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Negative impacts of failures in selection process on the personality of job applicants

Negativní dopady neúspěchů ve výběrovém řízení na osobnost uchazečů o zaměstnání

PhDr. Monika Kratochvílová

Annotation

Selection procedures are an important factor of personnel stability in corporate environment. The necessity of choosing able and competent workers for strengthening the company's competitive ability is emphasized in theory. The selection procedures are realized in practise using various methods and their combinations. The study deals with different types of counselling activity on the Czech labour market (Labour offices, personnel agencies, the internet etc.) improving the quality of selection procedures both for the employees and job applicants. A special emphasis is placed on analysis of negative impacts of job applicants' failure at selection procedures. The author of the study has performed, within an empirical survey, a certain review of these impacts in the form of a questionnaire of which the fear of future, self-confidence problems, self-pity are spread the most. The results of the empirical survey show that only 10% of job applicants seek a professional help of psychologist or another specialist. The study demonstrates the necessity of self-motivation and activity of job applicants when solving this unpleasant life situation. The essence of this attitude consists in purposeful preparation for the first contact with a future employer and improving the readiness for selection procedures. Even here, for example, social communication specialists can help. In the conclusion, the study states that there is actually no feedback from employers towards the job applicants in the Czech Republic. Both enterprises and personal companies give  only minimally information to job applicants in terms of why they were not chosen, what mistakes they did at the job interview or as the case may be what they should do in order to improve themselves professionally.

Key words

Human resources. Vocational competence. Selecting and recruiting workers. The personality of a human. Job interview. Labour offices. Personnel agencies.

The significance of selection procedure for human resources management is not sufficiently appreciated until today. Barney (1991, p. 99) says that “the company's sources include all assets, capabilities, organizational processes, company's properties and attributes, information, knowledge etc. which enable the company to understand and implement strategies which will increase its performance“.  The mentioned author states the term  capabilities for which we could use Czech equivalent “schopnosti”.  For capability (competence) there is the term “ able” or “competent” in specialised dictionaries .

In this connection, it is not just terminology issues. In British and American specialized literature,  Spender further defines the term capabilities (2006, p. 16) as “skills, mechanisms needed for integration of tangible and intangible resources  for the benefit of the company and as a mean of transfer and use of the knowledge in the company“. The authors Teece, Pisano Shuen (1997, p. 32) characterize the term “dynamic capabilities“ as “ the ability of a company to integrate, build and reconfigure internal and external competencies with the emphasise on a quickly changing environment“. The other authors Morris, Snell a Wright (2005) with connection of international human resources analysis distinguish two basic types of  “capabilities“ – creative and integrative. According to these authors, companies' creative capabilities consist of international experience and local experience in making business, relationships of the company in social environment and behaving of the company on the market. Integrative “capabilities“ consist of company’s “absorption capacity“, i.e. to reflect  all above-mentioned factors and their manifestations  to its company culture of internal and cultural relationships.  

The resources in the corporate environment can be divided overall into tangible resources as machines, technologies, finances, physical capital etc. Further, its company's resources of intangible nature as company's culture, company's reputation, patents, designs, managerial skills etc. The specialized literature implies that the term “capability“ is rather used for companies, expressing the rate of control and integration of tangible and intangible resources, i.e. certain connection of technique, technologies and human factor.

For the capabilities of people and labour force the term vocational competence is used in personal management theory. The term vocational competence stems from the Anglo-Saxon environment and occurs in double meaning. The term (competences) expresses definable standards for exercise of a profession, qualification characters which are connected with the achieved education, postgraduate certification etc. On the contrary, the term competency (competencies) is characterised rather by a set of “soft“ characters as skill or experience. The term relates to the change of business environment which has taken place since the 70s. There are organizational shits, new technologies are utilized, overall globalisation and subsequent product innovation and more flexible services. The companies have to adjust to the dynamic environment and the workers had to change their behaviour and attitudes.

The interest in competencies dates back to 1973 when David McClelland published his article “Testing for Competence ether than for Intelligence“ in which he appealed so that not only intelligence but also competencies are taken into account when selecting candidates for working positions. In other words, the competence of a worker does not include only his working capability (competence) but it has also a number of other connections as foremost his  personality characteristics or the motivation to give a desirable working performance.

