Attracting an Effective Workforce

The first goal of HRM is to attract individuals who show signs of becoming valued, pro- ductive, and satisfied employees. The first step in attracting an effective workforce involves HR planning, in which managers or HRM professionals predict the need for new employ- ees based on the  types of vacancies that exist, as illustrated in Exhibit 9.4. The second step is to use recruiting  procedures to communicate with potential applicants. The third step is to select from the applicants those persons believed to be the best potential contributors  to the organization. Finally, the new employee is welcomed into the organization.

Underlying the organization’s effort to attract employees is a matching  model. With the matching model, the organization and the individual attempt to match the needs, inter- ests, and values that they offer each other.41 HRM  professionals attempt to identify a correct match. For example, a small  software  developer might require long hours from creative, technically skilled employees. In return, it can offer freedom from bureaucracy, tolerance of idiosyncrasies,  and potentially high pay. A  large manufacturer can offer employment security and stability, but it might  have more rules and regulations and require greater skills for “getting approval from the higher-ups.” The individual who would thrive working for the software developer might feel stymied and unhappy working  for a large manufacturer. Both the company and the employee are interested in finding a good match.

A new approach, called job sculpting, attempts to match people to jobs that enable them to fulfill deeply embedded life interests.42  This matching effort often requires that HR man- agers play detective to find out what really makes a person happy. The idea is that people can fulfill deep-seated needs and interests on the job, which will induce them to stay with the organization.


Human resource planning  is the forecasting of HR needs and the projected matching of individuals with expected vacancies. HR planning begins with several questions:

  • What new technologies are emerging, and how will these affect the work system?
  • What is the volume of the business likely to be in the next 5 to 10 years?
  • What is the turnover rate, and how much, if any, is avoidable?

The responses to these questions are used to formulate specific questions pertaining to HR activities, such as the following:

  • How many senior managers will we need during this time period?
  • What types of engineers will we need, and how many?
  • Are persons with adequate computer skills available for meeting our projected needs?
  • How many administrative personnel—technicians, IT specialists—will we need to sup- port the additional managers and engineers?
  • Can we use temporary, contingent, or virtual workers to handle some tasks?43

Answers to these questions help define the direction  for the organization’s HRM strat- egy. For example, if forecasting  suggests a strong  upcoming  need for more technically trained individuals, the organization  can (1) define the jobs and skills needed in some detail, (2) hire and train recruiters to look for the specified skills, and (3) provide new train- ing for existing employees. By anticipating future HR needs, the organization can prepare itself to meet competitive challenges more effectively than organizations  that react to prob- lems only  as they arise.


Recruiting is defined as  “activities or practices  that define the characteristics of applicants to whom selection procedures are ultimately applied.”44 Today, recruiting is sometimes referred to as talent  acquisition  to reflect the importance of the human factor in the organization’s success.45     Although  we frequently think  of  campus recruiting as a typical recruiting activity, many organiza- tions use internal  recruiting,  or promote-from-within poli- cies, to fill their high-level positions.46 At oil field services company Schlumberger,  Ltd.,  for  example, current employees are given preference when  a position  opens. Eighty percent of top managers have been moved up the ranks based  on the promote-from-within philosophy; many of them started fresh out of school  as field engi- neers.47   Internal recruiting  has several advantages: It is less costly than  an external  search, and it generates higher employee  commitment, development,  and satisfaction because it offers opportunities for career advancement to employees rather than outsiders.

Frequently,  however, external recruiting—recruiting newcomers from outside the organization—is  advanta- geous. Applicants are available through  a variety of out- side sources,  including advertising,  state employment services, online recruiting services, private employment agencies (headhunters), job fairs, and employee referrals.

Assessing Organizational Needs. An important step in recruiting is to get a clear picture of what kinds of people the organization   needs. Basic building blocks of HRM include job analysis, job descriptions, and job specifications. Job analysis is a systematic  process of gathering and interpreting information about the essential duties, tasks, and responsibilities  of a job, as well  as about the context within which the job is performed.48   To perform job analysis, managers or specialists ask about work activities and work flow, the degree of supervision given and re- ceived in the job, knowledge and skills needed, performance standards, working  conditions, and so forth. The manager then prepares  a written job description, which is a clear and concise summary of the specific tasks, duties, and responsibilities,  and job specification, which outlines the knowledge, skills, education, physical abilities, and other characteristics needed to adequately perform the job.

Job analysis helps organizations  recruit the right kind of people and match them to appropriate jobs. For example, to enhance internal recruiting, Sara Lee Corporation identi- fied 6 functional areas and 24 significant skills that it wants its finance executives to develop, as illustrated  in Exhibit 9.5. Managers are tracked on their development and moved into other positions to help them acquire  the needed  skills.49 New software  programs  and Web-based, on-demand subscription services are aiding today’s companies in more efficiently and effectively recruiting and matching the right candidates with the right jobs.

