The Art and Science of Recruitment

Recruitment is a managerial function to enroll manpower to augment, replenish, and reinvigorate an organization’s human resource base. As the entrepreneurial efficiency and the organizational efficacy depend on the human resources, it is imperative that the recruitment be done on scientific lines in a professional mode. Sadly, though for most part, the recruitment models in most Indian organizations, especially those in the public sector, lack the needed understanding and required sensitivity to further the cause.

Barring honourable exceptions, the exercise of recruitment is perceived by those involved in it as an opportunity to further their own careers by heeding to ‘referrals to favour’ of the powers that be. In the absence of trained professionals, well-versed in the art of interviewing and the science of evaluation, the tendency is to induct more and more ‘heads’ into the selection panels. Given that, it is no wonder that such exercises invariably turn out to be more of interrogations rather than interviews.

To start with, in most cases, the scheduled time for the selection process is woefully short for any meaningful appraisal of the number of invitees for an interview. Besides, the exigencies of official work of various members of the committee necessitate the scheduling of interviews for various vacancies in a panoramic setting. Capping it all is the lack of punctuality in commencing the ‘show’ at the appointed hour, which, in turn, results in either rushing through the rigmarole or prolonging it beyond the scheduled hours. Needless to say, all this, put together, stymies the course for the candidates to showcase their case - either they do not get a fair chance equitable assessment or by the time their turn comes,  they become mentally sick to be in the proper frame of mind.

After a seemingly eternal waiting, the candidate receives ‘the call’ and what follows in the haloed chambers is only matched by what had preceded in the waiting hall – a state of anxiety. That’s not all, in an exhibition of the panel’s indifference towards the prospective recruits; its members don’t deem it fit to reveal their identities to the candidates. It is another matter though, on that fateful occasion, it would not have made any difference to the candidate for it is humanly impossible for any to place the positions of so many biggies. Overwhelmed by the imposing setting and overawed by the overbearing attitude of the prospective employers, the candidate can be hardly at ease in their overweening company. Thus, the stage would be set for the grand inquiry for the tone and tenor of the proceedings is more akin to a cross-examination than an interactive exercise.

After the preliminary enquiries regarding the candidate’s family background and academic qualifications, the accent shifts to some questioning on the specifics of the subject of his study and ends up with stray attempts to elicit his awareness of the current events. Whatever, the exercise is nowhere near a plan to ascertain the attributes or a strategy to elicit the aptitudes of the candidate but is merely done on an ad hoc basis, influenced as such by the factors of time, and the initial impression of the August members develop about him. The nature of questioning and the lack of continuity in the interview make even the candidate wonder whether the session did indeed bring his best to the fore; and then it is only left for him to cross his fingers and await the verdict.

Be that as it may, an interview, on the other hand, is defined as the meeting of persons face to face, especially for the purpose of conference, and for that to have any meaningful outcome, it should be dialogue oriented. Whereas the question-answer session can be a pointer to the candidate’s acquaintance with a given subject, only a dialogue could reveal his degree of awareness of it. Considerable skill and tact, however, are required on the part of the interviewers, first to initiate and then to guide the dialogue in such a manner as to fathom the candidate’s personality traits and his perceptive abilities. As such specialist skills are not expected to be mastered by assorted departmental heads that are inducted into the selection panel, the alternative is either to create a specialist group in the organization itself or entrust the job to a professional recruiting agency.

Now to the specifics; recruitment can be broadly divided into the induction of newbies and the enlistment of the already initiated. Though the general principles involved are the same, as can be appreciated, the strategies vary with the category of recruitment.

Recruiting Newbies

The positional changes in an organizational makeup necessitate periodic induction of newbies as well as the not-so-raw into the functional setup, and the attendant benefits their recruitment brings in its wake are

- the possibility of casting them into the desired moulds of corporate ethos, and

- the pruning of administrative overheads through relatively modest payslips. 

On the flip side though, the enterprise has to bear their incubation cost till the recruits are adequately trained to perform their assigned functions affectively, if not with aplomb. However, the long-term benefits this managerial measure brings to the enterprise far outweigh the short-term functional hiccups.

However, ascertaining the applicants’ aptitude for a given job and envisaging their performance potential in the job situation is a difficult exercise that calls for interviewing skills and professional judgment. Moreover, in any interview setting, the newbies’ inexperience and the associated anxiety make them tense and tentative, thereby clouding their true personality from the non-expert view, thereby complicating the issue of evaluation even more.

Basically, the only track record of the newbies available for scrutiny is their marks sheets and for the lack of a better alternative, the interviewers are tempted to see in those the candidate’s innate potential, and, needless to say, this presumption is fraught with fallacies. Also, notwithstanding the introduction of the innovations - psychology and aptitude tests - into the recruitment arena, the prevailing evaluation system, by and large, remains inadequate at the best and imperfect at the worst.

With the right kind of tutoring, as the prevailing methods of examination enable the mediocre to fare as well as the bright, the grades obtained are no reflections of one’s depth of knowledge and grasp of the subject. Besides, in most instances, what is taught in colleges and universities, in a given faculty, is but rudimentary, on which one has to develop as he works his way in the subject arena. 

