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  • Brian Goldfeder

HWEN I/O Psychology Focus: Employee Selection and Personnel Decisions

In today's post, I talk about a serious issue we face: employee selection and personnel decisions. I'm going to use my own experiences as a basis for this discussion.


First of all: we are at a point where unemployment is at its highest rate in some time. Granted, this was largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, but now that we are seeing the signs of the pandemic coming to an eventual end, people are hiring, and it is often said that there are more jobs available than people to take them.


So why are job postings so picky?


In my lifetime, I have been accepted almost everywhere I've been - at my former job (toxic environment notwithstanding), every school I've applied to, and within my volunteer organizations. Yet one area where I can't seem to break through is the simple task of finding a job. It is even harder to find a job when the job you want is something you want to do but have never done before. It's the old catch-22: you need experience to get a job, but yet you can't get experience without a job.


Trying to change careers after a 16-year dead-end job is much harder than it sounds (and it sounds hard). I was hoping to get a job as a corporate trainer, but there's only one problem: most companies that had a position was only looking to hire people with experience. And even in the few that were more open-minded, my resumes went though without so much as a response (with two rejection letters received along the way). For someone who already suffers from imposter syndrome, not helping.


Learning about employee selection procedures was very insightful for me, but I still wonder what the right decision should have been in a case involving myself two years ago.


In January 2019, just over two years ago, I was informed that as a result of restructuring following an acquisition, that my position - along with the positions of everyone else in my department - would be eliminated by mid-May (due to the company being unprepared to take over my work, mid-May later became mid-November). Throughout this time, I was made aware that other departments in the company were looking to hire new staff. They were seeking project managers, business analysts, and similar roles. Being at a manager level for five years, I was not seeking to take a lower position, but rather one that would allow me to use my experience, education, and managerial skills. After encouragement from my bosses and my HR representative, I put together a resume and submitted an internal job application. I was very confident that something would happen, as several others had successfully transitioned to other roles over the past year. And here's the kicker: they even wanted to hire a training specialist for the office with minimal experience, which made me qualified. I applied for that position, too.


Guess what happened?


Nothing.


Absolutely nothing.


My application went right into the proverbial "circular file" and I had to watch as outsiders were hired for these roles while I was left out to dry and collect my severance package.


So that begs an obvious question: what is the line to be drawn between procedural politics and good old-fashioned common sense? Give the person who is about to lose his (or her) job anyway a fair chance to stay with the company, and maybe you'll save money in not having to pay out severance, unemployment, and onboarding expenses. Sometimes, you need to approach each situation with uniqueness and not do things just because "that's the way we do things."


Not to put down the people hired instead of me, but the fact that I never even got a chance to interview for these positions made me realize that this was not a company I wanted to be associated with. A company which boasts about promoting from within and allowing employees to transfer, yet doing what they did to me? By lying to my face? Unreal.


For the record, I was offered a chance at a position that would have kept me at the company. But it was as a business analyst, which didn't appeal to me at all. There is a concept known as person-job fit and I knew that it was not going to work for me. I decided I would rather take the severance than stay on in a job I did not want while I had to potentially work with those who got the jobs I actually did want in the first place.


What can we learn from this experience? First, don't be too picky with your job requirements. Yes, you can give preferences, but by limiting the pool from which you can choose, you set yourself up for false positives (hiring someone who is not the best fit, as I observed a few times) and affect the mental health of the job seekers who already may suffer from anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome. Second, think with common sense and be mindful of unique situations. And finally, for job-seekers, don't settle unless you have to.


Be healthy!

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