforce can be manipulated into becoming managements accomplice indiscrimination (ibid. : 70-71). Some recommendations are, in themselves, not sociallyand politically neutral enough to avoid ambiguity and, as such, encourage covertdiscrimination.
Highlighting the causes behind the problem, EOC points out thatgender discrimination is embedded in myths (EOC, 1986:2), while we are alsoreminded that motherhood still remains a stigma (Curran, 1988) as the generalideology of gender still associates feminity with nurturing, and hence with servicing,which is translated directly into specific occupational terms (Murgatroyd, 1982). Accordingly – inspite of what has been achieved – women still face bottleneck onthe way to top jobs in personnel, a situation which has been aggravated by a recentregression in the previous upward trend for women, the latest figures standing at 44%of all personnel managers but only 9. 5% of personnel directors (PM Plus, 1994). Getting into the boardroom is not the same as getting into the club, a glass ceilingmade difficult to shatter (BM, 1994) by the club members themselves who may alsotry to psychologically manipulate women into consenting and thus becomingaccomplices of their own fate. At least on their face value, for the past two decades personnel textbooks have beenrecommending equal opportunities in recruitment and selection. Rodgers SevenPoint Plan (Rodger, 1970) and Frasers Five-Fold Framework (Fraser, 1971:64-80) are checklists which emphasize the need for a logical link between jobdescription and person specification.
Yet, Rodgers headings circumstances andacceptability have strong potential to be used as a cloak for improperdiscrimination (Sisson, 1994:189). In instances like this one the author of thepersonnel textbook is – consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally -an accomplice of reluctant management. Recommendations become a vehicle ofsubversion of the proclaimed spirit. Even when guidelines appear to be socially and politically sound, the identification ofrequirements remains subjective when it comes to draft a job description asjudgement greatly depends on conclusions which are based on onesconceptualizations.
The effect of prejudice and bias is, therefore, difficult to control,and unfairness in shortlisting is difficult to restrain. 2. Other main initial steps in the recruitment and selection process offer no guarantee offairness. Application forms, multi-purpose as advised by Edwards (1983:64), or not,may become a tool of discrimination as they can easily incorporate a discriminatorybias within their highly structured framework. Letters of application and CVs appearto be seen as of little relevance as a measure of performance in manual jobs(Duxfield, 1983:246-7) but to be regarded of great importance and possibly decisiveon other kinds of placement (Knollys, 1983: 236-8) where they are left to theassessors subjective evaluation.
It is generally acknowledged that they are open todiscriminatory use by the employer (McIntosh and Smith, 1974). Furthermore, theuse of graphology, though controversial, is being practised in Britain (PM,1985). Inappropriate use of screening tests is another point of concern. The use of cognitiveand psychometric tests appears to be quite popular in the UK, bearing in mind thatthe production of a personality questionnaire has been financed by over fiftycompanies in this country (Saville and Holdsworth Ltd, 1987).
Discerning andcautious use of psychological techniques of selection has been advocated by Rodger(1970; 1971; 1983) while Kline (1993) is particularly concerned with reliability andvalidity as key requirements for selection methods to be technically sound as ameasure of both immediate suitability of a candidate and also of prediction of his/herfuture performance, though the former function is more highly valued by Scholarios etal. (1993). Still with respect to psychological testing, Brotherton has drawn adistinction between measures of organizational performance and job performanceand emphasized that successful non-discriminatory selection requires validation basedon the latter (Brotherton, 1980). Low validity interviewing is yet another point of concern.
Evidence suggests that thesingle interviewer tends to be the generalized practice with respect to manualworkers (Mackay and Torrington, 1986: 38-40), while in the case of non-manualemployees the general practice is the line manager and a personnel specialist to beinvolved, though this results, in practice, in one-person interviewing as personnelspecialists prefer a purely advisory role (Collinson et al. , 1990). The final decisiontends to be made by one individual – usually a white middle-aged male -, whichprovides open ground for abuse (Wanous, 1980; Honey, 1984; and Collinson et al. ,1990) and shortlisted prospective appointees are let down at the final interview.
