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Section I Recruitment

The Psychology of Employee Recruitment, Selection and Retention

Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo


The people make the place. With this simple, direct statement, Professor Benjamin Schneider opened his presidential address to the Society of Industrial and Organizational at the annual meeting in 1985. These words, which also served as the title of his landmark article published in Personnel Psychology, capture the very nature of organizations and the central role that people play in how they form, behave and perform (Schneider, 1987). In other words, an organization is a reflection of its people and the success of the organization depends on the quality of the talent employed by the organization.

At the time of his speech this was a dramatic shift in how organizations were conceptualized. Typically, organizations focused on strategy, structure and process without much consideration for the people needed to execute the strategy, fill the structure and operate the process. However, a change was occurring in which organizations recognized the importance of people in the equation and that the human resources of an organization could be conceptualized as a critical, competitive advantage for an organization. By the 1990s, organizations were placing greater emphasis on personnel, and even the language was changing as people were referred to as human capital - with the term ‘capital’ signifying something of value to the organization.

In the late 1990s a landmark study conducted by McKinsey and Company entitled The War for Talent focused on personnel talent as the most important corporate resource for organizations (Michaels, Hadfield-Jones & Axelrod, 2001). As noted by researchers Jermoe Rosow and John Hickey,

most other major components of competitiveness are universally available: natural resources can be bought, capital can be borrowed, and technology can be copied. Only the people in the workforce, with their skills and commitment, and how they are organized, are left to make the difference between economic success and failure. (1994: 1)

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection and Employee Retention,

First Edition. Edited by Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

As organizations now place a premium on human capital, a critical question centres on how people become part of an organization. That is, what causes an organization to have the personnel talent that it has? Schneider’s Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) theory pinpoints three primary forces that determine the people that make up an organization. His theory describes how three interrelated, dynamic processes determine the kinds of people in an organization and consequently defines the nature of the organization and how it behaves and performs. The first force - Attraction - notes that of the total range of possible organizations that exist, individuals only select certain organizations to which they apply for employment. That is, people find organizations differentially attractive, based on numerous factors; and their perceived congruence or fit with that organization determines whether or not they apply for employment. The second force - Selection - notes that an organization determines who they want to hire for employment, based on an assessment of the characteristics and capabilities of the people who apply. That is, organizations select whom to employ based on a perceived fit between the makeup of the person and the needs of the organization. The third force - Attrition - notes that people will choose to leave an organization if they do not fit. That is, an organization will retain people who are congruent with its characteristics and makeup while people who do not mesh with the qualities of the organization will turn over. Thus, according to the model, the forces of attraction, selection and attrition greatly contribute to the people that makeup an organization.

These three forces serve as the fundamental pillars on which this book focuses, with each force aligning with a primary section of this work. The first section covering recruitment discusses how people are attracted to an organization; the next, on selection, examines how people are selected for employment by an organization; and the final section, on retention, explores how people are retained to work in an organization.

The goal of this handbook is to summarize the current psychological research and findings pertaining to these central forces of recruitment, selection and retention so that we better understand the people that make the place the way it is and impact how the organization behaves and performs. The handbook takes an international perspective by examining research that has been conducted around the world in order to provide a global view of this literature. In addition, authors representing many parts of the world have been recruited to contribute to this volume in order to provide a more diverse perspective on this area of science. While the handbook has sections to reflect the three key areas of focus - recruitment, selection and retention - it is worth noting that some chapters span multiple areas given the interrelated nature of some topics. Thus, Chapter 4 on applicant reactions is in the recruitment section but reviews literature that is also pertinent to the selection section; while Chapter 6 on ethics is in the recruitment section but also discusses issues relevant to selection and retention. All the contributors focus on providing a review of the latest theoretical and empirical research in a given area while also discussing practical applications, as would be expected given the scientist-practitioner model of this field of inquiry. We now provide an overview of the sections and summarize each chapter to give the reader an idea of what the handbook will cover.

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