Literature Review of Research on Hiring and Selection
in Governments, Nursing, Allied Clinical Fields,
and the Technology Sector
In order to gain a deeper understanding of the state of hiring and selection across a broad range of disciplines, as well as to highlight emerging trends and best practices, this paper highlights recent research regarding processes used in state, federal, and international
government agencies; nursing; allied clinical fields; and the technology sector. The use of electronic resources, testing, simulation, structured interviews, and unconventional hiring and selection practices will also be addressed.
Government Hiring and Selection Processes
Within the government sector, far-reaching changes have occurred in the last few decades to modernize hiring and selection processes,
eliminate slow bureaucratic
processes, and attract and identify the most talented workers. While implementation of new practices varies across levels and locales of government, some trends and emerging best practices can be identified.
State Government Trends in Hiring and Selection
Nationwide survey data of states’ human resources practices, including staff selection, were analyzed (Selden, Ingraham, & Jacobson, 2001). This analysis showed a trend towards decentralized human resources systems, where local agencies were charged with the majority of responsibility in hiring for their positions and state human resource systems were used more often simply on a consultative basis. Other trends included the reformed use of hiring lists in order to give more discretion to managers about whom to interview and make offers to. For example, several states moved from models using the “rule of three,” where only the top three applicants (based on their scoring system) could be interviewed, to models scoring applicants in groupings and allowing managers to choose interviewees from a wider band of qualified applicants (Selden, Ingraham, & Jacobson, 2001). Many states also implemented systems to reduce wait time for applicants and make it easier for them to apply for multiple positions at once. Other states also began to offer walk-in testing so that applicants could take the appropriate test at the time of application. Some states also authorized the use of signing bonuses to help fill hard-to-recruit positions (Selden, Ingraham, & Jacobson, 2001).
Structured interviews have been shown to be more reliable in predicting which applicants will do well in a position (Mitchell et al, 2013), so some state governments have shifted to the use of trained interviewers and patterned interview formats in which all applicants are asked the same questions (Selden, Ingraham, & Jacobson, 2001). Some research shows that such structured interviews should contain three characteristics to be most effective: job-relatedness, structured questions, and structured scoring (Reed, Hirst, & Howard, 2013).
International Government Trends in Hiring and Selection
An international perspective on emerging and best practice in recruitment and selection of government employees shows similar patterns as in U.S. state government. Emerging approaches include simplification of the (notoriously onerous) government job application
Internationally emerging and best practice in recruitment and selection of government employees are similar to those in the U.S. These include simplification of the application and hiring processes, flexibility in the time and locations of pre-employment/application tests, and decentralization to speed up the hiring process to be more responsive to an agency’s individual needs and culture.
process, like the above-mentioned elimination of rules that restrict the number of candidates that can be considered for a position (Lavigna & Hays, 2004). These rules, such as the “rule of three,” have not been shown to enhance the quality of applicants selected and, instead, serve to limit an agency’s ability to choose the candidate who is the best fit for the position. Many locations have eliminated such rules or moved to more expansive processes like the “rule of 20”(Lavigna & Hays, 2004). Simplification of the application and hiring processes also includes elimination of arbitrary posting timelines, where positions must be posted for prescribed amounts of time before an offer can be made, often leading to discouragement of candidates or well-qualified applicants finding positions elsewhere before the government can make offers (Ito, 2002).
As has been implemented in many states, international governments are also creating more flexibility in the time and locations of pre-employment/application tests. In regards to testing, many governments
internationally are moving towards validated tests and abandoning often-used tests that are not empirically validated. Performance-based tests are now being used instead in many locations (Lavigna & Hays, 2004) (see Nursing and Allied clinical sections for more information on testing).
Decentralization (where more responsibility for hiring is given to managers, and less to centralized government human resources departments) is falling into favor abroad as well, in order to speed up the hiring process and provide hiring that is more responsive to an agency’s individual needs and culture (Lavigna & Hays, 2004).
Use of Electronic Systems in Government Hiring and Selection
To increase efficiency of hiring and accessibility of applications to prospective employees, the use of electronic applications systems is rapidly replacing other, more traditional application processes in state government hiring and selection (Selden, Ingraham, & Jacobson, 2001). All 50 states have some sort of e-recruitment effort, or web-based recruitment, screening, and application (Selden & Orenstein, 2011). Seldon and Orenstein (2011) suggest that these systems should be evaluated from the user’s perspective in order to create a simple, user-friendly portal, rather than be seen as a means to collect applications, the reason for which they were initially built. Put simply, they should be used as recruitment tools. In order to assess usability for recruitment, websites should be assessed based on form, content, and function (Cober, Brown, & Levy, 2004).
Allied Clinical Hiring and Selection Processes
Some clinical fields, such as clinical work with individuals with disabilities, have begun to adopt and adapt hiring and selection procedures from other fields like business (Reed, Hirst, & Howard, 2013). One strategy that has shown promise in predicting future job performance is work sampling. Although work sampling can be costly, many employers have found it to be worthwhile because of its relatively high predictive validity (Roth, Bobko, McFarland, 2005).
Some clinical fields have begun to adopt and adapt hiring and selection procedures from other fields like business. These include work sampling, which involves the development of tasks that relate to a specific job that applicants perform and are scored on, and the assessment center (AC) approach, which provides work environment/job simulation tests, and role-playing and situational judgment tests (SJT), both of which can be used to assess applicants.
Like other forms of performance-based testing, work sampling involves the development of tasks that relate to a specific job, wherein applicants perform the work samples and are scored based on the skills applied to the job. This is related to the assessment center (AC) approach, which provides work environment/job simulation tests, or a “tryout” for applicants (more on ACs in the Nursing section). Role-playing can offer a more accessible, ethical approach to these types of tests that do not involve heavy investment, nor vulnerable clients. Situational judgment tests (SJT) can be similarly used to assess applicants; these provide applicants with a scenario and ask them to describe what action they would take and why (Reed, Hirst, & Howard, 2013).
With multiple, related approaches available, researchers have compared the validity of various tests frequently used in clinical and other hiring and screening. In comparing the ACs, SJTs, and knowledge tests in a sample of nearly 200, researchers found incremental validity of SJTs over knowledge tests, and incremental validity of ACs over SJTs (Lievens & Patterson, 2011).
Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE), another testing method used in evaluating nurses
and other professionals in educational settings, has been successfully used in recruitment in some healthcare professions (Patterson et al, 2005; Randall et al, 2006). An ICU unit in an Australian hospital piloted the use of an OSCE in the selection of nurses for leadership roles within the ICU (Mitchell et al, 2013). The OSCE, which was a simulation activity, was designed to mimic a real patient scenario and lasted about 30 minutes. Its format and scoring were developed using the best-practice guidelines for nursing. In the OSCE, applicants, along with other clinical staff who were trained to play their role in a consistent way, engaged in a scenario involving the treatment of an ICU patient who was decompensating. Though it was a small sample, results showed little variability between raters’ independent scores, indicating inter-rater reliability. Additionally, nurses who were selected using the OSCE showed above-average performance on their six-month evaluations (Mitchell et al, 2013).
Interviews as Marketing Tools in Nursing
Mayer and Carroll (2011) describe the use of the interview as a marketing tool in the hiring and recruitment of nurses. This strategy was used to fill high-vacancy jobs, and recruit and hire top-performing nurses, which has ultimately been associated with improved patient outcomes (Studer, 2003). To accomplish this, the hospital shifted its vision of the interview, from considering it an opportunity to find the best applicant to an opportunity to convince nurses that they wanted to work at their hospital. In line with this perspective, they interviewed every nurse who applied for the positions, rather than only the top candidates. They contacted applicants within 24 hours of their application to convey their attentiveness and interest. They scheduled interviews based on the candidate’s first availability, and interviewers rearranged their schedules to accommodate interviews. The chief nursing officer (CNO) also met with every candidate in the interview “to communicate respect for the candidate as an individual professional” (Mayer & Carroll, 2011). Results showed that the nurse vacancy rate decreased considerably over time, from 22% in 2007 to less than 2% in 2011. Additionally, 80% of those offered positions accepted, though comparison data from before the intervention was not available (Mayer & Carroll, 2011).
The booming tech industry has infamously used unconventional techniques for hiring and selection of its workers, including non-traditional interviews with creative problem-solving questions related to superheroes, or group interviews that resemble staff parties (Regan, 2013; Wadhwa, 2014; Miller, 2014). While these techniques have garnered media attention and shown the quintessential tech industry shirking of business norms, critics are now arguing that these strategies have also contributed to inequity in hiring, With the vast underrepresentation of women and people of color in the industry, especially in leadership positions (Wadhwa, 2014; Miller, 2014), those hiring practices are being called into question. As of this writing, no empirical evidence could be located as to the efficacy of unconventional hiring and selection processes used recently in this industry.
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