Realistic Job Previews. Job analysis also helps enhance recruiting effectiveness by enabling the creation of realistic job previews. A realistic job preview (RJP) gives applicants all pertinent and realistic information—positive  and negative—about the job and the organization.50  RJPs enhance employee satisfaction and reduce turnover  because they facilitate matching individuals, jobs, and organizations. Individuals have a better  basis on which to determine their suitability to the organization and “self-select” into or out of positions  based on full information.

Legal Considerations. Organizations must ensure that their recruiting prac- tices conform to the law. As discussed earlier in this chapter, EEO laws stipulate that re- cruiting and hiring decisions cannot discriminate  on the basis of race, national origin,  reli- gion, or gender. The Americans with Disabilities Act underscored the need for well-written job descriptions and specifications that accurately reflect the mental and physical dimen- sions of jobs, so that people with disabilities will not be discriminated  against. Affirmative action refers to the use of goals, timetables, or other methods in recruiting to promote the hiring, development, and retention of protected groups—persons  historically underrepre- sented in the workplace. For example,  a city might establish a goal of recruiting one black firefighter for every white firefighter  until the proportion of black firefighters is commen- surate with the black population in the community.

Most large companies try to comply with affirmative action and EEO guidelines. Pru- dential Insurance Company’s policy is presented in Exhibit 9.6. Prudential actively recruits employees and takes affirmative  action steps to recruit individuals from all walks of life.

E-cruiting. One of the fastest-growing approaches to recruiting is use of the Internet for recruiting, or e-cruiting.51   Recruiting job applicants online dramatically extends the or- ganization’s recruiting reach, offering access to a wider pool of applicants and saving time and money. Besides posting job openings on company websites, many organizations  use commercial recruiting sites such as, where job seekers can post their  résumés, and companies can search for qualified applicants. In addition, as competition for high- quality employees heats up, new online companies, such as Jobster and JobThread, emerge to help companies search for “passive candidates,” people who aren’t looking for jobs but might be the best fit for a company’s  opening. Expedia  calls it “anti-inbox recruiting.” Instead of waiting until it has job openings, it uses Jobster  to build up a ready supply  of passive prospects who have the skills and experience the company  might need.52

Companies  as diverse as Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu,  Cisco Systems, and Atkinsson Congregational Church use the Web  for recruiting.  Organizations  have not given up their traditional recruiting strategies, but the Internet gives HR managers new tools for searching the world to find the best available talent.

Other Recent Approaches to Recruiting. Organizations  are finding other ways to enhance their recruiting success. One highly effective approach is getting referrals from current employees. A company’s employees often know of someone who would be qualified for a position  and fit in with the organization’s culture. Many organiza- tions offer cash awards to employees who submit names of people who subsequently accept employment because referral  by current  employees is one of the cheapest and most reliable methods of external recruiting.53 NewsMarket,   a New York-city based company  that distributes broadcast-standard video clips over the Internet, shelled out $10,000 in cash awards to employees who referred candidates in 2005. Referrals generate about 40 percent of the new hires at NewsMarket.54 At many of today’s top companies, managers emphasize that recruiting is part of everyone’s job.

Having employees  assist with recruiting has the added bonus  of providing potential candidates  with a realistic   job preview.  At the Container Store, employees  share  with customers what it’s like to work for the company. They want people to know the positive and potentially negative aspects of the job because it’s important to get people who will fit in.

Some companies turn to nontraditional sources to find dedicated employees, particu- larly in a tight labor market. For example, when Walker Harris couldn’t find workers for his ice company on the west side of Chicago, Harris Ice, he began hiring former prison inmates, many of whom have turned out to be reliable, loyal employees.55  Manufacturer Dee Zee, which makes aluminum  truck accessories in a factory  in Des Moines, Iowa, found a source  of hard-working employees among refugees from Bosnia, Vietnam, and Kosovo.56   Since 1998, Bank of America  has hired and trained more than 3,000 former welfare recipients in positions that offer the potential for promotions and long-term careers. Numerous companies recruit older workers, who typically have lower turnover rates, espe- cially for part-time jobs. The Home Depot offers “snowbird specials”—winter work in Florida and summers in Maine. Border’s Bookstores entices retired teachers with book discounts and reading and discussion groups.57  Recruiting  on a global  basis is on the rise, as well. Public schools are recruiting   teachers from overseas. High-tech companies  are looking for qualified workers in foreign countries because they cannot  find people with the right skills in the United States.58


The next step for managers is to select desired  employees  from the pool of recruited applicants. In the selection  process, employers   assess applicants’ characteristics in an attempt to determine the “fit” between the job and applicant characteristics. Several selection  devices are used for assessing applicant qualifications. The most frequently   used are the application form, interview, employment test, and assessment center. Studies indicate that the greater the skill requirements and work demands of an open position, the greater the number and variety of selection tools the organization will use.59  HR professionals may use a combination  of devices to obtain a valid prediction  of employee job performance. Validity refers to the relationship between a person’s score on a selection device and that person’s future job performance.  A valid selection procedure will provide high scores that correspond to subsequent high job performance. One way to determine fit is to look at your customer base.


