Major recruitment selection methods at a glance

In the old days applying for a job could just involve just having a friendly chat over a cup of coffee. Your boss-to-be would give you some insight into what the job entails and ask some questions to clarify your background. The main question would be whether you would interested in the role and if that was the case, the deal had been made.

How times have changed! In the current economic climate, the labour market has gradually shifted from job seeker to employer driven. I have noticed some employers increasing their demands for a certain role more and more. Where one job advert would in the past attract 80 applicants, there may now be 200 to 300 people writing to one particular role. In a lot of cases this means that selection methods being used by employers have become much more rigorous.

You have probably heard of terms like competency framework, assessment centre, situational interviewing but do you know what they mean? If you are applying to a multinational for the first time, the selection rounds you have to go through can be a little daunting. Having a long breath is  important, as passing the 5 or 6 rounds may take up some weeks or even months of your time. Here is an overview of the main selection methods that are frequently being used by many (larger) employers.

When employers decide on which selection methods they’ll use, they look at various factors such as which ones fit with their company culture, the budget available, which factors are required for job success and  the reliability of the selection instruments.

To determine which factors will ensure success in the role at stake, employers first analyse the job available. They can do that by setting up a job profile which includes the competencies that are required and at what level, also called a competency framework. This sounds simpler than it may be. Since employees tend to rotate from one job to the next rapidly, sometimes an accurate job description is not available. It is the basis for both the job seeker and employer to be successful during the selection process though, so it is vital that this information is at hand and up to date.

The first recruitment round usually consists of a CV and motivation selection. That is why it is important to have this documentation well carried out. By doing thorough research before you apply, you have identified what the employer is looking for in terms of professional and personal skills and what their business needs are. Only this way are you able to set the right tone in your CV and letter. You will be asked to send your application either by e-mail or by filling out an online application form, in which other bio data may be asked. It makes sense to study the form first before you start filling it out.

The second round may consist of (online) psychometric tests, which could measure your cognitive ability (the so-called IQ tests) or your personality. For employers these tests have moderate to highly reliable outcomes, are cost-effective and give a standardised set of data to base decisions on. For applicants that are faced with a cognitive ability test, it is good to remember that it is useful to practice in advance to get used to the way of questioning and how certain topics are being measured. With regards to personality tests please bear in mind that there are no good or bad outcomes here. The element that is being measured is how well your personality fits with the company and role. Usually the outcomes will be discussed afterwards and this can also be an enjoyable moment for you as you may become aware of facets of your personality that you had not considered yet and is useful input for the future.

The third round then consists of one or several face-to-face interviews. These can be done by one person but most companies prefer panel interviews to have a variety of perspectives. In the preparation process it is essential to familiarise yourself with all the ins and outs of the company, the role at stake and the background of the interviewers. You should also think about preparing the content of the interview by thinking about the questions that could be asked according to the two main interview methods; situational and competency-based  interviewing. When carried out in a structured manner, especially the latter is very reliable for employers to use. Situational interviewing is based on goal-setting theory. The interviewer will present you with hypothetical job-related situations and ask you how you would handle them. During competency or behavioural based interviews you will be asked to describe how you handled past situations that are relevant for the job on offer. The employer wants to identify whether you possess necessary competencies.

In the fourth round, when only a few applicants are left, employers sometimes use an assessment centre (AC) as a reliable last selection tool. An AC is usually carried out by an external specialised party and includes a variety of tools such as structured interviews, psychometric tests and various group exercise such as discussions, in-tray exercises, role-play and presentations. The AC lasts one or two days and is carried out under the supervision of a team of so-called ‘assessors’, who can be psychologists and (senior) managers. The positive side for you as an applicant is that an assessment centre will provide you with plenty of opportunity to demonstrate yourself and your skills. In my experience many people feel anxious in advance, which I can fully understand. There may seem little preparation you can do but you can make sure you know what an AC is about, try to be well rested and be yourself.

Before bringing out a job offer, some employers may carry out a reference check. Even though not much scientific research has been done on this tool yet, so far it seems that checking references is the least reliable from all other previously mentioned tools. Main reason for this is that referees do not give consistent views on candidates. If you are being asked to provide a reference, make sure that you inform the referee in advance so they can expect and prepare the reference.

To conclude, if you are in a selection process and involved in the CV round,  psychometric tests,  face-to-face interviews,  assessment centre or reference check, it is vital to be yourself. After all, you want the employer to hire you as you are and not a picture perfect version of you. However, good and thorough preparation is absolute key.

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