Recruiting and Selection: Keys to Success Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

The aging of the public sector workforce will require organizations to develop new strategies to maintain workforce quality, and one area that will require new practices will be recruiting. In the past, government agencies have not been very proactive in recruiting. A reason for this was the influx of baby boomers in the 70’s. With the departure of baby boomers and the increased competition for highly qualified workers, government will need to adopt policies and practices that will improve the ability of the public sector to compete for human resources. One of the principle functions of human resources is recruitment. In the private sector, firms have had to adopt policies to ensure the best possible pool of applicants is available. A reason for this is that the market has forced companies to implement up-to-date processes to succeed in a more competitive environment. In the third edition of Personnel and Human Resource Management (© 1987, West Group, Minneapolis/St. Paul), Randall Schuler described recruitment as “the set of activities and processes used to legally obtain a sufficient number of qualified people at the right place and time so that the people and the organization can select each other in their own best short and long term interests.” Recruitment is critical to an organization obtaining the best people who will be needed for an organization to fulfill both its short and long term objectives effectively and efficiently. Without qualified staff, it would be very difficult to be effective and efficient. Recruitment addresses one activity needed to achieve an exemplary workforce; beyond recruiting having an effective selection procedure is also necessary. Are there ways to improve the recruitment activity? Yes, there are a number of things that should improve the recruiting process. Among these activities are: 1) improved branding, 2) increased use of the Internet, 3) developing relationships with colleges, and 4) greater use of internships or co-op programs. The selection process also requires the development of improved processes and dissemination of how these revisions will impact internal customers and reduce applicant cycle time. All organizations, both public and private, would probably agree that the resource most critical to success is people. Recognizing and publicizing an organization’s image is critical to attracting the most qualified candidates. Efforts to inform the public about the work done by an agency are essential to developing one’s brand. There are plenty of examples of how an agency provided exemplary service to its customers in an efficient and effective way. Providing this information to the public will improve one’s brand.

While all government operations make job openings available over the Internet, the application process can be time consuming. Increasing the time required to apply increases the cost to applicants and reduces the number of potential candidates. Are there more efficient ways to use the Internet to reduce applicant time? Again, the answer is yes. While most agencies list the positions available, an applicant usually must read each posting to determine whether or not they have the qualifications required. Why not use the Web and have potential applicants query a database for possible openings? This is no different from what Internet job search sites provide. Asking an applicant to enter a few select characteristics would return a list of positions that might interest the potential applicant. An agency could also maintain a database of potential candidates. The database would include basic information about a person, and that basic information could be matched against new job listings. Those potential candidates who satisfied the requirements of the job would then be notified. These actions could reduce job search costs and therefore lead to a larger applicant pool. Agencies should also make an effort to develop relationships with college placement offices. While Internet jobs sites have changed how people find employment opportunities, most students still have contact with their job placement offices. Developing a relationship with college placement directors and staff would make students more aware of opportunities in government. Given the educational requirements for most government positions, it would be beneficial to develop improved relationships with colleges and universities. An effective way to bring students into government would be through either internships or a coop program; the former involves hiring students for the summer. The type of positions would be paid and structured. By bringing in new talent, the agency would be providing experience to potential full-time employees, as well as enhancing its brand. Using the coop program would involve a more structured program, as coop programs are usually part of a student’s degree program and employment would need to be available for multiple years. Ensuring students have a favorable experience would also help enhance the organization’s brand. With the increased competition for skilled employees, the selection process remains one of the most critical functions for human resource departments. Having staff with the abilities and skills required is essential for government agencies to operate effectively and efficiently. In an era with low unemployment and increased demand for skilled workers, developing a selection process that is more aligned with the current work environment is critical. In the past, many government agencies were obligated to use a rule based selection criteria, e.g., “rule of three,” or “rule of five,” where selection was restricted to the top scores on a standardized test. To better adapt to the changing employment situation, most states have implemented less stringent candidate lists, allowing manager’s greater flexibility.

In a survey of human resource practices among the states (© 2001, Public Administration Review, Vol. 61, No. 5), Sally Coleman Selden, Patricia Wallace Ingraham and Willow Jacobson found the plurality of states have implemented a “meets minimum requirements” hiring list procedure. Along with an automated application system the cycle time to produce an eligibility list has been reduced. In “Career Mobility and Branding in the Civil Service: An Empirical Study,” which was published in the Vol. 33, No. 1 Spring 2003 issue of Public Personnel Management (© 2003, IPMA-HR), Jack K. Ito found that reducing the “timeliness of appointment” has a positive impact on potential applicants. Given the labor market changes that public sector organizations will continue to face, implementing more effective processes to recruit candidates and select “the best and the brightest” will improve one’s ability to meet one’s organization’s human resource needs. By both promoting one’s organization and reducing the cycle time required for employment, the “cost” to recruit new staff will be reduced. Stuart Greenfield holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas. He has worked for three comptrollers of public accounts and other Texas state agencies. Since retiring from the state in 2000, Greenfield has taught economics at Texas State University and the University of Texas and has worked on various projects that interest him, including researching the aging of the public sector workforce and its implications, and a more efficient method to finance public education.