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Applicant Reactions to Hiring Procedures

Donald M. Truxillo, Talya N. Bauer and Alexa M. Garcia


Over the past century the basic paradigm of personnel selection research and practice has been testing validity and validity coefficients (Ryan & Ployhart, 2014). During the twentieth century consideration of job applicants - to the extent that their viewpoint was considered at all - dealt with the concept of ‘face validity’ (e.g., Schmidt, Greenthal, Hunter, Berner & Seaton, 1977), the idea that tests should at least appear to be job-related to applicants. However, a deeper understanding of job applicants’ opinions of selection procedures and the effects of their attitudes and behaviours towards employers and themselves were given little consideration, and certainly no systematic examination in the industrial-organizational (I-O) literature.

In some of the earliest research on applicant reactions, Gilliland (1993) argues that the study of applicant reactions should be an important aspect of research and practice for three reasons. The first is that, for business reasons, organizations should care about how applicants perceive the hiring process. Their perceptions can impact whether individuals recommend the organization to others, as well as their attitudes towards recommending or purchasing the organization’s products. Gilliland’s second reason is that applicant perceptions of the hiring process may have legal ramifications for organizations. Individuals who perceive the process to be unfair may ultimately pursue litigation. Finally, Gilliland argues that, for ethical reasons, we should care about applicant reactions. It is important to understand how the hiring processes that are developed and implemented impact individuals both positively and negatively.

In recent years this landscape has changed considerably, with an increased focus on job applicants’ perceptions of the hiring procedures used by companies and the treatment of applicants during the selection process. With this has come the recognition that these perceptions on the part of applicants can affect a number of outcomes that organizations care about, from intentions to purchase products from the hiring organization (e.g., Macan,

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.

Avedon, Paese & Smith, 1994) to whether applicants decide to accept job offers (e.g., Harold, Holtz, Griepentrog, Brewer & Marsh, 2015). This recognition of the field of ‘applicant reactions’ has been accelerated by changes in the ways that hiring procedures are now be deployed in organizations, specifically, the use of technological solutions in selection that speed up the process and can even be used as a messaging tool for organizations.

The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the field of applicant reactions in terms of both where the field is now and where it might go next. We begin by discussing the theoretical models that have shaped this field. Next, we briefly discuss which selection procedures applicants prefer, followed by a description of the antecedents and outcomes of job applicant reactions to selection. We conclude with a discussion of new research avenues that appear to be emerging in this field.

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