Bělohlávek (1996, p. 58) characterizes personality as a “unique connection of psychic features characterizing an individual“.  As psychic features this author understands abilities, skills, needs, motives, attitudes and shared values. Many candidates perceive the situation in the selection processes in a different way, the interviews may be very stressful for someone, and on the contrary, for someone else it may be a certain challenge depending on his temperament and the character of personality. When seeking a new job, most of the people have, however, certain personal ambitions which they manifest in a responsible approach to themselves.

Nevertheless, Nakonečný (2005, p. 28) states that “human action is rational only partially since it is subject also to irrational emotiogenous impulses and to the influences of unconscious tendencies. The relation of people to work is differentiated, most of them understand work as a mean to achieve different personal goals“. The effort of managers to fulfil not only the so called basic needs of a person but also the effort to recognize his work performance and his contribution to the success of the organization can be seen in personal management in the current enterprise environment. The personality of a worker or, more accurately, personal preconditions for the performance of a certain working position play increasingly important role. The imaginatively- emotional functions (figuratively experiential) including emotions, motivation, will and abilities, through which the personality of a human gets into a subjective contact with reality. They are a source of experiencing and wanting, creating the subjective aspect of each human by forming and “realizing his personality“.  These functions enable the job applicant to distance himself from the frequently “tough“reality when the selection process is evaluated. They enable him also to anticipate the possible development of events when participating in the selection processes repeatedly, to release the tension in the contact with the personnel officer and to get rid of the uncertainty, tension and fear during the interview itself. They also contribute significantly to the formation of the job interview preparation and the subsequent successfulness of the interview is influenced by the structure of the entire personality.

Fombrum, Tichý, Devanna (2004) show that choosing  workers is not only about the decision to take on a new employee who meets the best the requirements and conditions of the employer. These authors underline that the selection of applicants is connected with a big responsibility since employing an unsuitable person might have a very negative impact for the company. The mentioned authors write that the process of selection should not focus only on one method (for example applicant's documents analysis and selection interview) but more methods should be used so that they are mutually complementary (testing, references, assessment centre etc.). 

Beer (2004)  in this connection points out to the fact that the choice of the methods used for selection of workers is influenced by a number of factors, especially company size, the amount of the financial means earmarked by the company for selection, type and level (content of the activity)  of a vacancy and the time in which the new worker must be employed. The mentioned author points out to one essential fact. The chosen attitudes, the chosen methods in the selection procedure have often a considerable influence on job applicants.

The applicant may experience a lot of failures when seeking a new job,  however they should not discourage him from other trials. If the job application is refused, the applicant must accept an effective personal strategy to overcome the crisis period without employment (Buchtová 2002):

1)   Not to lose hope and not to succumb to the pressure of the adverse situation

2)   To plan regular daily activities

3)   To utilize the time to evaluate the so-far life and working experiences

4)   To spread the legal consciousness and to know the unemployed' s rights and obligations well

5)   Not to retreat into himself  but to watch what´s going on around, to maintain a continual contact with the job market and with the wider social environment

6)   To find even a less paid work for a temporary period

7)   To think through a labour saving life energy

8)   To care of one' s health thoroughly

Buchtová (2002, p. 87) points out that the attitudes of the job applicants can be in the range from certain passivity to accommodation to utterly active approach. According to this author, the passivity is typical „for women in middle age who hope to find a new job with the qualification they have and in the region they live “. As for the level of accommodation, the writer writes about the willingness of people …" to change their original profession, the place of their residence." The mentioned author connects the active reaction with the willingness of people to choose a private enterprise as job which is  usually "more distinctive in men“.

When looking for a new employment, one of the frequent solutions is to take advantage of work professional counselling services where the applicant can request an advice and help in order to find a new employment or to manage the selection processes. There is a precondition here consisting in respecting the uniqueness and individual needs of the unemployed. The counselling process takes place in a therapeutic atmosphere, guaranteeing confidentiality while respecting the freedom of the client’s decision at the same time. The goal of the work professional counselling is to concentrate on the client's present situation and to influence positively his employment search.  The client can deepen his self-knowledge, he will obtain information on the basis of which he can formulate realistic plans of solution, defines his problems and determines the possible decisions.

High demands in terms of communication skills are imposed on the personality of a specialized counsellor. In addition to tactful disputing, the counsellor must to know how to provide comprehensible information to the client but also to listen actively and carefully to the client's problem description. The art of empathy and inducing the feeling of safety is a very important property of the counsellor.  Based on the recommendations of the specialized counsellor, the job applicant tries to find employment in different ways depending on defining a suitable solution. One of the ways of employment search is registration at the Labour Office or in a personal agency or to search job on the Internet.