Notjust the outcome but the way interviews are conducted can be arbitrary, andapplicants may be subjected to invasion of privacy with questions such as on theirpersonal life and family background or on their political beliefs. Another aspect toconsider is that, on the other hand, interviews – particularly on a one-to-one basis -may give the applicant the opportunity to impress beyond fact. In a study of auniversity milk round candidates admitted to being far from truthfull in their statements(Keenan, 1980). The need to promote ethical awareness in the practice ofinterviewing has been highlighted not only in order to improve selectors fairness butalso to control dubious honesty from applicants (Pocock, 1989). Recommendations on the issue of internal or external recruitment cannot beuniversally suitable. Courtis (1985:15) does not give priority to internal recruitmentwhich in itself presents the double advantage of being economical and encouragingcareer development.
However, as a counter-argument, internal recruitment can alsoresult in a delimitating effect for the company and injustice to the supply side of thelabour market. With respect to methods used when aiming to interest potentialcandidates, deviation from 3. guide-lines and supporting legislation can prove to be fruitful as in the case of theUS-style head-hunting and search consultancy, a practice at first hindered by UKlegislation – or its interpretation -, but recently expanding to over eight hundredrecruitment and search consultants operating in this country (Clark, 1991). High feesresult in it being used mainly at rather senior levels, thus offering the possibility ofbeing a means of neutralizing the tendency for females and certain other sectors ofpopulation being met with a career ceiling at middle management level. In principle,beneficial to both interested parties in the labour market, brokerage between themcan have double-edged consequencies such as employers falling victim to consultantswho both both exploit their privileged access to knowledge of the companys needsand reuse candidates after they have remained with the firm for an agreed period oftime.
A defensive stance against the prescriptions of textbooks is taken by line managerswho defend that recruitment can not be scientific but that it is a mixture of what theydefine as gut and objectivity, as contradictory in terms as this may be. They alsostress how they are aiming in the selection process to gauge future job performance. In other words, underlying the practices defended by line managers are certainprinciples which seem to link to the organizations culture and overall corporatestrategy (Wood, 1986). Acceptability criteria thus prevail over suitability criteria. Asan excuse for arbitrary selection, the formalization of the process of selectionadvocated by IPM, CBI, EOC and CRE with a view to rendering recruitment moreefficient, meritocratic, consistent and accountable, is demeaned by general linemanagers as being bureaucratic encumbrance (Collinson, 1987) as an excuse forarbitrary selection. It is significant, though, that conviction usually appears to belacking in that the key to competitive advantage is to get the best person for the job,who may be a woman, but the same argument gained credibility in employer-ledOpportunity 2000 launched by Prime Minister John Major in the early 1990s (Liff,1995).
Line managers prefer informal sources of recruitment such as word-of-mouthrecommendations or purchasing peoples names off the Professional and ExecutiveRegister and contacting them directly. This enables autonomy and unaccountabilityover the choice of successful applicant, and the stereotyped ideal recruit is white, male,aged 30 to 40, and married, i. e. with wife, children and mortgage.
This state of affairsis difficult to change, as line managers are patriarchally elevated as the providers,the organizations breadwinners, thus mirroring the gendered domestic division oflabour, while personnel managers and personnel advisers are equated to theunproductive female welfare and administrative role (Collinson, 1987). Thisdowngrading and devaluation of the sex-typed female role (Legge, 1987) relegatespersonnel managers and advisers within the organizational culture to a peripheralposition and little or no authority (Wood, 1986). The devolution of responsibility forhuman resources from personnel specialists to line managers seems a rather negativedevelopment, but even here it is possible to envisage favourable circumstancesinasmuch, as if line managers take responsibility for human resources issues, then EOhas a better chance of being treated more seriously (Liff, 1995). This situation emerges against a macro-economic background in which the dominanttrends point to an increasingly more intense competition in a global market-place. Inthe UK home labour market, the 1980s period of easy recruitment due to high levels ofunemployment has given place to recruitment difficulties with current skill shortagesand 4.
forecasts of a significant drop in the number of young entrants and of at least a 50%female workforce. This situation looks bleak for those employers who fail to adoptnon-traditional methods of recruitment (Curnow, 1989), for a more proactiverecruitment strategy is required as a source of competitive advantage through aquality workforce (Torrington & Hall, 1991), with a move towards a focus onexpected outcomes rather than procedures (Liff, 1989). In other words, EO is not just a problem of implementation, but, in contrast,important parts of the process still need to be better understood, particularly at theorganizational level (Aitkenhead, 1991: 26). However, not just at organizational level. What EO initiatives take place within organizations depends crucially upon how theconcept is understood by its members, and when organizational policy is translatedinto operational procedures it has implications for a persons activities and hence forhis or her cognitive world, and the relationship between organizational proceduresand individual cognitive world is two-way (Ibid: 35-41). With respect toconceptualization, a positive trend can be found in voices which value diversity (e.
