Antecedents of applicant reactions

Perhaps the most consistent determinant of applicant reactions is outcome favourability, that is, the outcome received by an applicant from the selection process (Ryan & Ployhart, 2000). This could mean the test score the applicant received, whether or not they are asked to go on in the selection process (e.g., to a selection interview or some other hurdle) or whether they got a job. It is for that reason that most current applicant reactions research considers applicant reactions after applicants have received their outcome, as reactions can be quite different before and after a selection decision, and applicants are generally poor at guessing how well they actually performed on a selection procedure (i.e., actual and perceived test performance are not highly correlated). In addition to outcome favourability, surrogate variables for actual test performance are sometimes used in this research, such as perceptions of distributive justice or outcome fairness and measures of perceived performance.

In addition to these measures of applicant outcomes, applicant reactions models such as Gilliland’s (1993) go a step further: while acknowledging that outcomes affect applicants’ perceptions, the model points out that procedural justice dimensions (e.g., job-relatedness, opportunity to perform, as discussed earlier) can also affect applicant reactions. This is a core assumption of organizational justice theory more generally: although the final outcome (e.g., a performance rating) is important, the process used and the way a person is treated are important as well (e.g., Colquitt, 2001).

In addition to outcome received and procedural justice dimensions derived from the selection context, a number of other antecedents of applicant reactions have been identified (see Hausknecht et al., 2004 for a more detailed review). For example, some authors have noted that applicant reactions are not only a function of selection system characteristics, but also of individual differences. Truxillo and colleagues (2006) found that Big Five personality measured at baseline was related to fairness, self-perceptions and organizational attractiveness later in the process in conceptually logical ways, with, for instance, agreeableness related to positive reactions and neuroticism related to negative reactions. Viswesvaran and Ones (2004) found that a number of individual differences were related to the importance placed on different selection system characteristics. For instance, cognitive ability was related to applicants perceiving greater importance being placed on the content of the selection procedure. However, these authors found relatively few differences between men and women in the importance placed on selection system aspects, and only a few differences in the selection system characteristics of most importance to different ethnic groups. More recently, Honkani- emi, Feldt, Metsapelto and Tolvanen (2013) found that certain personality profiles, such as being resilient, were related to positive applicant reactions. Taken together, these findings suggest that reactions are partly determined by applicant characteristics and not only by the selection process itself.

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