Labour offices

According to the Czech legislation the employers have the obligation to report to the labour office all positions to be occupied regardless their level, requirements on the candidate or evaluation. However, the practice is that the candidates for a better paid vacancy are able to contact the employer without the help of a labour office. The labour offices offer vacancies most frequently at the level of starting positions and positions not requiring a high education. Further on, they advertise vacancies with high fluctuation. All vacancies are advertised in electronic databases on the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs website, being publicly accessible.

Personal agencies

Some agencies have specialized in certain jobs, having lists of the working positions being offered as well as lists of people searching employment.  The applicants for leading and specialized positions consider addressing the personal agencies very effective. It enables them to discuss both the particular position and the employer with an independent third party. At the same time, they can get precious information in terms of procession of their application and a feedback from specialists with an extensive practice it the area of personnel services.

Internet

Currently, younger applicants for job choose probably the fastest and most effective way of employment searching – on the Internet. Here they can both, to offer their skills and to search through a number of advertisements of different companies and agencies intermediating jobs. The Internet provides a lot of advantages both for the applicants and the personnel officers. It provides access to much bigger amount of information than can be provided in an ordinary advertisement, enabling for instance so called online testing and to send electronic applications and CV's electronically.

In personal practice, it is very important that the job applicant contacts the enterprise where he is interested to work. It is not good to underestimate the preparation for the encounter with the officer thereof. It is suitable to get acquainted with the company where the applicant is invited as well as, of course, with the position he applies to. The information can be gained from the company´s web, from different leaflets or brochures issued by the company or possible from friends who know something of the company. Before the appointment, the applicant should remember at least the surname and position of the company´s representative he is about to meet with.

Also such a thing as how to get to the appointment needs to be planned. The applicant must take into account also such factors as different delays, traffic limitations etc.  Coming to the interview in the appointed time is a part of the participant's business card. In principal, it is not necessary to come to the interview more than 10 minutes earlier; the ideal situation is to be on the spot about 5 minutes before the agreed time. Late coming is not acceptable.

It is good for the applicant to prepare questions to the particular position in advance and take with him all things through which he can attract one's attention and prove the qualification for the particular position – CV, examples of works, recommendations, diplomas, course certifications etc. A good sleep, clean head and positive tuning is the best preparation for an interview. The applicant should be aware of the fact that he must be foremost himself when having an interview with the personnel officer; he should not play any other role and the effort to enforce his healthy self-consciousness should be in his interest.

In addition to the applicant's speech, also the way the applicant is dressed is important. He chooses the dress according to the position type he applies to. A stylish and neat appearance is almost a matter of course in the interviews. Each applicant must be aware of the fact that he has a common goal with the personnel officer – to find the best working partner, therefore it is important to focus on one's positive sides and to emphasise one's strengths.

Out of her practice, the author of this study can state these recommendations for employment applicants:

  • When greeting, the applicant must clasp hand tightly- of course, the personnel officer gives it as first, to smile and to maintain a constant contact by eyes.
  • The applicant does not occupy the place for sitting until offered to him.
  • The applicant tries to remember the name of the personnel officer and to use it for several times during the interview, if not sure by its pronunciation, he must ask him to repeat it.
  • The applicant behaves friendly and naturally during the interview.
  • The applicant listens carefully to what the employer conveys about the company and the position itself, he never slips down to inanimate nodding.
  • The interview is lead by the personnel officer, the applicant tries to bring him to explain the offered position and the duties related to it as soon as possible so that he can offer his education, abilities, successes, recommendations.
  • The applicant tries to give the most accurate and truthful answers, he definitely does not answer affectedly or by single-word.
  • Decisiveness is important – if the applicant is interested in the given position, he says it since it may help him to get to the closer round of selection.
  • The applicant speaks of his professional past and employers only positively. It is clear that there are reasons for leaving the previous jobs; he confines himself to only necessary facts, mentioning only adequate reasons.
  • The length of answers to questions should be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.
  • It is good to take notice of the atmosphere in the company. Then it will be easier for him to make decision whether it is worth for him to work in the environment at all.
  • During the interview, the applicant does not insist to be told  the salary amount, employers' benefits or vacation but he waits till the moment when the employer tells it himself.  The amount in the range best corresponding to the requested abilities and experiences should be a response to the question “What salary are you expecting“.
  • At the end of the interview, the applicant prepares one or two meaningful questions for the employer related to the position or the company, thereby he indicates he is interested in the position.