g. Copeland, 1982) and managing diversity (e. g. Greenslade, 1991, Jackson, 1992)inasmuch as this stresses positive aspects of difference with respect to ethnicity orwith respect to gender (Rosener, 1990), which suggests a favourable change ofperspective in industrial relations (Liff, 1995). In conclusion, the past few decades have seen the development of recommendationson recruitment and selection which challenge the traditional outlook of employmentmatters as a prerogative of management decision and the prospective employee as arelatively passive object of employers judgement.
Personnel textbooks, codes ofpractice and anti-discriminatory legislation have put the focus on EO for women, ethnic andother disadvantaged groups. Such prescriptions appear to be seen by the employeras a conflict of interests with his managerial strategy and a threat to his establishedposition of authority and privilege. This has been the reaction of the white malemanager. Some of the prescriptions themselves have been informed by the cognitiveframework of the white male culture and thus, intentionally or unintentionally,rendered less efficient in their formulation. Others have been, and continue to be,subverted in practice by false compliance. In either case EO principles are defeated,and a self-reproducing phenomenon persists of acceptability over suitability in therecruitment and selection process.
This status quo poses a complex problem which affects, more immediately, both therecruiter and the candidate and, at a larger scale, the whole economic scene. Mainlypreoccupied with repressing change, the employer appears to be reluctant toconsider that this same change can be to his own advantage, inasmuch as it willpromote a recruitment and selection approach which could contribute not only to afairer but also to a more cost-effective decision making. As far as the employer isconcerned, the felt problem appears to be the outside pressure put on him to change,while the real problem appears to be his difficulty in evolving cognitively. Managerialrefusal in a more effective staffing will have far-reaching consequencies as it willrender organizations inadequate to compete in an increasingly global market, aproblem of major repercussions, if a proactive response is not given to the need for aquality workforce that will guarantee competitiveness through quality goods and services.
5. On the supply side of the labour market the problem of discrimination has been feltso acutely as to prompt the overall awareness that led to the recommendations inquestion. A foreseable demographic change seems to favour the previously excludedgroups so far as it may result in more of a sellers market for labour which should, in turn,encourage the labour buyer to concentrate on outcomes rather than on procedure;and this shift away from the focus on procedure may help reduce antagonism andelusive compliance. Another opening can be seen in the fact that literature hasbecome possible on diversity as a positive asset to be profitably managed, adevelopment which remains, however, problematic so far as it may also be perceivedand resisted as a social issue. It is nevertheless a landmark in industrial relationsevolution in what it represents of a two-way interaction between the cognitive worldof both assessors and assessed, on one side, and, on the other, textbookrecommendations and related formal directives.
However, ambiguity andambivalence persist at each stage of evolution and progress towards a more just andeffective management of human resources, and evidence presented above – as in thecase of Opportunity 2000 – suggests that, paradoxically and dangerously, thepromotion of objective recruitment and selection on merit is resorting, for credibility,to being implemented within the traditional recruiters framework ofconceptualization. REFERENCESACAS 1981: Recruitment and Selection. Advisory Booklet n 6. London: Advisory,Conciliation and Arbitration Service. Aitkenhead, M.
& Liff, S. (1991): The Effectiveness of Equal Opportunity Policies. In Firth-Cozens, J. & West, M A. (eds): Women at Work, Psychological andOrganizational Perspectives. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
BM 1994, The Glass Ceiling. Business Matters video Series. In Equality & Diversitycourse 1994-5, Week 6. University of Warwick. Brotherton, C.
(1980): Paradigms of Selection Validation. Journal of OccupationalPsychology, 53, March, 73-9. Clark, T. (1991): A survey and critique of selection methods used by executiverecruitment consultancies in management recruitment. Paper presented to the 1992Occupational Psychology Conference of the British Psychological Society. Collinson, D.
(1987): The Safe-between Candidate , Personnel Management, MayCollinson D. , Knights, D. & Collinson, M (1990): Managing to Discriminate. London: Routledge.