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date: 07 April 2020

Investigating Recruitment: An Introduction

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter, we introduce  The Oxford Handbook of Recruitment . We establish the goals and scope of the handbook. We begin by summarizing the recurring themes in recruitment research and use them to explain organization behind the book’s various chapters. We also distill the fundamental questions that recruitment research seeks to answer and discuss how the book’s chapters work together to represent a comprehensive and integrative approach to the past, present, and future of recruitment research.

Keywords: applicant attraction, job search, recruitment methodology, recruitment research, recruitment sources, recruitment strategy


People are the principal drivers of organizational success. A talented workforce helps organizations execute and deliver on strategic objectives. It is thus no surprise that human resources are a key component of any organization’s competitive advantage (Barney, 1986; Yu & Cable, 2012). Recruitment therefore plays a vital role in building, nurturing, and maintaining organizational success.

The past forty years have established recruitment as a fundamental area of research that is of interest and importance to both researchers and practitioners. The exponential increase in recruitment research during this time has both challenged and expanded conceptualizations of this concept. Recruitment is no longer viewed as simply another component of human resource management but rather as a strategic tool with wide-ranging implications for organizations. To this extent investigations on the subject have drawn on diverse perspectives from economics to marketing, highlighting recruitment’s links with multiple aspects of organizational functioning such as selection, onboarding, organizational culture, job performance, and turnover.

The goal of this handbook is to provide a comprehensive summary of the state of recruitment research. It is hoped that by providing insight into both theoretical and empirical underpinnings of the topic this volume will (1) focus readers on the important issues affecting our understanding and application of recruitment concepts; and (2) provide structure toward current thinking and future exploration of the field. The various parts of this book are organized to reflect current views of recruitment as a multifaceted and complex process.

This handbook’s material utilizes several recurring themes to achieve these goals. First, it chronicles the evolution of recruitment research from its beginnings as a vocational topic largely focused on recruiters and applicant reactions to contemporary multifaceted approaches that have expanded its boundaries to include employer brands and actual product offerings. Second, special focus is also placed on conceptualizing recruitment as a process. The focus is thus not only on exploring how recruitment activities unfold, but also on a broader view of the factors that drive their implementation and the outcomes that they in turn generate. Third, (p. 2) recruitment is also conceptualized as a multilevel phenomenon, impacting the experiences of individual job seekers and recruiters as well as the strategy and reputation of entire organizations. Further, recruitment also occurs within the wider context of cultural and economic environments.

The handbook’s various chapters provide reviews and discussions of the different areas of research conducted under the topic of recruitment. Together these chapters present a comprehensive in-depth picture of the state of knowledge in our field. To borrow a folk schema from investigative journalism (Grant & Ashford, 2008), these chapters may be organized according to the questions they answer about the nature of recruitment: (1) Who is involved in recruitment? (2) What do they do? (3) When does it occur? (4) Where does it take place? (5) Why does it influence various stakeholders in the process? (6) How is recruitment investigated? Our intention is not so much to pigeonhole chapters into rigid categories. Many of the book’s chapters actually answer several of these questions. Instead, we seek to present an integrative description of recruitment as a multidimensional phenomenon that benefits from being subject to inquiry based on the aforementioned fundamental questions.

The “Who” of Recruitment: Key Stakeholders

The first fundamental question deals with “Who is involved in recruitment?” A multilevel approach is adopted where Ployhart and Kim’s chapter highlights the importance of strategizing recruitment plans for organizations and their decision makers. Connerley’s chapter shifts the focus from the organizational to individual level by highlighting the impact and influence of the people whom many consider to be at the frontline of recruitment activities: recruiters. Recruiter attributes and behaviours influence another key group of individuals who are usually labeled job seekers and applicants. Describing the experiences of these individuals, Hausknecht’s chapter discusses the impact of recruitment processes on applicant perceptions of recruitment and selection practices. This chapter is complemented by Harold and colleagues’ discussion of applicant job choice decisions.

