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Which selection procedures do applicants prefer?

One question that often arises when discussing the topic of applicant reactions is: which selection procedures do applicants prefer? Given that we know that applicant reactions largely derive from the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) of justice rules, it is easy to see how some types of selection procedures would be more likely to satisfy these rules and thus be preferable to applicants. This was the basis of many studies that have examined applicant preferences for different selection procedures and across many cultural contexts, starting with a study by Steiner and Gilliland (1996), which compared US and French students’ preferences for different selection procedures. Since then, applicant reactions have been studied with a variety of samples from different countries, including Italy (e.g., Bertolino & Steiner, 2007), Vietnam (e.g., Hoang, Truxillo, Erdogan & Bauer, 2012), South Africa (e.g., De Jong & Visser, 2000), Singapore (e.g., Phillips & Gully, 2002), Germany (e.g., Marcus, 2003) and Greece (e.g., Nikolaou & Judge, 2007), to name a few.

This issue of which procedures are preferred by applicants was one of the questions that Hausknecht and colleagues (2004) addressed in their meta-analysis. In their study, there were 12 samples that asked individuals to rate the favourability (job-relatedness or fairness) of a variety of selection procedures. Rated most favourably were interviews, work samples, resumes and references. Individuals rated cognitive ability testing, personality testing and biodata as moderately favourable. Personal contacts, honesty tests and graphology were rated as the least favourable selection procedures.

In an effort to update this meta-analysis and determine whether there are cross-cultural differences in preferences, Anderson, Salgado and Hulsheger (2010) conducted a metaanalysis of 38 samples from 17 countries. Additionally, they measured preferences according to eight dimensions relating to Gilliland’s justice rules: overall favourability, scientific evidence, employers’ right to use, opportunity to perform, interpersonal warmth, face validity, widely used, and respectful of privacy. Overall, the results showed that preferences for selection procedures were similar to those Hausknecht and colleagues found. The most preferred methods were work samples and resumes. Favourably evaluated were cognitive ability tests, references and personality tests. The least preferred were honesty tests, personal contacts and graphology. Moreover, there were no differences across countries in these preferences.

Overall, these findings are somewhat reassuring in that applicants tend to prefer the valid selection procedures. Unfortunately, though, organizations are not always able to use the most preferred procedures in the selection process. This could be for reasons such as cost, validity and other practical constraints such as time. For example, an organization would not realistically be able to interview everyone in a pool of 2,000 applicants. Thus, organizations and HR professionals may want to consider ways to make some of the less preferable methods more favourably evaluated by applicants, for example, providing explanations about the selection procedures - an issue we discuss below.

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