In this connection it is necessary to realize that the job applicant finds himself often in a difficult situation. The loss of job may mean a tremendous interference into his life, from different aspects. Generally it can be said that men and women perceive the loss of job differently. Women usually response to the notice of termination rather by a psychic shock while men adopt a “posture of defence“ (Buchtová 2002, p. 85). They are angrier, trying to find an explanation of their notice. However, even they fall often into the feeling of inferiority and shame because of their inability to defence their opinion. In addition, men are currently attributed the social status of “breadwinner“, therefore the loss of work can mean for them a tremendous interference into their self-confidence and accordingly also to their psyche. On the contrary, after losing job women can more realize themselves in family and by active work in household they can mitigate the feelings of uselessness.

Different responses to the loss of work can be found also in younger people. People by 30 years of age perceive the loss of job often as a challenge for a new working realization. On the other hand, elder people experience the loss of job at the worst because they were used to a certain regime for all their life and suddenly they lose it after many years.  In addition, there is a big pressure to get a new job which is extremely difficult for them because of their age. The employees often prefer younger to older which naturally impairs their self-confidence and then the people retreat into themselves, stop meeting with friends and overall feel useless and inferior.  

Finding a job again is influenced considerably also by the qualification of the person. A big part of the unemployed consists of low –qualified people. In addition, such people live in specific conditions of family life and single themselves out of the society. It is a closed circle at which the period of their unemployment increases while the chance to get a job decreases at the same time.

However, when it occurs and  one loses work to which he was used to there is no other possibility than to start looking for another employment, many times even outside his original profession. He attends one or more selection interviews before being successful in finding a new employment. The situation when one is being refused repeatedly in selection interviews is quite common and normal in these days.  Often it is because of a big interest in a particular working position when only one interested person suiting the best to the company's requirements is chosen. Whether one is successful or not successful in being accepted into work is also influenced by quality preparation for the interview which is underestimated by many people. When the preparation is insufficient, the person leaves refused, many times being accompanied by the feelings of stress, disappointment, hopelessness, frustration which may develop into severe diseases of the organism.

Each selection interview represents a stressful situation for person which he has to cope with. These stressful states usually culminate after negative decision of the personnel officer since the period of waiting for another interview has arrived.  When being unsuccessful in finding a new employment, the feelings of self-accusation from the inability to embrace the difficult procedures in this search come earlier or later. Unsuccessful trials to get a new employment, accompanied by stress and buck fever lead to nervousness and induce negative feelings  where hope and disappointment alternate which contributes to emotional lability. Subsequently, hopelessness becomes more and more intense, paralysing purposeful activities leading to attending other interviews. Buchtová (2002) further describes how individuals create different defensive mechanisms since the most frequent cause of their mental destitution is the fear of what´s going to be in the future.  Some people consider failures to find an employment humiliating and they turn against themselves and the entire society. Many times, breakage of inner harmony, discontent and fear lead to the occurrence of mental crises which are accompanied not only by stress but also by frustration or serious depressions.

The author of this study conducted individual personal interviews with questions focused on negative impacts on the personality of an applicant for job. The questions were answered by 50 respondents (29 employed and 21 unemployed) in different age categories. Most of the respondents have attended 5-8 unsuccessful selection interviews (58 percent), some have attended so far maximum 4  unsuccessful interviews (36 percent) and 6 percent of respondents have gone through more than  9 unsuccessful interviews.

A long-term unemployment is a big risk when failing to find a job.   43 of inquired respondents, i.e. almost 96% have expressed worries over this.  The longer the unemployment is the worse the chances of a person to find employment again are. An unsuccessful applicant starts to solve a number of problems associated with unemployment and mostly must reduce his so-far demands on the standard of living due to limited source of income. Also a different point of view on the willingness to accept a lower salary in the new job than was paid in the previous one relates to this.  This question was answered positively by 26 respondents, they would accept a lower salary, the remaining 24 respondents, mostly employed, are not willing to accept a lower salary in a new job.

Within the survey, the author has further focused on the job interview itself.  The questions pertained to the appearance and “trying“the model questions and answers before the interview. The research conducted with respondents has proven that individual unpreparedness for selection interview is considerably involved in the failure thereof.  Eight respondents are not aware at all of the fact that even a job interview has its rules and a good preparation and informedness are the basis of its success.  From the total sample, 12 respondents get ready for an interview regularly and 30 respondents occasionally according to the type of work which is altogether very positive. 18 respondents lay a big emphasis on the appearance and 23 respondents make themselves presentable and dress “normally“. It was, however, proven that the applicants for job in the over 50 age category pay to the preparedness for job interview more attention.

