Recruitment Theories in Organisations

Recruitment theory involves explanations on how organizations identify and select individuals to fill up positions within their firms. Some experts advocate for a resource-based view of human resources and a major theorist here is Barney (1991). In the theory, it assumed that employees are a scarce resource that is valuable and can be used to gain a competitive advantage over other companies. Holders of this view believe that recruitment or positions should be filled from within. In doing so, a company can save up on valuable time spent trying to train new workers on the way things are done within the organization. Internal recruitment acts as an incentive to company employees to work hard because they know that their hard work will be rewarded through promotions. On top of the latter, an organization will always be in a position of assessing an individual’s true worth through carrying out internal recruitment since they have interacted with the said person for a long time and are thus aware of that person’s limitations. When hiring from outside, there is always a chance that the concerned person is only successful theoretically but cannot fit well in the firm.

Conversely, some proponents argue for recruitment from outside the firm and this is what has received a lot of attention from literature. In the human capital theory as proposed by theorists such as Lepak and Snell (1999), it is assumed that an employee will only be of value to the organization as long as he or she is productive, once this is not the case, then companies need to source for other employees from the external environment. Usually, such persons can bring in or inject new perspectives from their former organization or from other experiences they may have accumulated; this grows the recruiting firm. On the downside, however, such personnel may have oversold themselves in their applications and CVs yet their practical use to the company may be quite minimal.

A wide series of literature has also dedicated substantial portions towards job analysis and job descriptions asserting that these functions are critical in setting out the requirements for recruitment in an organization. (Lepak and Snell, 1999) Adherents to the human capital theory, therefore, recommend methods of assessing the usefulness of a job before recruitment. Through the job analysis, an HR department will be able to ascertain all the staffing elements of a job such as a title, person carrying out the job, the major duties of the job, and who this person reports to. For the job analysis to be effective, it must be complemented by the job description which entails laying out all the elements that a specific job entails. Consequently, this assists in determining exactly how a member of staff would fit into such an organization.

While some discussions in the human capital theory mostly focus on carrying out a rigorous recruitment process by first starting internally, others recommend a funneling procedure. In this approach, employers are supposed to get as many applications as possible and then narrow this down to those individuals who offer the best solutions for their organizations. Usually, such employers can use some technologies such as database management and applicant segmentation to make sure that the applicants are moving through the funnel. To this end, recruiting activities will be essential in tapping certain types of applicants at different stages of the recruitment. For instance, at the commencement of the application process, a firm may simply be interested in getting as many potential employees as possible to attend the recruitment process, however, in subsequent phases, it may be interested in really knowing the applicant. At these various points, such organizations usually carry out analyses of attitudes, preferences through surveys to find out whether they are heading in the right direction. It should be noted that plenty of organizations have a series of alternatives that they can use to market themselves and hence ensure that they get their message across to potential employees. These days, individuals are bombarded with information about vacancies. They can get it from the internet, through telephone calls, through advertisements in newspapers and the like. Consequently, they also have a choice in deciding which recruitment process they will attend. Organizations, therefore, include some details about themselves to increase the chances of attracting the right employee pool.

