Recruitment is a three phase process.

Recruitment consists of practices and activities carried on by the organization with the primary purpose of identifying and attracting potential employees. There are 3 phases to recruitment: applicant generation, maintaining applicant status, and applicant job choice/decision. Therefore, when developing a recruiting plan, it is important to take into account each portion of this cycle.

Pre-Planning
Before beginning the recruitment cycle, it is important to plan. More specifically, it is imperative to determine the future human resources needs of the organization. After determining these needs, the number of open positions should be outlined to include a job description. When outlining the number of open positions it is a good idea to estimate how many applicants you would like for each position and review your current workforce. There may be a current employee that would fit the new opening. Additionally, by looking at the current employees, any workforce diversity issues can be identified and addressed.

Now that the positions, job descriptions, and workforce analyses have taken place, time estimates for the recruitment process should be made. These estimates should be based on past recruitment cycles as well as applicant interest in the organization and the internal availability of talent. Costs for the recruitment cycle can also be assessed using yield-invite-interview-offer-hire ratios from the past as well as the time between each stage of the applicant process. Finally, the cost of the process needs to be included as well. Such fees as recruitment agency fees, testing, overhead, etc. all affect the bottom line of a recruitment effort.

The final step in the planning phase is to decide which aspects of the organization to highlight in the recruitment process. Is it that the organization is moving toward green production, the benefits available to employees, or the location of the organization that will attract the ideal candidate?

Each of these planning steps is crucial to a successful and well-run recruitment cycle. The remainder of this article will discuss each of the three phases of the recruitment process.

Phase 1: Applicant Generation
After completing the planning phase it is time to recruit for the position. This phase begins with deciding on the applicants to target in your search. More specifically, what type of applicant would you like to attract to your organization’s open positions (e.g., entry-level, experienced)? When you have decided the type of applicant you are targeting you will be ready to decide what recruitment sources will best meet your needs. For example, if you are seeking a web developer, you may want to post your position in web development circles rather than posting on a regular Internet job board. Or if you are seeking an experienced RN you may want to post in RN trade journals rather than recruiting at a local college where you are more likely to find entry-level RNs.

Once applicants have begun to apply to the open position recruiters are then able to start providing basic information. This information will include information about the organization, basic information on the job position, and describe the application process. It is also a good time for the organization to learn more about the candidate’s interest in the organization and the position. It is important to provide carefully packaged information to the applicants because little to known about how they decide to either pursue the opportunity further after this initial information session or remove themselves from the process. The second phase of the recruitment process focuses on the applicants who choose to remain the application process.

Phase 2: Maintaining Applicant Status
During the second phase of recruitment (maintaining applicant status) the organization is primarily concerned with maintaining the applicants’ interest in the job and the organization so that the applicant will accept the job offer in Phase 3. The applicant’s focus is to narrow down the potential employers and gather more information on the organization and position so that they can make an informed decision when job offers are made. Given the goals of both the company and applicant, the initial recruiter-applicant contact is important. First impressions revolve around the recruiter judging the applicant and the applicant’s reaction to the recruiter’s affect and behaviors.

Step 1: Initial Screening Interview
In this initial screening interview, recruiters try to get information about the applicant and also provide information about the organization. Similarly, applicants try to give information about their qualifications and gather information on the organization. As you can see here, the goals of the applicant and recruiter are similar in this initial interview. How the recruiter acts in this stage is important. Because the applicant has very little information at this point, they may use the recruiter’s traits and behavior to signal their chances of employment. Research shows that recruiters can bias the applicant’s inferences about the likelihood of being offered the job and their inferences about the organizational and job characteristics. Based on this research, recruiters who are warm lead the applicant to think they have a better chance at the job. Another hypothesis that has not shown much support is that the recruiter’s demographics may affect applicant responses.

During the interview process, there are three important issues to take into account: interview focus, structure, and content. The focus of the interview can either be recruitment or selection. There is no clear evidence saying which focus is better yet. Concerning interview structure, some researchers have found that a highly structured interview is associated with higher probability of accepting an offer, but other research hasn’t found any relationship. Finally, the content of the interview should include general qualifications, specific knowledge, and general mobility.

Several gaps (research and otherwise) exist in this step of recruitment. First, there really isn’t any research on the perspective of the recruiter on this initial interview. Additionally, recruiters rarely get much training, which should be remedied in the future.

Step 2: Recruitment/Attraction after Initial Interview
Activities such as site visits, further selection procedures, and administrative procedures all take place after the initial screening interview. As you might guess each of these additional processes take both time and energy for the applicant. Therefore, applicants often remove themselves from the process after the initial interview. There are several reasons this may occur. First, they may have obtained information about the job or organization that they did not like. Second, they may be anticipating rejections so they do not want to pursue to opportunity further.

For those applicants that do stick with the process, they usually go on a site visit. Research shows that applicants typically reject offers based in part on their site visit perhaps due to the demographic make-up of the organization. More research is needed, however, to determine why acceptance rates go down when a site visit has occurred. In addition to declining an offer based on a site visit, there is also evidence that as the time between initial screening and offer increases, the chance that the applicant will decline the offer also increases. Finally, another source of applicant dropout or declining offers is that the applicants may feel that the selection procedures are too invasive and don’t allow them to control their personal information or they may see the process as unjust.

Recruiters have to make some decisions in how to present information to the applicants who choose to move forward. During the interviews, site visits, and other conversations that occur after the initial screening, the recruiter has to decide how to sell the job and the organization to the applicant. Some recruiters choose to use a realistic job preview in order to create realistic expectations of the job and organization. Research has found that these has a positive impact on attraction to the company, but only if there isn’t a viable alternative available.

Phase 3: Influencing Job Choice
This is the final stage of recruitment where offers are accepted or rejected. There are three theories of how the job choice is made: objective, subjective, and critical contact. Each of these models is correct to a point. Applicants use objective factors such as job attributes to help make their decision. Typically the job attributes are evaluated jointly rather than separately because it is too complex to evaluate each aspect of the position separately. Using subjective factors, applicants evaluate the fit of the job. Applicant perceptions of P-O fit do in fact significantly predict their job choice intentions. Finally, the critical content perspective says that recruitment influences job choice because it is the only thing the applicant has available on which to base their judgment.

The process of making the job choice focuses on how the information (subjective, objective, and critical content) is used in the decision. The most popular way to look at the process is using expected value models such as expectancy theory, decision theory, etc. The expectancy theory requires the applicant to assess the attractiveness of each job attribute as well as their motivation to exert the effort necessary to achieve the outcome. This model has been quite successful in predicting job choice of the applicants, but it also assumes that job choice is a rational process, which it may not be. According to Soelberg’s Generalizable Decision Processing we have limited rationality and job choice is actually made based on satisficing strategies. Job choice may also be compensatory or non-compensatory so that one bad characteristic may be able to out-weigh a good characteristic and vice versa. Finally, research hasn’t really addressed whether applicants wait for multiple offers to come in before making a decision or if they deal with the offers as they come in. Simultaneous decision-making may result in higher initial commitment and more objective decision-making.

Conclusion
There is still a lot that we don’t know about recruitment such as how people make decisions, what affects their willingness to complete the selection process, and what exactly influences their experience on a site visit. Further research, therefore, should focus on these areas.