Employees’ Perception of Selection Systems


This paper summarises the views of two authors on how job applicants or potential employees perceive selection procedures. Both articles focus on employees’ perceptions of selection methods.

Article 1: “Applicants Perceptions of Selection Procedures and Decisions: A Critical Review and Agenda for the Future”.

The first article is written by Ryan and Plolyhart (2000) and is titled “Applicants’ Perceptions of Selection Procedures and Decisions: A Critical Review and Agenda for the Future”. This article is motivated by the fact that low unemployment rates have increased the competition for employees, which has forced organisations to review the various components used in selecting job applicants and how job applicants’ perceptions of those procedures can affect the attractiveness of the organisation to potential employees. Another motivation for this study is the fact that there is lack of better research on applicant perspectives. Thirdly, the article notes that social justice theorists are looking for ways to apply social justice theory concepts to applicants’ perceptions of selection methods. Moreover, there is an increasing diversity in the workforce as well as racial differences in perception of selection procedures which can affect the manner in which job applicants perceive organisations and thus the attractiveness of those organisations to potential employees.

The article notes that one of the main assumptions of most research in this area is that the manner in which job applicants perceive selection procedures and processes affects the manner in which the applicant views the organisation and thus the decision on whether to apply for a job vacancy to that organisation or not. The article also suggests that differences in perceptions between minority and majority groups on certain selection procedures can account for some of the differences in job performance that is often observed between these two groups.

The article begins by reviewing the works of Schimittand Gilliland (1992) and Gilliland (1993). These studies develop a model which provides a link between between applicants’ perceptions of selection systems and situational factors and their subsequent “attitudes and behaviours” towards those organisations. The model postulates that applicants’ perceptions of the procedural justice system are influenced by situational characteristics. These characteristics include the type of test administered during the selection process, the human resource policy of the organisation and the behaviour of the human resource staff of the organisation. The overall fairness of the selection system is influenced by the degree to which the applicants’ perceptions of the procedural justice of the selection system meet the expectations of applicants. The framework further stipulates that applicants’ prior experiences with a selection system would affect the evaluation of the system. Distributive justice rules of equity, equality, and need have an impact on the perceptions of the distributive fairness of the final decision reached through the selection system. Distributive justice rules are in turn influenced by performance expectations and the salience of discrimination. In a nutshell, the framework concludes that there should be a relationship between outcomes such as “job application decisions, test motivation, self-esteem, self-efficacy, endorsement of the company’s products, job acceptance decisions, job satisfaction, and performance among others” and applicants’ perceptions of fairness of the selection process.

After reviewing the framework, the authors then move on to provide a critical review of the empirical literature and evaluating how they conform to the framework. The review focuses on four key areas including:

The perceptions that have been studied;
The factors that determine applicants’ perceptions;
The consequences of holding more positive or negative perceptions; and
The theoretical frameworks that have been presented.

With respect to the applicants’ perceptions that have been studied, the article notes that the most commonly researched perceptions include applicants’ feelings regarding degree to which the selection system is related to the job, feelings about the fairness of various aspects of the selection system and its associated outcomes, as well as feelings about test taking motivation.

The authors provide a critical review in this area and conclude that a major concern with most of these studies is that their constructs are imprecise with respect to the manner in which they are defined as well as the variability with which they are operationalised. As a result, the authors conclude that a better conceptualisation of research on test behaviours and on fairness is required to improve understanding. The authors however, admit that the work of Chan et al (1998) to a certain extent provides a link between test attitudes and perception of fairness although the study focused only on two concepts from each line of research. According to the authors, lack of an improved integration of studies on test attitudes on fairness and test attitudes makes understanding difficult. For example, it is difficult to determine whether potential employees who are more anxious perceive procedures are more unfair as opposed to those who are less anxious. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether beliefs about testing have a higher impact on perceptions of fairness of a procedure than characteristics of the procedure and selection situation itself. The author notes that notes that most test-taking attitude measures are perceptions of oneself (including motivation, anxiety, etc) while justice-related perceptions typically focus on the fairness of the test used in making hiring or rejection decisions. The authors argue that there should be a relationship between applicants’ motivation and anxiety and the justice-related perceptions.

The authors also suggest that it is important for other perceptions to be tested. Basically most of the studies under review focus on how the motivation or perceptions of applicants influence their perceptions of fairness. This approach neglects the impact of other perceptions of fairness that may be critical for the improvement of selection systems.

Article 2: “Fairness Reactions to Selection Methods: An Italian Study”.

This article is written by Bertolino and Steiner (2007). Like the first article, this article begins by reviewing the works of other authors who provide different conceptual frameworks on the relationship between applicants’ perceptions of fairness of selection systems and their attitudes and behaviours towards the organisations. This article cites the work of Schuler (1993) whose framework suggests that the reaction of applicants to a selection process is a function of the key characteristics of the selection techniques employed. In addition, the article reviews the work of Anderson and Ostroff (1997) who focus on the socialisation impact of selection methods. Like the first article, the second article also reviews the work of Gilliland (1993) who employ organisational justice theory to comprehend the reaction of applicants to selection systems.