Besides personal contribution, any organizational setup requires one, not only to function as a team-man within his or her group but also to effectually interact with its other groups, individually as well as collectively. And this entails flexibility in approach, ability to grasp, adaptability to changes, ingenuity to coordinate, willingness to experiment, and capacity to innovate are some of the attributes needed for competency in any work environment. Needless to say, neither is our curriculum designed to inculcate these vital personality traits in one nor is our examination system structured to measure them.

Moreover, intelligence is no longer measured by one’s ability to master one subject or the other, but is considered in terms of one’s capability to organize oneself efficiently and effectively that is within the confines of the resources at his command. Thus, the quest to gauge the candidates’ job ability led to the vaunted IQ tests in the sixties of the last century that fell by the wayside after their proven fallibility but not before they could waylay many a deserving entrant into the fancied corporate houses. It is to be noted that when one is hired by an organization, his total personality and background, including his positives and negatives, come into play.

Viewed in this background, evaluating the relative merits of newbies and ascertaining their suitability for the intended roles in the managerial setup can be a complex task. However, an imaginative interaction, as opposed to the daunting interviewing, could bring to the fore the aspirants’ inherent personality traits for a structured assessment. When it comes to academic excellence, one needs to be mindful of the demands of a given job for most organizational positions require go-getters rather than subject-specialists. Hence, there is a compelling need for imparting professional training to the recruiting personnel so as to make them capable of spotting the required talent with objective means. It’s thus considerable planning and preparation are required to conduct interviews in a concerted manner to choose, as the saying goes, appropriate ‘horses for the races’

Inducting the Initiated

Whereas faulty recruitment of newbies will have long-term implications, any mismanaged selection of the already initiated, albeit in other outfits, who are inducted into the managerial cadre, will have immediate repercussions. As can be expected, such are inducted into an organization from without to fill in the vacancies caused by the resignations / retirements not to speak of expansions to augment the middle or top managerial order. Given that such an exercise amounts to infusing fresh blood into the organization at vital positions for its reinvigoration, adequate care has to be taken to ensure that bad blood is not let in in the bargain. The catch thus lies in what these newly initiated would bring to the managerial table - fresh ideas or work biases – and that depends upon an individual’s aptitude to work and his attitude towards the workers, which make up his work ethos.

While generic experience can be characterized as the applied knowledge of one’s exposure to and the observation of the socio-economics, domain expertise has to be categorized based on the inferences one draws from involved situations, and in this connection, it may be noted that mere seeing is not observing and plain feeling is not objectivity. Herein lay the difference between pseudo and valid experience in that the former carries vague notions based on personal presumptions whereas the latter comes with valued opinions from examined experiences.

Besides, there is a third dimension to the development process of experience, namely introspection. The general human proclivity is to attribute the personal impediments to the factors without but not to factor in one’s own omissions and commissions. The ability for self-introspection and the willingness for course correction thereby can only enrich one’s experience, and not the mere exposure one might have had - measured in terms of the length of service and the number of associated events. Thus, the famous management adage “one year’s experience repeated over twenty times” sums up this phenomenon of pseudo experience.

Discourse to Recruit 

As the answer-to-the-question method can cut no professional ice, as anyone with a minimum work exposure can be expected to fare reasonably well in such a session, only an imaginative interaction with the candidate can elicit such information about him as would help judge his experience as well as his innate abilities to perform in a given situation. The type of information that would be helpful can be in the form of his perception of the functional requirements, attitude towards work, and philosophy of life, ability to motivate the workforce, general grasp of the systems in vogue, and the ability to pinpoint its lacunae and think about workable remedies. It’s thus, only an imaginative dialogue can help one sift the performers from the pretenders among the candidates.

Apart from work experience and job knowledge, there are other equally important individual traits such as the ability to lead and the adaptability to adjust to people around. Whereas well-laid organizational systems can aid task affectivity, only an imaginative people management can help performance efficiency. It is thus, an adequate leader can excel even in an inadequate setup whereas an inadequate leader can bring the best of systems to grief. Equally important is the ability of an individual for amiable interaction with his peers and superiors in the organization, and his acumen in public relations. It is equally necessary to ascertain the individual’s approach to work whether it is requirement directed or jugãd oriented for professionalism is the ability to think rationally and act systematically. 

Psychology of Philosophy

Only a seemingly informal yet systematically probing dialogue with the candidate by a small group of trained ‘recruitment’ professionals either together or, preferably, individually can yield a proper assessment about him. In all such interviews, the candidate should be encouraged to express himself about his work, his ambitions, and his world view with interspersing enquiries from the interlocutors. If this is done by two or three professional recruiters, in a planned manner, preferably through individual interactions, an opportunity can be created to compare notes regarding the candidate’s consistency of thought, clarity of mind, and philosophy of work whereby appropriate inferences can be drawn that are likely to be more reliable pointers towards the candidate’s innate capability to contribute to the organization.

For the senior and vital positions, it would even be desirable to have a meeting with the provisionally selected candidates in their respective workplaces, which can reveal more about the prospects than most forms of away-from-workplace interactions. However, as such a course could be embarrassing for a potential employer; the job can be entrusted to an outside agency that is eminently placed to carry out such missions. Whatever may be the mode of selection, it should be borne in mind that the output of an organization depends on the inputs pressed into it, not excluding human resources.


More by :  BS Murthy

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