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On dealing with the premiss that the practice of recruitment and selection is a long way from the recommendations of personnel textbooks, distinction must be taken into account between explicit recommendations and guidelines, on one hand, and, on the other, implicit suggestions stemming from the author’s own stance. The implications of distancing from, or identification with, such explicit recommendations and implicit suggestions will be viewed in this paper as well as forms of overt and covert resistance, or adhesion, assumed in actual practice. Also central to the argument is what the whole issue means in terms of both existing problems and potential future problems for the employer and the candidate, for organizational management, the labour market and macro-economic welfare and progress in general.
Employment decisions have traditionally been regarded as a privilege exclusive to management. Many of the US personnel textbooks emphasize this aspect and describe the process in terms of ‘hurdles over which prospective employees have to try to leap to avoid rejection’ (Torrington and Hall, 1991:283). In the UK recruitment and selection is an issue which has in the past kept a low profile in personnel textbooks, though the trend has changed (e.g., Torrington and Hall, 1991, Keith Sisson, 1994), which appears to point out to an evolution from the paternalistic perspective according to which recruitment tends to be dominantly viewed from the angle of providing candidates for the selector to judge.
Recommendations are being made with respect to the various stages of the process of recruitment and selection, from approaching and seeking to interest potential candidates to determining whether to appoint any of them. Codes of practice and guidelines for their implementation have been produced with emphasis on different aspects, e.g., on recruitment starting with a job description and person specification, by IPM; on fair and efficient selection, by EOC (1986); on avoidance of sex bias in selection testing, by EOC (1992); on avoidance of improper discrimination, by ACAS (1981) and negative bias against age, by IPM (1993); on non-discriminatory advertising, by CRE and EOC (1977, 1985); and on the use of cognitive and psychometric tests, by IPM and BPS (1993).
Moreover, legislation promoting equality of opportunity has underlined the importance of
using well-validated selection procedures (Torrington and Hall, 1991), and directives such as those issued by CRE (1983) and EOC (1985) emphasize the need to comply with anti-discrimination legislation and this way enhance opportunities to disadvantaged groups. Greater formality will both make the concealment of racial and sexual discrimination more difficult and will permit more effective retrospective surveillance by senior management and bodies such as the CRE (Jenkins, 1982), thus to some extent remedying the weakness of much of the EO literature in not frontally addressing the different types of discriminatory decision, be it determinism, particularism, patronage or rational-legality (Jewson & Mason, 1986). As a counter-argument, however, the definition of the employer’s role as that of implementing and monitoring formal procedures can be seen to absolve senior staff of the responsibility for further investigation of the causes of continuing inequality (Webb & Liff, 1988).
In fact, case studies have shown that such directives can be misused and their intention subverted as often happens with respect to IPM’s recommendations on job description and person specification (Collinson et al., 1990: 96-108), and, furthermore, the legal
definition of ‘justifiability’ is sufficiently vague for the legislation to be ineffective; and the workforce can be manipulated into becoming management’s accomplice in discrimination (ibid.: 70-71). Some recommendations are, in themselves, not socially and politically neutral enough to avoid ambiguity and, as such, encourage covert discrimination. Highlighting the causes behind the problem, EOC points out that gender discrimination is embedded in ‘myths’ (EOC, 1986:2), while we are also reminded that motherhood still remains a stigma (Curran, 1988) as the general ideology of gender still associates feminity with nurturing, and hence with servicing, which is translated directly into specific occupational terms (Murgatroyd, 1982). Accordingly - inspite of what has been achieved - women still face ‘bottleneck’ on the way to top jobs in personnel, a situation which has been aggravated by a recent regression in the previous upward trend for women, the latest figures standing at 44% of all personnel managers but only 9.5% of personnel directors (PM Plus, 1994). Getting into the boardroom is not the
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Human resource management, Applied psychology, Behavioural sciences, Systems psychology, Industrial and organizational psychology, Personnel selection, Recruitment, Job description, Organizational culture
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