Selection Practices

The objective of effectiveness selection is to match individual characteristics (ability, experience, and so on) with the requirements of the job. When management fails to get proper match both employee performance and satisfaction suffer.

How the Selection Process Works?

Having decided to apply for a job, applicants go through several stages during which they can be rejected at any time. In practice, some organizations forego some of these steps in the interests of time. A meat packing plant may hire someone who walks in the door (there is long line of people who want to thread a pig’s intestines for a living). But most organizations follow a process that looks something like this. Let us go to a bit more detail for each of the stages.

Initial Selection:

Initial selection devices are the first information applicants submit and are used for preliminary rough cuts to decide whether an applicant meets the basic qualifications for a job. Application forms (including letters of recommendation) are initial selection devices. We list background checks as either an initial selection device or a contingent selection device, depending on how the organization does it. Some organization does it. Some organizations prefer to check into an applicant’s background right away. Others wait until the applicant is about ready to be hired, contingent on everything checking out.

Application Forms:

You have no doubt submitted your fair share of applications. By itself, the information submitted on an application form is not a very useful predictor of performance. However, it can be a good initial screen. For example, there is no sense in spending time interviewing an applicant for a registered nurse position if he or she doesn’t have the proper credentials (education, certification, experience). More and more organizations encourage application to submit an application online. It takes only a few minutes, and the form can be forwarded to the people responsible for making the hiring decision. For example, Starbucks ( has a career center page, where you can search for available positions by location or job type and then apply online.

It is important that organizations be careful about the questions they ask on applications. It’s pretty obvious that questions about race, gender, and nationality are disallowed. However, it might surprise you to learn that other questions also put companies in legal jeopardy. For example, it is generally not permissible to ask about prior arrest records or even convictions unless the answer is job related.

Background Checks:

More than 80 percent of employers conduct reference checks on its applicants at some point in the hiring process. The reason is obvious: They want to know how an applicant did in past jobs and whether former employers would recommend hiring the person. The problem is that rarely do former employers provide useful information. In fact, nearly two thirds of employers refuse to provide detailed reference information on applicants. Why? They are afraid of being sued for saying something bad about a former employee. Although this concern is often unfounded (employers are safe as long as they stick to documented facts), in our litigious society most employers play it safe. The result is a paradox: Most employers want reference information, but few will give it out.

Letters of recommendation are another form of background check. These also are not as useful as they may seem. Applicants self select those who will write good letters, so almost all letters of recommendation are positive. In the end, readers of such letters ether ignore them altogether or read between the lines to try to find hidden meaning there.

Finally, some employers do background checks on credit history or on criminal records. A bank hiring tellers, for example, would probably want to know about an applicant’s criminal and credit histories. Because of the invasive nature of such checks, employers need to be sure there is a need for them. However, not checking can carry a legal cost. Manor Park Nursing Home in Texas failed to do a criminal background check of an employee who later sexually assaulted a resident of the nursing home. The jury awarded the plaintiff $1.1 million concluding that the nursing home was negligent or failing to conduct a background check.