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Using student perceptions and job characteristics to recruit recent graduates.

Recruiting is an important human resource management activity that should result in a pool of qualified job candidates to match up with specific job vacancies within an organization. The process has traditionally involved hiring and keeping the most qualified people. According to Holland [1], however, it is not enough to select people solely on the basis of job relevant skills, knowledge and abilities. To be considered the best candidates, these individuals should also be compatible with the corporate environment in order to minimize turnover, prolong tenure and reduce long term hiring costs such as recruiting. Thus, the most qualified person may not be the best person to hire for a given position. Finding the right person for the job requires matching individual personalities to the organizational environment resulting in returns to both the individual and to the firm in the long run. These returns range from an improved quality of work life and high levels of performance, to company loyalty and a willingness to sacrifice short run personal goals for the long-term goals of the corporation.

To say that recruiting is a costly and complex process that will ultimately impact the firm's bottom line is an understatement. Like any other business activity, it requires top management's support and cooperation. Visionary CEOs know that the people in the firm are the firm's most important assets, assets that may well make the difference between future success and failure for firms competing in a global market place. The best way to recruit these human resources is to market the firm using ad copy as a media. In order to attract the right kind of candidates, the firm must understand its own needs as determined by job analyses, personnel planning and selection criteria. But perhaps even more important, the firm must understand the job candidate's needs, preferences and views if the firm is to be successful in attracting the right recruits, that is, those willing to relocate, retrain, and do what is best for the corporation. The challenge for corporate recruiters is to market their firm to potential employees including graduating business students.

We have all heard the saying that, "First impression are the most lasting." Quite often, a candidate's first impression of a firm is obtained by reading one of its job advertisements. Thus, the content of the job ad is of utmost importance if the firm is to be successful in soliciting the best recruits to apply for a particular job opening. Recruiters responsible for writing the ad copy must use their writing skills to inform the candidates of certain critical attributes of the job. They can do this by providing information about the quality of work life, the corporate environment, and the job itself. Well written job ads inform the candidates about what they might expect if they agree to work for the company; for example, general levels of pay, existing and future opportunities for career growth and development, and a description of the kinds of people currently employed by the firm. The candidate's attraction to one company over another also depends on how effective the ad copy conveys the organizational culture, reward systems and career opportunities.

Thus, a dual set of needs must be accounted for within the copy of the ad. First, the job relevant duties and the companion skills, knowledge and abilities needed to carry them out are included. Second, the financial and non-financial rewards that will satisfy individual needs, such as job security or interesting work, must also be included. Such ads will enable firms to recruit individuals that match the firm's work environment.

While much has been written about the selection process from a corporate perspective, very few researchers have approached a study of the employment decision using job attributes preferred by graduating business students. Posner[2] (1981) investigated the requisite job applicant's characteristics and the desirable job factors that recruiters believed were important to students. He found that recruiters, as well as faculty, impart their own perceptions and personal preferences when they really should be assessing the student's job selection criteria. He concluded that students were able to rank their likes and dislikes, but these listings varied from those made by recruiters and faculty when each was asked to rank the preferred choices of the student population. Thus, recruiters and faculty do not appear to understand what students are looking for when they are searching for jobs. This lack of understanding makes job ad based recruiting extremely difficult and costly.

Most recruiting studies focus on a potential recruit's job relevant qualifications such as education, technical expertise or experience. (Zedeck, 1977) [3]. Often overlooked are the needs and wants of the individuals being recruited. (Behling & Rodkins, 1977) [4]. Thus, firms too often focus on the question, "Who are we going to recruit and hire?" when, perhaps, they should focus on the question of "What does a graduating student want in a job and how can we use this information more effectively in recruiting?"

Creating a descriptive template describing the kind of employee a firm wants is the first step in writing an effective job advertisement. Once the type of individual has been identified, a description of a corporate environment that matches this template can be described within the copy of the job ad. Individuals reading the ad are then more or less inclined to respond to the ad. Thus, individuals who match up with the corporate image are inclined to apply for advertised positions while those who do not match up will very likely take themselves out of the applicant pool. To develop the template requires an understanding of the wants and needs of recent graduates.

Many supervisors and managers may think they know what workers value more, for example, good wages versus interesting or challenging work that affords valuable career opportunities. However, "forty years of survey results prove that they don't" (Kovarch, 1987) [5].