When researching the negative impacts on personality, the respondents were mentioning psychical problems which were put into the following order according to frequency of occurrence: fear for the future, sleeping disorders, and the feelings of guilt, loss of self- confidence, regret, frustration, resignation on the surroundings, apathy, depression, the feelings of uselessness, sadness, the feelings of inferiority, oversensitiveness, desperation. The respondents then stated as the most frequent health problems headaches, tiredness, weakness, stomach problems, sweating, heart beating, asthma, diabetes.  From the total number, only 6 respondents have sought a professional help of psychologist or another specialist and 19 respondents are still considering this possibility.  The remaining 25 respondents do not want to turn to a specialist.  Mental and health problems can be a very dangerous negative consequence in case of failure in a job interview and a suitable help of a specialist can help to manage an apparently unbearable situation.

The other negative consequences which may influence searching for a new job which have been determined in the survey include different psychic problems, ranging from the feelings of moodiness, irritation or inferiority to complete apathy or resignation on the entire surroundings. Frequent are also conflict situations arising in the unemployed’s family caused by the above-mentioned irritability and stress situations during interviews. The negative impacts on the personality of an unsuccessful applicant are a very frequent phenomenon but ale each one who meets them should steel himself against it to a certain extent and focus foremost on himself.  He should be aware of the fact that only he himself can influence the personnel officer during the interview and then it is possible to eliminate or at least moderate these negative consequences.

This all may be caused by big psychic pressure being imposed on such a person and by increasing worries concerning the existential possibilities of the entire family. The conflicts in the family of an unsuccessful applicant for work arise inconspicuously and the person must face the pressure from two sides. On one hand, the pressure comes from the side of potential employers when a big psychic load is exerted on the organism during a selection process, on the other hand, pressure is being imposed on him in the family so that the selection process is successful and he manages to get the new job. Overall, this is a very stressful matter due to which conflicts arise between the members of the household, accompanied by different feelings of guilt, frustration and reluctance to attend other selection procedures. With each new failure in selection interview the conflict situations only get worse, bringing only fear from other next failures which may lead up to a partner crisis.

As for the applicants, unemployment, especially long-term unemployment is connected with a range of economic, psychic and personality problems. The survey of the author of this study has shown that there are a “lot of reserves“in the number of applicants. Even though the surveyed sample of people was simple and some more general conclusions cannot be made from the results of the survey, yet it can be stated that some recommendations in this life situation of people looking for job can be made. Overall it can be said that one should not resign on his development, he should work on himself while strengthening his family background and the circle of closest friends. Despite failures when seeking employment he should continue to be active, i.e. he should actively seek out new sources of information on vacancies, enquire in a wider circle of friends. He should prepare himself for the first contact with a potential employer in a targeted manner, to improve the preparation for selection processes, to the encounter with personnel officers. To get informed about his potential future employer, to train possible questions and answers during the job interview for a certain position etc. Certainly it is suitable to turn in this issue to a specialist (psychologist) who can help to manage this complicated situation when seeking employment.

At the conclusion it is necessary to mention the phenomenon which complicates the situation of applicants for job. Unfortunately, feedback is commonly absent in the Czech conditions, in the practice of enterprises but also counselling agencies. Both enterprises and personnel companies at most return to applicants written materials which served as basic materials for the selection process. They do not provide them with any other information as why they were not selected, what kind of mistakes they made during the job interview or as the case may be what they should do in order to improve themselves in the direction to the chosen profession or as the case may be working position. Greeno (2006, p. 7) in this connection points out that this …”feedback is important for the applicant for job so that he adjusts his experiences and rectifies his further specialized and personality development“. This fact which remains to be a problematic issue in the Czech economic environment is confirmed also by the results of the research of the author of this study.

This “harsch” reality introduce for learning activities various theme, various question.

For Learning specialists (instructors, curriculum builders, media developers) my have some of the previous question in addition to the following: Which techniques will be effectiveness for particular situations?

For Consultants (experts, change gents) my have some of these saved questions plus others, such as: How shall I explain the nature and consequences of the various behaviour to my clients?

A good theory should provide explanations of phenomena as well as guidelines for action. But theories about human behaviour also carry with assumptions about human nature, the purpose of education, and desirable values.

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