What candidates really think of your selection procedure


  1. Candidates think that the selection process is accurate and fair when it includes elements of real job activities and when people can show their skills in a visible way
  2. When applicants have the impression that the selection procedure reflects the day to day reality of the desired job, they show a more positive attitude towards testing and they tend to perform better
  3. Companies become more attractive as employers and will likely be recommended to others when candidates perceive that there is justice in the way they are treated and evaluated during the selection process


To face the challenge of attracting the best performers, companies apply various tactics to ensure top candidates don’t run away. How can we understand applicants’ experiences and reactions to the selection process, and what do they do next? Before approaching this issue, we want to share a story.

Jacob is an engineer in the automotive industry. He was recently contacted by a company which had seen his resume. After progressing through the early stages of the selection process for a senior position, the company decided to slightly change the job description and since Jacob no longer fit the profile, they lost interest in him. Jacob became very suspicious and frustrated and decided not to send his resume to that company ever again.

What happened? In a few words, Jacob felt that he was unfairly treated. Applicant perceptions generally concern fairness from the company in many situations. Hausknecht, along with Day and Thomas (2004) systematically collected data regarding people’s perceptions and reactions to selection procedures. They worked on different studies to which about 48,000 people previously participated. They decided to measure:

  • The procedural justice within the selection procedure, and between organisation and applicant
  • Face validity, which is the extent of job-related content and information on the selection process


“I think I had the same resources and opportunities to perform as other people”

“Rules applied to choose the best candidate are based on matters of facts and apply equally to all”
“I feel the recruiter and/or the hiring manager respects me and appears sensitive”
“Everyone has access to explanations and feedback”


“The questions the recruiter and/or the hiring manager poses to me are related to the job I applied for.”
“The content of interviews and tests reflect what I would do on the job.”

Then, researchers asked: what are the effects of candidate perceptions? The table below represents the expected consequences of their experiences as candidates.

Back to Jacob’s story, there was a critical problem in perceived justice. The result? He certainly lost interest in that company and, more than likely, he shared his story with friends and colleagues too.


The results? Not surprising, but rich in recommendations

Here we present the most relevant results from the study. Authors found that face validity correlates strongly (.54) with procedural justice. What does this mean? If you include a realistic job preview in elements of the selection process, you will probably strengthen the idea that the procedure is fair. If you don’t, you might lose this impact. Procedural justice is a specification of the overall organisational justice, and it involves the perceived fairness of rules and procedures used to make decisions.
Perceived face validity explains nearly one third (29%) of procedural justice, which is interesting evidence as it adds weight to the importance of giving candidates a realistic job preview of the job they are hoping to get to the perceived fairness of the entire selection process.

face test validity

But how important are applicant perceptions to the selection process? Further results show that when candidates feel anxious, they tend to perform less well.

selection axiety

Being really motivated to tackle the selection process can instead bring better performance as there is a strong positive relation between these two variables.
In addition, when applicants perceive selection tools and processes as fair and job related, they are more likely to:

  • Hold a more positive image of the company, in other words organisational attractiveness rises
  • Recommend the company to others
  • Accept job offers
  • Perform well on selection tests

On the contrary, when organisations apply selection tools and procedures that are negatively perceived by applicants, they risk being unable to attract top candidates and face more litigation or negative public relations.


Takeaways for practice

What could organisations do to boost the impression candidates take from the tools and processes? The study highlights two practical implications that can be very useful:

  • Include elements or part of job duties in your selection procedures. By doing this, your company will be more transparent about what the job is about and how people are chosen.
  • Carefully choose your selection tools. The following table shows the most and the least appreciated instruments among applicants.

Some tips and tricks you might want to keep in mind before and during the selection process:

  1. Give applicants full information on the role with a well-prepared job description.
  2. When candidates must fill out questionnaires or assessments, provide explanations for taking this step and follow up with meaningful feedback.
  3. At an assessment center or interview, give candidates time and the chance to raise questions and express doubts. Recruiters and hiring managers, on the other hand, should help candidates to focus and stay calm.
  4. Base your tests and questions on facts and knowledge. For example, structured interviews instead of non-structured interviews represent an advantage both in terms of efficacy in selection and in fairness towards candidates.
  5. Always provide feedback, preferably with some takeaways for candidates. Productive feedback should be based on concrete facts or observed behaviors: people have the right to go home with useful tips.

Let’s go back to Jacob’s case.

A new forward-thinking company has proposed that Jacob take part in the selection process for a role similar to the one he had previously applied for. This time he had the chance to prove his skills by completing a case study, like other candidates.

Have you ever experienced similar cases in your company or in your career? The article prompts you to reflect on these situations and provides some tools to detect problems in procedural justice in the selection process. So from now there is something you can do about that!


Trustworthiness score 

We critically evaluated the trustworthiness of the study we used to inform this article. We found that it has a moderately high (80%) trustworthiness level. This means that there is a 20% chance that alternative explanations for these results are possible, including random effects.

Learn how we critically appraise studies to assign them a Trustworthiness Score.

We aim to provide you only the best available scientific evidence to inform your decisions.

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Hausknecht, J. P., Day, D. V., & Thomas, S. C. (2004). Applicant reactions to selection procedures: An updated model and meta‐analysis. Personnel Psychology, 57(3), 639-683.

You can find the original article here!


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