Job candidates want the chance to perform

The last thing companies want after a big recruitment drive is to leave a trail of unsuccessful applicants bearing a grudge. The key to avoiding this is for employers to ensure failed applicants believe they were given ample opportunity to perform. That’s according to Deidra Schleicher and colleagues at Purdue University, who say this is even more important than making sure the recruitment process appears relevant to the job.

The researchers asked hundreds of job applicants to a US government agency how relevant they felt the recruitment process was; how well they were treated; and how much they’d been given the opportunity to perform (as judged by their agreement with statements like “I felt that I could show my skills and abilities through this test”). Feeling they’d had the opportunity to perform was important to all applicants, but among those who were unsuccessful, it was the single strongest predictor of how fair they judged the whole selection process to be.

So, what causes an applicant to feel they haven’t been given a fair chance to perform? Reasons offered by participants in this study included feeling the instructions were unclear; not having enough time to complete tasks; and having too many distractions around. These issues should be easy enough for recruiters to deal with. More problematic could be the finding that what works best for selection (e.g. structured interviews), doesn’t necessarily match what applicants feel gives them the fairest chance to perform (they preferred open-ended interviews).

Schleicher, D.J., Venkataramani, V., Morgeson, F.P. & Campion, M.A. (2006). So you didn’t get the job…Now what do you think? Examining opportunity-to-perform fairness perceptions. Personnel Psychology, 59, 590.
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