Other theoretical approaches
In addition to Gilliland’s (1993) model of applicant reactions, there are several other theoretical approaches used in this literature. Although these theories have received far less attention in terms of empirical research and support, they are still of value in the applicant reactions field and may prove useful as research and knowledge continue to develop in this area.
Social validity theory Schuler’s (1993) social validity theory strongly emphasizes the applicant’s perspective of the selection procedures and the extent to which they perceive they have been treated with dignity and respect. According to Schuler, social validity consists of four dimensions: informativeness - whether applicants are provided with meaningful and useful information; participation - whether applicants feel that they have sufficiently been a part of the process and to show their abilities; transparency - whether it is clear what procedures are being used and how; and feedback - whether applicants are given adequate feedback, even if they do not receive a job offer.
Interestingly, Anderson, Salgado and Hulsheger (2010) note that while much of the applicant reactions research in the United States has been grounded in Gilliland’s model, most of the applicant reactions research in Europe has been grounded in Schuler’s social validity theory. While there are different preferences for theories in the US versus Europe, when both Gilliland’s and Schuler’s models are compared, there is significant similarity between the aspects of social validity and Gilliland’s procedural justice rules, suggesting that these theories function similarly in providing a basis for applicant reactions research.
Arvey and Sackett’s model Another influential model of applicant reactions was developed by Arvey and Sackett (1993). Although this model does not have a single unifying theoretical approach, in their model the fairness perceptions of applicants and the organization and its decision makers are considered. Overall, this model is similar to Gilliland’s and conceptualizes multiple sources of antecedents of fairness. In their consideration of the organization and its decision makers, Arvey and Sackett include characteristics of selection tests and organizational context as contributing to fairness. As previously mentioned, most of the applicant reactions in the US has foundations in Gilliland’s model, most likely because of its strong theoretical basis. However, it is important to note that there are still some studies that use Arvey and Sackett as their basis (e.g., Madigan & Macan, 2005; Nicolaou & Judge, 2007; Viswesvaran & Ones, 2004).
Fairness theory A third alternative to Gilliland’s model is Folger and Cropanzano’s fairness theory (2001). According to their theory, applicants’ reactions are impacted by their interpretation of the situation based on three counterfactuals about the situation: could, would and should. Applicants ask themselves questions such as: Should the organization have provided more feedback? There are two types of explanations that are used when answering counterfactuals: excuses and justifications. Excuses are used to reduce could counterfactuals and justifications are used to reduce should counterfactuals. Overall, research shows that excuses tend to be more effective than justifications (Shaw, Wild & Colquitt, 2003), although a meta-analysis of these explanations, specifically in the context of applicant reactions research, did not find that one type of explanation was more effective than the others (Truxillo, Bodner, Bertolino, Bauer & Yonce, 2009).
Applicant Attribution-Reaction theory Ployhart and Harold’s (2004) Applicant Attribution-Reaction theory (AART) postulates that individuals make attributions about the hiring process that result in applicant reaction outcomes such as fairness, motivation and test perceptions. Attributions made can be about the individual’s behaviour or the behaviour of someone else (e.g., the hiring organization). Ployhart and Harold argue that these attributions are automatic and tend to occur immediately following the event. Attributions are formed when individuals compare their situation to their expectations, which Ployhart and Harold purport are shaped by the justice rules proposed by Gilliland. Although justice rules do play a part in AART, what distinguishes it from Gilliland’s model is that it largely focuses on applicants’ attributions largely driving applicant reactions (although justice rules do play a role in this process). Some research (Ployhart & Ryan, 1997) has established the usefulness of the attribution approach to applicant reactions, but AART has not ‘grown legs’ compared to other applicant reactions approaches, perhaps because of the complexity of measuring applicants’ varied attributions about selection procedures.
Summary of other theoretical approaches In large part these other theoretical approaches to applicant reactions research are similar to Gilliland’s (1993) model. These approaches all involve fairness of the selection procedure in one way or another. They differ, however, in terms of what determines the fairness perceptions for applicants (e.g., attributions vs. actual characteristics of selection procedures), how these fairness perceptions relate to outcomes for individuals and organizations, and their depth of theoretical underpinnings. Additionally, Gilliland’s model is more comprehensive and includes a wide variety of antecedents and outcomes that should be related to applicant perceptions of the hiring process, making his model very attractive to researchers in this field. Ultimately, what may drive choice for certain theories over others for research in this field may be individual preference. For example, as previously mentioned, there is a strong preference for social validity theory in Europe, whereas researchers in the US have tended to prefer Gilliland’s model (Anderson, Salgado & Hulsheger, 2010).