Factors that determine individual choices in the recruitment process

Persons seeking employment can be governed by three major factors and these are the subjective factor, the objective factor as well as the critical contact theory. In the objective factor theory as explained by Pfeffer (1998), it is assumed that an employee will select a certain organization based on a nonbiased analysis of certain critical factors in that organization. For instance, an applicant will consider where that particular organization is located. In certain circumstances, it may be that a firm is found in another city or state and for personal or financial resources, this may not be a plausible way of dealing with the matter at hand. Perhaps one of the most important objective factors that may cause an employee to consider a job offer is its pay or other incentives offered with the job. These days, employers are using a series of pay-related or work-related bonuses to make them seem more employee friendly such as longer maternal leaves, provision of paid leave, holiday incentives, health insurance, and the like. Alternatively, an employee could be attracted to a job opportunity because of the kind of work involved. Here, such workers may be looking for something that will fall in line with their area of training or interest. They may also consider those kinds of firms that have a strong work culture or those jobs that will offer them a challenge. In other words, some may want to be involved in strategic decision making, others may want to do more fieldwork than office work while others may be interested in technical tasks. In line with the latter concern is the possibility of getting a promotion or developing their careers. Job seekers often want organizations that will allow them to expand their ambitions and climb the corporate ladder. In deadlock jobs, some job applicants may likely be less enthusiastic about taking part in such an arrangement for the future. Also, many organizations are sponsoring their employees in case they need to go for further studies. These companies often do so under the assumption that the employee would plow back their additional skills acquired through training or further studies and this would then be a worthwhile investment. Under objective factors of the recruitment theory, job applicants would likely present certain aspects to potential employers based on these assumptions. For instance, since the nature of the job is what drives them, then they are likely to disclose aspects of their experience to their new employers. On top of the latter, it is likely that educational background will form an important part of their application process as they may try to work on the tangible factors that make them employable. The objective theory was mostly propagated by Pfeffer (1998) who believed that companies need to have a preset method for recruiting so as to ensure that ability, motivation and opportunity in the firm lead to high performance. He propagated these views through the best practice model.

One critic of the objective theory asserted that sometimes straightforward practices of not allow for adjustment to specific scenarios. When recruitment practices are an end in themselves then company interests may not be met through such methodologies. Adherents to this school of though promoted the best fit model of human resource and hence recruitment. Consequently, for any recruitment policy to work, it must be aligned with its context hence the subjective factor theory as propagated by Schuler and Jackson (1987). In this theory, employers pay more attention to how their character would fit in with the organization of choice. In other words these job applicants are likely to look for those companies that fit in well with their personality or those that are compatible with them. Different companies have different work ethos, work cultures and values. Although an employee may possess the right skills to carry out tasks in a firm, they may not have the capability of working like/ with other employees in that organization. If the work ethic of a job applicant is a polar opposite of their respective organization, then chances are that they will not be very productive or comfortable there. The best fit for an organization is therefore an important issue in recruitment. Additionally, a job applicant must be competent in handling the responsibilities that come with belonging to a certain organization. Sometimes the size of an organization or the kind of work handled in that organization may render an individual incompetent of delivering and this will therefore not make him/her an appropriate choice for that company.

The third aspect of the recruitment theory is critical factor consideration. Here, job applicants may not be in a position of assessing whether they actually fit into an organization through the subjective factor theory or they may not have the ability to access certain matters such as pay, work incentives, opportunities for growth and the like. This is because in such situations it may be that the respective candidate belongs to an underdeveloped country that has scarce informational resources. Alternatively, it may be that the concerned country has plenty of vacancies and candidates have very little choice left when applying for jobs. They may not necessarily be in a position of considering what is on offer when a vacancy pops up as they may want to grab that opportunity as soon as they possibly can. To this end, it may be imperative for the said individuals to portray themselves as possessing the right potential or the right work experience to fit into an organization. Also, certain aspects such as the kind of projects handled and the success level of that individual need to be assessed. In the previous theories i.e. objective and subjective theories, it has been assumed that job applicants are scarce and that companies are actually facing a shortage of talent. Nonetheless, in overpopulated or poor countries, the reverse may be true; candidates may try vacancies but in vain and it may be necessary to grasp whichever opportunity comes their way. The latter theory was propagated by Deleris and Dory (1996) who believed that a candidate’s context is crucial in recruitment.

