Why Successful Recruiters Need Fairness

Topic(s): fairness, organizational justice, recruiting, selection
Publication: Personnel Psychology 2016
Article: Investigating the Effects of Applicant Justice Perceptions on Job Offer Acceptance
Authors: C.M. Harold, B.C. Holtz, B.K. Griepentrog, L.M. Brewer, S.M. Marsh
Reviewed by: Ashlyn Patterson

Ensuring your organization has the right people in the right roles is important, and this outcome is largely affected by the recruitment process. Recruiters spend a long time sifting through job applicants before they decide whom they want to hire. Unfortunately, applicants don’t always accept their offers. What factors make a job applicant more likely to accept (or reject) a job offer? To find out, new research (Harold, Holtz, Griepentrog, Brewer, & Marsh, 2016) studied roughly 3,000 job applicants who had all been given offers to join the US Military.


There are many factors that may influence someone’s decision to accept a job offer. The researchers focused specifically on the role of justice (or fairness). Fair treatment during the recruitment process is important because it conveys information about that organization. Perceptions of fairness indicate the organization values people. In contrast, perceptions of unfairness can lead to resentment or concern about general mistreatment in the organization.

Two types of fairness are especially important in the recruitment process: procedural justice and interpersonal justice. Procedural justice focuses on perceptions of fairness regarding the recruitment process (e.g., it was conducted in a timely manner). Interpersonal justice focuses on perceptions of fairness regarding the recruiter’s behavior (e.g., respectful, willing to help, explained the procedures fully).


The researchers investigated how procedural and interpersonal justice were able to predict whether or not a job offer was accepted. They found that job applicants who experienced a fair recruiting process (i.e., procedural justice) were more likely to accept their job offers than those who experienced an unfair recruiting process. The researchers also found that when applicants interacted with an unfair or disrespectful recruiter (i.e., lack of interpersonal injustice) they were less likely to accept their job offer.

Other factors the researchers found that improved the likelihood of job offer acceptance in the US military were: a strong person-organization fit, younger age, being male (rather than female), and having higher cognitive ability. However, even when all of these other factors are taken into consideration, perceived unfairness is still a strong factor in predicting whether or not a job offer is accepted.


It is important for organizations to understanding which factors influence an applicant’s decision to accept a job offer. Recruiters don’t want to spend time putting applicants through screening procedures, interviews, and record checks, just to have applicants turn down their job offers. Based on the research findings, it is clear that a fair recruitment process and honest treatment of applicants can improve the likelihood that applicants will accept their job offers.

The researchers also recommend that all recruitment procedures appear to be job relevant and be consistent across applicants. Also, the recruitment process should be clearly explained to applicants, and applicants should feel like they have been given the opportunity to demonstrate why they should be hired. Maintaining high levels of fairness throughout the recruitment process is an important step in giving your organization the best chance of recruiting top talent.


Harold, C.M., Holtz, B.C., Griepentrog, B.K., Brewer, L.M. & Marsh, S.M. (2016). Investigating the effects of applicant justice perceptions on job offer acceptance. Personnel Psychology, 69, 199-227.