Unlike the first article, which is based solely on a critical review of empirical literature on the reaction of applicants to selection systems as well as the underlying models of selection systems, the second article is based on both primary and secondary information. It begins by reviewing literature, and then conducts and exploratory study on the reaction of applicants to selection systems using a sample of 137 Italian students. The study is motivated by the fact that despite the presence of evidence on selection systems, most of the studies have been conducted in other countries with no attention given to Italy. The article notes that cultural differences may play an important role in the manner in which applicants perceive selection systems and thus their reaction to those systems as well as their attitudes towards the organisation. Based on the four dimensions of culture proposed by Hofstede (1980, 1991) (individualism vs collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity vs femininity, and power distance), the article suggests that it is possible for selection systems to be avoided by these four dimensions. For example, the article reviews the work of Ryan et al. (1999) who show that uncertainty avoidance can affect the selection practices of many countries. In addition, the study reviews the work of Triandis (1990) who argue that people from countries with high uncertainty avoidance prefer predictability, knowing what others will do, and having clear instructions and expectations. This means that employees who work in countries with high uncertainty avoidance should be more inclined towards engaging in structuring activities, including the standardisation of practices. On the contrary, those in countries with low uncertainty avoidance should be less committed to formal structures and should be prepared to accept spontaneous changes in practices.

The study employed a survey questionnaire to study the reaction of Italian student to selection systems. The questionnaire used in the study is the one developed by Steiner and Gilliland (1996) which presents 10 different selection methods used in the U.S or Europe. The questionnaire asked students to think about a job they would apply for upon completion of their course

Using a within-subject analysis of variance (ANOVA) the ratings of process favourability was compared across 10 selection methods. The evidence suggests that there are significant differences across the 10 selection methods. The selection method that received the most favoured rating was “work-sample test”. Resumes, written ability tests, interviews and personal preferences had the second favourable rating. Personality tests and biographical information blanks received a neutral rating while honesty tests and personal contacts received negative ratings.

The authors conclude that their results are similar to those obtained from other countries. In particular, they observe that employer’s right, opportunity to perform and face validity are the procedural dimensions that had a high correlation with process favourability for all four countries that were studied.

The two articles are similar in that they both begin by providing a theoretical framework on selection methods. Both articles provide the same theory which shows that there is a relationship between applicants’ perceptions and their reactions to selection systems. However, the first article differs from the second one in that it is based solely on the review of secondary literature. The article does not arrive on any conclusions with respect applicants reactions to selection systems. Rather, it identifies weaknesses in the literature and provides recommended procedures for improvement in future studies. On the contrary, the second article employs primary data to study how employees’ perceptions of selection systems affect their reactions to those systems. It compares findings to previous studies and concludes that culture has no significant impact on employees’ reaction to selection systems in Western countries. The study observes that the findings from France, Italy and other Western countries are similar to those obtained in studies from the United States. This shows that the different cultural dimensions mentioned in Hofstede (1981, 1990) do not influence the manner in which employees perceive selection systems which means that it does not affect the manner in which the react to those systems. The foregoing suggests that other factors may be affecting employees’ perceptions rather than culture.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on the discussion of the two articles above, one can conclude that employees’ perception of selection procedures influences the manner in which they behave towards the organisation and the decision to accept or reject an offer to work for a particular company. These perceptions may even influence the applicants other interactions with the company such as deciding to buy or not to buy the company’s products. The main difference between the two articles is that one focuses on criticising research on selection systems while one focuses on understanding how employees perceive selection systems across countries and how those systems affect their reaction. Based on this conclusion, it is important for organisations to note that the manner in which they design their selection system can affect the perception of applicants and as such affect the attractiveness of vacancies to potential applicants. Selection systems can even influence the ability of a company to attract qualified applicants. If employees have a negative perception about a particular company, they may not be motivated to apply for a vacancy in that company and this may make it difficult for the company to fill the vacancy with a qualified applicant. Consequently, employers should seek the most favourable selection systems so as to increase their ability to attract qualified applicants to their jobs. The first article shows that research on selection systems is limited. Therefore, this paper recommends that more research should be conducted on selection systems and how employees perceive those systems. By so doing one can provide better recommendations to employers to aid them in designing their selection systems.


Bertolino, M., Steiner, D. D. (2007) “Fairness Reactions to Selection Methods: An Italian study”, International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 15, Number 2

Ryan, A. N., Ployhart R. E. (2000) “Applicants Perceptions of Selection Procedures and Decisions: A Critical Review and Agenda for the Future”, Journal of Management, 26, 565-606

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