Research Design

To investigate the synergistic effect of several job selection factor combinations, the authors designed a series of job descriptions for analysis. Each job description consisted of an introduction and a rating scale, followed by five sentences that briefly described the job. An implicit assumption of the research was that the data generated by the ordinal scale shown below could be treated as internal scale data for use in the ANOVA procedure. That is, it is assumed that the same satisfaction interval exists between 1 and 2, as between 2 and 3, as between 3 and 4, etc. The following introduction was used for each job: Each of the job descriptions that followed this introduction consisted of five sentences. One sentence was taken from each of the following five groups:

1. (Interest)

This job involves work that sounds challenging and interesting to you.

This job involves work outside of your major career areas of interest.

2. (Salary)

You understand this company pays salaries that are above average for persons with your qualifications.

You understand this company pays salaries that are about average for persons with your qualifications.

You understand this company pays salaries that are below average for persons with your qualifications.

3. (Advancement)

There appear to be many opportunities for advancement with this company.

There appear to be limited opportunities for advancement with this company.

4. (Social Responsibility)

The company is widely known as a socially responsible firm and participates in many community activities.

The company is not known for being socially responsible nor does it become involved in community activities.

5. (Location)

Your initial job assignment will be in an area of the country that is appealing to you.

Your initial job assignment will be in an area of the country that is not very appealing to you.

As an example, Job 39 consisted of the following description, following the introduction and rating scale:

This job involves work outside of your major career areas of interest. You understand this company pays salaries that are about average for persons with your qualifications. There appear to be limited opportunities for advancement with this company. The company is not known for being socially responsible nor does it become involved in community activities. Your initial job assignment will be in an area of the country that is appealing to you.

Using four factors with two possible sentences and one factor with three, there were 48 different combinations and hence 48 different job descriptions (2x2x2x2x3 = 48). Each of these 48 job descriptions, along with the rating instructions, was given to 10 students for evaluation and rating; this resulted in a total sample size of 480.

Business students at Eastern Washington University were used to analyze the job descriptions. Junior and senior classes were used, with emphasis on the latter. Eastern Washington University has a total student population of 8000, is a state supported regional university and has approximately 1400 business majors. Its graduates assume positions locally, in the Pacific Northwest region, and, to some extent, nationwide. It is the authors' opinion that these students are good representatives of many mid-level university business majors, although replication of this study would be needed to verify this assumption. Also, larger sample sizes would strengthen the conclusions generated by the research. Nevertheless, the results reported below are highly suggestive, in our opinion, of those that would result from a much larger study in a similar setting.


Table 1 shows the distribution of ratings across all 48 jobs by the sample of 480 students. As shown, there was a good spread across all ratings, removing the possible problem of most ratings tending toward one extreme or the other.
 Table 1
 Score Distribution, n = 480 (all jobs)
 Score Frequency Percentage
Extremely 1 26 5.4
Interested 2 75 15.6
 3 79 16.5
 4 65 13.5
 5 108 22.5
 6 70 14.6
Not Interested
At All 7 57 11.9
 480 100.0

A five-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted, testing the null hypotheses that in each of the five job description areas, the population of students would have the same average score regardless of the sentence used in the job description. In other words, the null hypotheses were:

Ho: Population rating means are the same for Interest factor

Ho: Population rating means are the same for Salary factor

Ho: Population rating means are the same for Advancement factor

Ho: Population rating means are the same for Social Responsibility factor

Ho: Population rating means are the same for Location factor

Key results from the ANOVA procedure are shown in Table 2. The full ANOVA table, except for the 26 interaction tests, appears in Table 3. As indicated, for each of the five factors, it can be concluded with small chance of error that the null hypothesis can be rejected. That is, each null hypothesis can be rejected with the probability of error shown in the last column (Significance of F). For each null hypothesis this probability of error is zero, to three decimal places. It is thus concluded that there is significantly higher rating for the better job description sentences than for the poorer sentences in all five areas.

Table 2

Selected Analysis of Variance Results
Effect F Value Significance of F
Interest 24.60 0.000
Salary 11.88 0.000
Advancement 51.22 0.000
Social Responsibility 28.48 0.000
Location 72.90 0.000

Interest & Location 14.67 0.000
Advancement & Location 9.85 0.002

The full ANOVA printout showed many combinations of two, three, four and five factor interaction hypotheses tests. For all but two of these, the null hypotheses of no interaction were accepted; the conclusion is that nothing unusual happens when certain sentences from one factor appear with certain sentences from another. This means that one can combine various job description sentences without the expectation of unusually high or low ratings due to the interactive effect of certain combinations.

