Reactions of internal candidates for promotion
Perhaps one of the greatest missed opportunities in the field of applicant reactions is the issue of internal candidates. Although relatively little research has examined this area, there are three reasons that it may be a particularly fruitful avenue for research. First, although external job applicants typically do not become organizational members (except for the few that are hired), internal applicants for promotion remain with an organization. That is, they are ‘rejected but still there’ (Ford, Truxillo & Bauer, 2009). That is, internal candidates remain as organizational members, with potentially negative effects on outcomes such as job attitude and performance. In other words, while the research has generally not found that selection procedures used with external candidates affect their job attitudes and behaviours once they are hired, this has received little scrutiny in promotional contexts, where job attitudes and behaviours are more proximal to the selection processes. Second, because internal candidates experience social consequences if they are not promoted when they face their co-workers (Ford, Truxillo & Bauer, 2009), arguably they may face greater consequences than external candidates who can simply move on. Third, because of these high stakes in the promotional context - internal candidate have some investment in the organization and their membership of it - the effects of applicant reactions on various outcomes are likely to be amplified.
The few studies that have examined the effects of candidate reactions to promotions suggest that this is a promising area. First, fairness perceptions of promotional procedures do appear to affect important outcomes and last over time. Using a sample of academics up for tenure and promotion, Ambrose and Cropanzano (2003) found that fairness perceptions associated with the process were related to job satisfaction, organizational commitment and turnover intentions. Not surprisingly, and consistent with the demonstrated importance of outcome fairness in applicant reactions (Ryan & Ployhart, 2000), they found that the effects of the distributive justice of the promotion decision lasted over time. Second, applicant reactions appear to be amplified in the promotion context compared to the external hiring process. Truxillo and Bauer (1999) used three samples of police applicants (two external samples; one internal sample of promotional candidates) to examine applicant reactions to test score banding (Sackett & Wilk, 1994). They found that the belief that banding is associated with affirmative action interacted with race to affect applicant reactions. However, these effects in the promotional sample were approximately double those found among external candidates.
Although there have been frequent calls to examine applicant reactions to promotions, the empirical studies have been relatively scant (for exceptions see Garcia-Izquierdo,
Moscoso & Ramos-Villagrasa, 2012; Giumetti & Sinar, 2012; McCarthy et al., 2009). However, we think that reactions to promotional decisions continue to beg further studies because of the potentially larger effect sizes, broader range of outcomes (e.g., performance, well-being, job attitudes) likely to be affected and more direct impact on the organization (due to disaffected applicants staying with the employer) compared to external selection.