The recruitment of several special groups also receives particular interest, with Boezerman and Ellemers’ chapter taking on the psychology behind volunteer recruitment. These authors draw attention to underlying psychological processes that drive decisions to volunteer, also discussing how employer actions influence paid employees’ willingness to take part in corporate volunteer programs. In contrast, Rau and Adams look forward to address how the employment and recruitment of older workers is a critical issue that organizations have to deal with. Their chapter specifically explores key concerns of older workers and how organizations can adapt their recruitment policies and messages to attract them. Last but not least, Volpone and colleagues discuss the targeted diversity recruitment of minorities. Their chapter describes the various diversity images and messages typically encountered during targeted recruitment and how minority applicants interpret the signals that these communications generate.

The “What” of Recruitment: Variables of Interest

Although recruitment research has examined a wide variety of constructs, several variables feature consistently. These variables are regarded central to the recruitment process and merit

in-depth discussions in this handbook. We describe these variables as either dependent variables or outcomes of the recruitment process versus independent variables or factors influencing these outcomes. Harold and colleagues document outcomes from a job seeker point of view with their discussion of job choice and applicant behaviors (e.g., information gathering and maintaining of applicant status) leading up to such decisions. Hausknecht’s chapter complements their discussion by shedding more light on applicants’ perceptions of the fairness of recruitment and selection processes and how their job seeking experiences impact perceptions of themselves (e.g., self-esteem) and potential employers. Similarly, Stevens and Seo deal with the impact of affect and emotions on job seeker experiences as they undergo the stressful recruitment process. Weller and colleagues’ chapter goes a step further to consider applicant outcomes after they have completed the recruitment process and become employees of an organization. Their review links applicant preorganizational entry experiences to post-entry experiences such as socialization, commitment, and eventually tenure.

The discussion of recruitment outcomes is not constrained to individual experiences and behaviour. Addressing the dearth of research exploring organizational-level recruitment outcomes, Ployhart and Kim propose a model of strategic recruiting that focuses on managing human capital, operational performance, and competitive advantage. Similarly, Gully and colleagues discuss the role of recruitment (p. 3) situated within a framework of strategic human resource management. These authors specifically discuss the implications of recruitment not only for other facets of human resource management (e.g., training and developing employees), but also for all levels of the organization (e.g., individual, business unit, and organization). Carlson and Mecham adopt an integrative approach in their discussion of the evaluation of recruitment effectiveness by examining both individual applicant attitudes and the quantity and quality of entire applicant pools that organizations can attract.

As for the factors influencing the aforementioned outcomes, Griffeth and colleagues’ chapter provides a comprehensive review of the various recruitment sources (formal vs. informal and internal vs. external) and their effects on individuals’ experiences once they become employees of a company (e.g., stress, job performance, person–organization fit, and turnover). Van Hoye’s chapter focuses on one of these informal recruitment sources that has received significant attention of late: word-of-mouth (WOM). Her model not only explores job seeker and employer-based characteristics as important influences of WOM use, but also examines WOM’s impact on pre- and post-hire outcomes among individuals. Walker and Hinojosa’s chapter focuses on the messages that recruitment sources carry. Special attention is given to reviewing how message source and content together with the communication medium and audience characteristics influence recruitment outcomes.

On the employer side, Connerley’s chapter focuses on how the personal characteristics of recruiters (e.g., race and gender) and their approach to recruiting (e.g., screening vs. selling orientation) influence applicant attraction. Collins and Kanar instead focus on how recruitment practices influence employer brands and images, which in turn affect applicant attraction. Jones and Willness also focus on organizational images but approach the topic from a corporate social responsibility viewpoint, where employer social and environment responsibility can be used to recruit high-quality job candidates. Finally, Tsai and Huang highlight impression management behaviors that occur during recruitment on the part of both individual applicants and organizational interviewers and recruiters.