In two areas there was significant interaction. As shown in Table 2, the two-way combination Interest-Location and the two-way combination Advancement-Location showed significant interaction: the significance levels for these tests are .000 and .002, respectively. These are the probabilities of error if the hull hypothesis of no interaction are rejected. An investigation of the cell counts for these two combinations showed that unexpectedly high ratings resulted when both the Interest and Location factors were high, and when both the Advancement and Location factors were high. The implication of these findings is that a job ad can have a particularly positive effect on a prospective applicant if both the Interest and the Location factors are high. The fact that job location appears in both these pairs suggests that location is of the greatest importance, in the opinion of the students surveyed. Location also has the highest test F value, as discused below. [TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

In the ANOVA procedure, the higher the F value, the more decisively one can reject the null hypothesis; that is, the higher the F value the lower the chance of committing a Type I error by rejecting a true null hypotheses. As shown in Table 2, all five null hypotheses can be rejected with small chance of error (significance = .000 for each).

However, it is interesting to note the relative size of the F statistics, and to rank them from high to low:
F Factor
72.90 Location
51.22 Advancement
28.48 Social Responsibility
24.60 Interest
11.88 Salary

The above ranking suggests the relative importance of the five factors, in the respondents' opinion. Location tops the list with the largest F value. Advancement is second and, surprising to the researchers, the Social Responsibility factor appears third. Salary, contrary to the widely held belief in a materialistic generation, appears last.

While the Salary null hypothesis is clearly rejected, its F value (11.88) is not too far above the critical value for rejection: at the .05 significance level the F value must be at least 3.00 for rejection, and for the .01 significance level the critical value is 4.61.


This research has shown that all five of the job related factors studied made a significant difference in the way prospective applicants viewed a job description. Conventional wisdom holds that salary is a vital element of job attractiveness, but the four other areas (interest, advancement, social responsibility, location) are of significant importance as well. In fact, these other factors all rank above salary in importance, based on the calculated F values in the ANOVA procedure.

The findings from this research project underline the importance of presenting relevant job-related information describing the positive elements of the work environment to prospective job applicants currently being recruited by the firm. College students about to graduate and looking for employment appear to be interested in a wide range of non-financial and financial rewards that make up the employment agreement. Firms wishing to attract strong candidates from this labor pool must recognize that their firm's working environments should be marketed.

Imbedded within the copy of job advertisement should be references to the company's reputation, product line, philosophy, corporate culture, location, opportunities for advancement, salary, and some indication of the firm's societal concerns, social responsibilities and the company's awareness of the impact it has on society and the environment. We suggest that copy writers join forces with their firm's advertising department to create ads that sell. Eye appealing ads with clean lines and easy to read copy detailing the major environmental components of the position are essential. Titles should read like proclamations: "ABC is Now Recruiting Professional Staff in Human Resource Management." Once hooked, the potential recruit searching for an attractive position is drawn into the ad copy that outlines the work environment, advantages of working for the firm, career opportunities, and the quality of life in the job area. The focus of the ad is to sell the company, the location of the job and the quality of work life in general, i.e., the corporate culture. In addition, it also specifies job duties and responsibilities and details desired qualifications of candidates.


[1.] Holland, J.E., Making Vocational Choice. Englewood Cliffs, M.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1973.

[2.] Posner, Barry Z., "Comparing Recruiter, Student, and Faculty Perceptions of Important Applicant and Job Characteristics," Personnel Psychology, 1981, Vol. 34.

[3.] Zedeck, S., "An Informational Processing Model and approach to the Study of Motivation," Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 1977, Vol. 18.

[4.] Behling, O. and H.R. Rodkin, "How College Students Find Jobs: A National Survey," Personnel Administration, 1977, Vol. 32.

[5.] Kovarch, Kenneth A., "What Motivates Employees?: Workers and Supervisors Give Different Answers," Business Horizons, 1987, Vol. 30.
COPYRIGHT 1992 St. John's University, College of Business Administration
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Article Details
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Author:McGinty, Robert; Reitsch, Arthur
Publication:Review of Business
Date:Jun 22, 1992
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