How recruitment can fit in with organization strategy

Any human resource function needs to be such that it falls in line with the general strategic direction that an organization wishes to pursue as propagate by Ulrich (1997). Otherwise, it would be pointless to have a department that operates independently. Consequently, recruitment activities need to be such that they also reflect organizational goals. This can be achieved through a series of strategies. For instance, the best fit and the best practice approaches have been advocated by several human resource analysts. These individuals have asserted that all recruitment practices and HRM functions, in general, need to be done in a manner that helps the company achieve its goals. For example, a company that deals in insurance could be seeking to increase its sales revenues by twenty percent within two years. HRM recruitment approaches that fall in line with the best fit and best practice are those that will help the company achieve that twenty percent growth. To this end, the company should only attract and select job candidates that can deliver on these goals.

Alternatively, a company can align its human resource functions in recruitment with those of the organization by ensuring that they foster cooperation with senior management. Here, the human resource representatives need to be involved in the process of determining organizational or corporate objectives. Consequently, recruitment procedures will not just be seen as a way of responding to demands created by persons in higher positions. Instead, they may be considered as a way of implementing what the human resource department contributed to proactively. This means that the recruitment process will be personalized and it will be made more real to the concerned parties.

Current trends in recruitment

Hiltrop and Sparrow (1994) asserted that different roles in an organization necessitate different strategies and this is the reason why recruitment is affected by internal trends that fall within the scope of an organization’s influence. For example, the organizational culture prevalent within a certain company can determine exactly which kinds of personalities can work well in a company or it can affect the way certain companies deal with job applicants. Another internal factor is the approach that a firm takes towards corporate social responsibilities. To this end, recruitment processes will need to reflect these inclinations. If a company operates in the manufacturing industry, then it would be favourable to recruit and retail those employees who value environmental concerns. Management style also falls within control of an organization and this has a way of being reflecting in the human resource function especially during times of recruitment.

Fombrun et al (1984) claim that human resource personnel should be managed in way that reflects wider organizational needs for efficiency. This is why, more and more companies are giving precedence to high skills and qualifications during recruitment. Many firms are now service oriented since they are moving from the manufacturing sector. Consequently, these firms need to offer incentives to high skilled employees so as to attract them to their organizations. Conversely, employees are under pressure to prove themselves by trying as much as possible to acquire more qualifications.

On the other side of the argument is something proposed by Delery and Doty (1996) who affirmed that sometimes what an organization can change from within is not enough; companies need to consider their external environments as well. A range of factors can affect how recruitment within firms occurs. Usually, these trends fall in two major categories – external factors and internal ones. External factors are all those issues that a company cannot control. For instance, the global crisis or the state of the economy in many countries has been under recession, this implies that these companies must cut costs – consequently, they are trying to reduce on the number of candidates being admitted. Recruitment may therefore be a rare thing in environments such as these. Conversely, labour market trends could affect adversely how recruitment can be done. Here, education levels of candidates may have gone up and this may imply that employers need to raise their expectations from candidates. On the other hand, the government could have invested in a number of industries thus implying that job applicants may have an upper hand.

In conclusion, recruitment theory is generally divided into the systems approach or the ‘be systematic approach’. In the systems approach, organizations doing recruitment pay a lot of attention to specific inputs and outputs; this is rigid. These firms aim at improving the validity and reliability of their decisions. On the other hand, a systems approach advocates for a more flexible system that takes into effect all environmental issues. This depends on values and may sometimes be hampered by certain interests.


Hiltrop J. & Sparrow, P. (1994). European human resource management in transition. NY: Prentice hall

Fombrun, C., Tichy, M. & Devanna (1982). Strategic management human resource. Sloan management journal 23(2), 47-61

Delery, J. & Doty, D. (1996). Theorizing human resource strategic management. Management academy journal 39(5): 830-5

Pfeffer, J. (1998). Building profits through putting people first. Boston: Harvard Business press

Schuler, S. & Jackson, E. (1987). Competitive strategy and human resource practices. Management executive academy 1(3), 207-220

Ulrich, D. (1997). Human resource champions. Boston: Harvard press

Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources & competitive advantage. Management journal 17(3),120

Snell, S. & Lepak, D. (1999). Towards a theory of human capital allocation. Management academy review 24(5), 31

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