The “When” of Recruitment: Development and Process

No understanding of a phenomenon is complete without taking into account temporal factors. To this end, Rynes and Reeves’ chapter provides a historical account of the development of recruitment research. Their review documents the changing focus and methodological advancements that have taken place in the academic study of the topic in the last forty years. Crucially, they also identify several gaps in the current state of such research. Breaugh presents a model of recruitment that describes it as a process that begins with setting recruitment objectives and progresses to the formulation of recruitment strategy. According to his model, recruitment activities and pre- and post-hire outcomes logically follow these key decisions. Carlson and Mecham’s chapter presents an alternative view of recruitment as a process that unfolds through several decision events that occur for both individual job seeker and employing organizations. These authors also review and comment on the extent to which research has adequately examined temporal issues in the sequential process of recruitment.

The “Where” of Recruitment: Contextual Issues

As recruitment it is a wide-ranging process that has significant implications for people, organizations, and their environment, it is also important to consider the context under which recruitment takes place. Dineen and Allen’s chapter on internet recruiting delves deep into the virtual world, where more and more recruitment interactions take place nowadays. Their discussion provides valuable insight to the implications of online recruitment for employer communications, recruitment activities, and job seeker expectations. Miller and Guo situate recruitment within an international cross-cultural framework. Their chapter discusses the challenges that multinational corporations have when adopting human resource strategies such as recruitment in different host environments, as well as the impact of cultural values on how job search and recruitment are experienced across international boundaries. Finally, Rau and Adams highlight how aging populations across many of the world’s developed economies have made it incumbent upon many nations and organizations that operate within them to recruit older workers.

The “Why of Recruitment: Theoretical Perspectives

Although all of the chapters in this handbook are strongly grounded in theory, several chapters approach recruitment from a single theoretical perspective. These perspectives represent approaches (p. 4) that have either established a prominent role in recruitment research or whose use has risen in more contemporary investigations. Landis and colleagues review research from a realistic job preview perspective, while Kristof-Brown and colleagues analyze recruitment through the lens of person–organization fit theory. More contemporary approaches have borrowed and integrated concepts from outside of the organizational sciences. For instance, Carter and Highhouse review the social identity concerns of job seekers and how they motivate job choice. In contrast, Collins and Kanar adopt a marketing-based paradigm in their review of employer brand equity research. These authors detail how brand perceptions are developed through different levels of cognitive processing of recruitment messages, and also the types of mental associations that job seekers develop based on employer brands.

The “How”: Investigating Recruitment

Our final group of chapters revolve around the scientific pursuit of recruitment knowledge. Saks’ chapter presents a model of recruitment research design and discusses how research can be designed to study phenomena within or across different stages of the recruitment process starting from job application to the eventual socialization of new hires. Newman and colleagues focus on how different research designs can be applied to investigations of minority recruitment. These authors also discuss the use of analytic models based on mathematical relationships and simulations in the study of targeted recruitment. Finally, Weller and colleagues also provide insight into the use of event history and fixed effect methodologies to investigate recruitment effects on tenure and turnover.


In all, this handbook represents more than just an exhaustive review of recruitment research over the past forty years. Rather, it also represents an in-depth critique and analysis of the current state of understanding of this topic from its most influential investigators. It is hoped that the book and its various contributions serve as a springboard to energize and focus future endeavors in this increasingly pertinent driver of individual and organizational success.


Barney, J. B. (1986). Organizational culture: Can it be a source of sustained competitive advantage? Academy of Management Review, 11, 656–665.Find this resource:

Grant, A. M., & Ashford, S. J. (2008). The dynamics of proactivity at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 28, 3–34.Find this resource:

Yu, K. Y. T., & Cable, D. M. (2012). Recruitment and competitive advantage: A brand equity perspective. In S. W. J. Kozlowski (Ed.), Oxford handbook of industrial-organizational psychology (pp. 197–220). New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource: