What Attracts Applicants Throughout the Recruiting Process?

Topic(s): recruiting

Topic: Recruiting, Human Resources

Publication: Personnel Psychology (AUTUMN 2012)

Article: Recruiting through the stages: A meta-analytic test of predictors of applicant attraction at different stages of the recruiting process

Authors: K. L. Uggerslev, N. E., Fassina, and D. Kraichy

Reviewed By: Megan Leasher

In the competition for true talent, I often picture companies as robots donned in red or blue plastic, battling in a yellow ring to conquer and win the best of the best candidates.  But my retro devotion to Rock’em Sock’em robots always reminds me that someone is controlling the levers.  The moves of the Blue Bomber and the Red Rocker are really being choreographed by each company’s recruiters.  Recruiters launch the battle, and candidates’ perceptions of the organization and its corresponding brand image must be considered throughout the process.  If recruiters and organizations know what will keep applicants interested and continuing through the process, they have a better chance at getting the best talent on board.  But what sorts of things matter to candidates?  And do these things change as a function of the stage of the process?

That is exactly what the authors wanted to learn.  They conducted a large-scale research study that analyzed the results across 232 studies investigating applicant reaction in recruiting.  They looked at all phases of recruitment, including early stages in which applicants are generated, middle stages in which candidates are going through the hiring process but have not yet received an offer, and the final stage, in which candidates are presented a job offer and must make a final decision.  They also investigated a number of characteristics that can impact applicant attraction, including characteristics of the job itself, characteristics of the organization, behaviors of recruiters, candidates’ perceptions of the steps in the hiring process, perceived fit with both the organization and the job, and others.  Their ultimate goal was applause-worthy from a practical perspective: if they could isolate at which stage(s) each aspect of recruiting predicted applicant attraction most strongly, they can then advise organizations how to best build their hiring processes and allocate budgets to recruit the best candidates.

This study yielded a number of findings, three of which I choose to explore.  First, the extent to which a candidate perceives that they “fit” with the organization and the job was found to be the strongest predictor of applicant attraction across all stages of recruitment.  Organizations should actively work to cultivate perceptions of fit in talented candidates.  A successful company should work to creatively tailor their hiring processes and/or provide feedback to strong candidates to demonstrate that they will be a good fit with their values, goals, and ideals.  Instilling these sentiments both early on and throughout the hiring process is critical for retaining and eventually securing the best talent.

Second, recruiter behaviors (e.g. competence, personableness) were strong predictors of applicant attraction in the earlier parts of the process.  This is likely before candidates have learned much about the job and/or organization.  As the “face” of the organization in early stages, applicants make significant judgments based on how recruiters act, and these judgments will make them decide whether or not to proceed in the process.  As such, it is in an organization’s best interest to allocate time and resources to bringing on personable, knowledgeable recruiters who can quickly connect with candidates.  One bad recruiter has the power to leave a bad impression and turn away oodles of talent.

Lastly, organizational characteristics (e.g. work environment, image, size) were also strong predictors of applicant attraction, having a greater influence in the middle of the process.  Once candidates are moving through the process and have started to gain knowledge about the company, this information matters much more than how recruiters act.  It is interesting to note that job characteristics did not have as large of an impact.  With so much lateral movement and internal promotions happening within organizations these days, an individual is likely to change jobs within an organization, thus placing a greater importance on overall organizational fit.

Recruitment often falls at the intersection of art and science; levers are pressed with calculated, precise movements that launch a choreography of performances.  This research helps us better understand this intersection and how we should allocate resources accordingly.

Uggerslev, K. L., Fassina, N. E., & Kraichy, D. (2012).  Recruiting through the stages: A meta-analytic test of predictors of applicant attraction at different stages of the recruiting process.  Personnel Psychology, 65, 597-660.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management



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