The application form is used to collect information about the applicant’s education, previous job experience, and other background  characteristics. Research in the life insurance industry shows that biographical information inventories  can validly predict future job success.60

One pitfall to be avoided is the inclusion of questions that are irrelevant to job success. In line with affirmative action, the application form should not ask questions that will cre- ate an adverse impact  on protected groups unless the questions are clearly related to the job.61  For example, employers should not ask whether  the applicant  rents or owns his or her own  home because (1) an applicant’s response might adversely affect his or her chances at the job, (2) minorities and women  may be less likely  to own a home, and (3) home owner- ship is probably unrelated to job performance. By contrast, the CPA exam is relevant to job performance in a CPA firm; thus, it is appropriate to ask whether  an applicant  for employ- ment  has passed the CPA exam, even if only one-half of all female or minority applicants have done so versus nine-tenths of male applicants.


The interview serves as a two-way communication channel that allows both the organiza- tion and the applicant to collect information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. This selection technique is used in almost every job category in nearly every organization. It is another area where the organization  can get into legal trouble if the interviewer  asks questions that violate EEO guidelines. Exhibit 9.7 lists some examples of appropriate and inappropriate interview questions.

Although widely used, the interview is not generally  a valid predictor of job perfor- mance. Studies of interviewing suggest that people tend to make snap judgments of others within the first few seconds of meeting them and only rarely change their opinions based on anything that occurs in the interview.62  However, the interview  as a selection tool has high face validity. That is, it seems valid to employers, and managers prefer to hire someone only after they have been through  some form of interview, preferably face to face.

Today’s organizations  are trying  different  approaches to overcome the limitations of the interview.  Some put candidates through a series of interviews,  each one conducted by a different person and each one probing  a different aspect of the candidate. At Microsoft, for example, interviewers include HRM professionals, managers of the appropriate functional department,  peers, and people outside the department who are well grounded in the cor- porate culture.63  Other companies, including  Virginia Power and Philip Morris USA, use panel interviews,  in which the candidate meets with several interviewers  who take turns asking questions, to increase interview  validity.64 The Container  Store, described earlier, uses group  interviews,  in which as many  as 10 candidates are asked to make a pitch for a product that solves a particular  organization  challenge. This approach  gives managers a chance to see how people function  as part of a team.65

Some organizations also supplement  traditional interviewing information with computer- based interviews. This type of interview typically  requires a candidate to answer a series of multiple-choice questions tailored to the specific job. The answers are compared to an ideal profile or to a profile developed on the basis of other candidates.  Companies   such as Pinkerton  Security, Coopers & Lybrand, and Pic ’n Pay Shoe Stores found computer- based interviews  to be valuable  for searching out information regarding the applicant’s honesty, work attitude, drug history, candor, dependability,  and self-motivation.66

Sometimes the interview actually starts online, as shown  in the Spotlight on Skills box.

Employment Test. Employment  tests may include  intelligence  tests, aptitude and ability tests, and personality inventories, particularly  those shown to be valid predic- tors. Many companies today are particularly  interested  in personality inventories that measure such characteristics  as openness to learning, initiative, responsibility, creativity, and emotional stability. Brian Kautz of Arnold Logistics  uses a Web-based personality assessment called the Predictive Index (PI) to hire good employees for Arnold’s IT depart- ment. The PI, originally  developed in the 1950s, provides information about the working conditions that are most rewarding to an applicant and that make the person the most motivated and productive. The test is based on the notion that different types of jobs re-quire different  personality characteristics and behaviors.67

Assessment Center. First developed by psychologists at AT&T, assessment centers are used to select individuals with high potential for managerial  careers by such or- ganizations  as IBM,  General Electric,  and JCPenney.68 Assessment centers present  a series of managerial situations to groups of applicants  over, say, a two- or three-day period. One technique is the in-basket simulation, which requires the applicant to play the role of a manager who must decide how to respond to 10 memos in his or her in-basket within a two-hour period. Panels of two or three trained  judges observe the applicant’s decisions and  assess the extent to which they reflect interpersonal, communication,  and problem- solving skills.

Assessment centers have proven to be valid predictors of managerial success, and some organizations now use them for hiring front-line workers  as well. Mercury Communica- tions in England uses an assessment center  to select customer assistants. Applicants partic- ipate in simulated exercises with customers and in various other  exercises designed to assess their listening skills, customer sensitivity, and ability to cope under pressure.69

Source: Daft Richard L., Marcic Dorothy (2009), Understanding Management, South-Western College Pub; 8th edition.

2 thoughts on “Attracting an Effective Workforce

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