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Home arrow Psychology arrow The Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of recruitment, selection and employee retention
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Whom to Target for Recruitment

The decision an employer makes concerning whom to target for recruitment (e.g., a competitor’s employees, military veterans) is critical. Focusing on the wrong type of individuals can result in job applicants who lack the KSAOs necessary to do the job or who are unlikely to accept a job offer. To understand the importance of the decision made concerning the type of individuals to target, consideration of common recruitment goals is helpful.

Although an organization can have numerous goals when recruiting (e.g., developing a diverse applicant pool), the primary focus of many employers is filling a job opening with a person who will perform effectively and remain in the position for a satisfactory length of time (Breaugh, 2013b). To fulfil these two objectives, an employer needs to bring a job opening to the attention of viable prospective candidates (those with the KSAOs needed) who are likely to be attracted to the position because they want what the employer is offering.

With regard to targeting individuals who are likely to be attracted to a position, Deven- dorf and Highhouse (2008) are informative. They examined whether individuals were more attracted to an organization where prospective co-workers have personality characteristics similar to their own. Devendorf and Highhouse (2008) found support for a similarity-attraction relationship. In discussing their findings, they note that this relationship could be the result of individuals feeling more comfortable working with others who are similar to themselves and/or because they believe they are more likely to receive a job offer if an organization has previously hired individuals like them. In terms of position attractiveness, research supports the benefits of focusing recruitment efforts on individuals who will not need to relocate. Becker, Connolly and Slaughter (2010) found that applicants who did not have to relocate were more likely to accept a job offer. An employer also may be able to develop an applicant pool that is attracted to an opening by targeting persons who have fewer opportunities. In this regard, Barthold (2004) noted that persons with physical impairments frequently have fewer job options, as may individuals who are located in areas experiencing high rates of unemployment (Zimmerman, 2006). Rau and Adams (2013) reviewed research that shows that older workers are attracted to jobs that allow a flexible work schedule, including working part-time. If an employer can offer such hours, seniors may be a good group to target.

In terms of targeted recruitment impacting the KSAOs applicants possess, little research is available to draw on. One relevant study (Rynes, Orlitsky & Bretz, 1997) investigated how firms decide whether to recruit new college graduates or more experienced individuals. They reported that new graduates were perceived as being more willing to learn, whereas more experienced individuals were seen as having greater technical skills and a stronger work ethic.

Although only tangentially related to targeting, research examining differences among employee referrals (i.e., persons made aware of a job opening by a current employee of the hiring organization) and persons recruited by other means merits consideration. Fernandez and Weinberg (1997) found that, compared to other groups of applicants, referrals were superior for computer skills, language skills, education and work experience (important KSAOs for the job studied). These differences appear to have resulted from employee referrals being pre-screened by the employees who referred them. Yakubovich and Lup (2006) also found that employee referrals were superior in terms of KSAOs (i.e., scoring higher on objective selection measures) than individuals recruited from other sources. It is, therefore, not surprising that Castilla (2005) found employee referrals to be superior to that of new hires generated by other means. Taken as a whole, it appears that organizations should encourage their workers to publicize job openings and give preference to individuals recruited via employee referrals when making hiring decisions.

It is common for recruits to lack a good understanding of what a job opening involves (Landis, Earnest & Allen, 2013). New hires also often lack such an understanding (Breaugh, 2010) in part because employers typically exaggerate the positives of an advertised position during the recruitment process, so that new hires often have inflated job expectations. This may result in job dissatisfaction and turnover. Research suggests that appropriate targeting of groups can result in hiring individuals who have a better understanding of an advertised position. Williams, Labig and Stone (1993) found that nurses who had previously worked at a hospital reported having more knowledge about what working there involved than those lacking such experience (rehires also had a lower turnover rate). Another group that should have a better understanding of what working for an employer entails are those with relatives working there. Ryan, Horvath and Kriska (2005) found that new employees who had a family member working for a local municipality reported greater person-organizational fit compared to new hires lacking a family connection. It is likely that such fit resulted from individuals with a family connection having greater pre-hire knowledge concerning a job opening and applying or accepting a job offer only if they perceived a good fit.

In terms of recruits possessing accurate job and organizational expectations, Breaugh, Macan and Grambow (2008) presented a theoretical rationale for why targeting former employees, former interns, those with family members working for an employer, persons who had worked in jobs similar to the job vacancy and individuals who had worked for organizations similar to the hiring organization is beneficial. The fundamental argument was that members of these groups should have more accurate and richer information about a particular job given their sources of information (e.g., direct work experience, a credible family source). Such information should, in turn, help applicants from these groups make better job choice decisions and not accept a job offer for a position that is not a good fit.

In addition, recruits sometimes lack insight concerning their talents and what they want in a job. Brooks, Cornelius, Greenfeld and Joseph (1995) suggested that having an internship gave students greater insight compared to students who did not. Breaugh and colleagues’ (2008) view also applies to self-insight. For example, having previously worked for an organization should result in individuals having a good sense of whether the employer represents a good fit in terms of satisfying their wants and needs. Although less impactful, having worked for a similar organization or in a similar job (e.g., one that requires working a rotating shift schedule) should help an individual evaluate whether an advertised position will satisfy what the person is looking for in a position.

The experience of RightNow Technologies (Spors, 2007) provides a good example of effectively targeting individuals. This Bozeman, Montana-based firm needed to fill a number of openings including for a software engineer. As there was an insufficient supply of local talent, RightNow placed job advertisements in major cities in the western United States. Due to the lack of response, it concluded that many people did not view Bozeman as an attractive location. Reconsidering its recruitment strategy, RightNow decided to attempt to attract former Montana residents to return home. In order to reach such individuals, it purchased a list of Montana State University alumni. This proved to be so effective that other employers in the area have started using lists of Montana State graduates to fill job openings.

The U.S. Army provides an example of a different type of targeting. Based on an analysis of its past recruitment efforts, the Army determined that it made sense to focus on recruiting at high schools in which most of the students do not go on to college

(Breaugh, 2013b) as students from such schools were more likely to enlist or re-enlist. These positive outcomes are thought to be because students from less affluent schools are more attracted to the enlistment bonus, have fewer options (i.e., relatively speaking, the Army is an attractive employer) and are more likely to understand what Army life is like as many know others, such as former classmates or siblings, who had previously enlisted.

In summary, the decision an organization makes about the type of individuals to target for recruitment is important because: it can affect the attractiveness ofa position; applicants’ likelihood of possessing the KSAOs needed to successfully perform the job; the accuracy of their job expectations, including a visceral understanding of the likely effects of a job on them; and how much self-insight they possess. However, it should be emphasized that these beneficial outcomes are only likely to occur if a recruitment-oriented job analysis has resulted in an organization having accurate job-related information on which to base its decision about whom to target (e.g., an organization knows that the job and organizational attributes it offers are attractive to the targeted individuals).

 
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