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Best practice in employee selection


In my last instalment, I looked at best practice in the recruitment phase of the recruitment and selection process. This week I will focus on how organisations can use best practice in the selection phase.

Interviewing: It is the most commonly used selection technique. It can be expensive, time consuming and most organisations do not maximise its value. However, if used appropriately, interviewing can be a good predictor of work performance.

Research suggests that many organisations conduct unstructured interviews (ie have the person in for a “chat” to see what they are like). They may also simply ask the same questions of each applicant believing this constitutes a “structured” interview. This is only considered best practice if the structured questions are behaviourally-oriented.

The aim of behaviourally-oriented questions is for the applicant to demonstrate through past behaviour that they meet the required standard the organisation is looking for, eg: Please describe a time when you had to demonstrate your ability to “think outside the box”.

What was the situation, what did you do and what was the result?

Interviewing that is not behaviourally-oriented does not align with best practice and is not considered an effective and consistent method of predicting work performance.

The key selection criteria arising through the job analysis should be used to create behaviourally-oriented interview questions.

Where a candidate does not meet all criteria to the required level, the interview also provides an opportunity for the organisation to consider the candidate’s potential to grow into the role they have applied for.

In order to assess this potential, it is important to have questions that cover how the candidate might gain the skills and knowledge necessary to fill the role, for example, covering openness to further study or asking how the applicant learns best.

In order to ensure that assessments made during interviews are objective, it is advisable that more than one person be involved in conducting the interview and in some circumstances for someone external to the organisation, but with the appropriate interviewing skill, to assist in this process. It is also important to advise candidates who will be conducting the interview.

Reference checking: They are generally used to obtain the following information:

Employment date

Appraisal of an applicant’s claim against the key selection criteria

Estimates of an applicant’s job performance capabilities

Employer’s willingness to rehire the applicant.
It is advisable to contact professional referees (ie a previous employer) who can provide information on the applicant.

If an applicant does not provide professional referees and does not have a legitimate reason, this could indicate issues around their past experiences.

As a human resources professional there is need for you to explore reasons as to why recent previous employers’ details are not given.

Telephone reference checks are the most frequently used method of reference checking. This method has a number of advantages which are high return rate; it allows the reference checker to ask follow-up questions for clarification, it is inexpensive to conduct.

A structured approach to reference checks improves its value. A standardised questionnaire that requires referees to rate the applicant’s standing on a number of job relevant attributes (rating scale 0–5) with a descriptively response format should be used.

Making a selection decision: It is common throughout organisations to make subjective judgments to assess an applicant’s suitability to the role. This does not align with identified best practice. Best practice is to use a scale (for example 0-5 with descriptors for each point of the scale) to rate each assessment and then combine all ratings for each assessment activity for each applicant throughout the recruitment and selection process to provide the basis for a decision.

This is an especially good method when more than one selection technique is used. This approach means the selection decision is more objective, removing the risk of bias or “gut feeling” which is not backed up by evidence.


Paul Nyausaru is a human resources practitioner. He can be contacted on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk, pnyausaru@gmail.com. Views contained in this article are personal.

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