Academic journal article Applied H.R.M. Research

Recruiters' Use of Friendship in Résumé Assessment: When Qualification Does Not Always Make the Cut

Academic journal article Applied H.R.M. Research

Recruiters' Use of Friendship in Résumé Assessment: When Qualification Does Not Always Make the Cut

Article excerpt

An experiment was conducted with upper level undergraduate business students to investigate the mechanism by which recruiters use friendship with the job applicant in initial résumé screening. Using actual résumés, this study showed that the recruiters' friendship with the job applicants interacted with applicants' qualifications in influencing recruiters' screening decisions such that friendship aided those considered less qualified for the job in résumé assessment more so than those considered qualified for the job. Further, it was found that the influence of friendship on initial screening decisions (i.e., interview offer) was fully mediated by résumé assessment. The importance of understanding résumé assessment from the standpoint of recruiters as well as job seekers was discussed.

Social capital refers to, "friends, colleagues, and more general contacts through whom you receive opportunities to use your financial and human capital" (Burt, 1992, p. 9). In recent years, social capital has gained increasing popularity among organizational researchers as a means for organizations and individuals alike to achieve a competitive advantage.

At the individual level, social capital has been shown to be associated with both job search (Granovetter, 1973, 1995) and career success (Burt, 1992, 1997; Seibert, Kraimer, & Liden, 2001). At the organizational level, social capital has been shown to create intellectual capital (Hargadon & Sutton, 1997; Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998), improve cross-functional team effectiveness (Rosenthal, 1996) and relationships with suppliers (Baker, 1990; Uzzi, 1997), and reduce turnover rates (Krackhardt & Hanson, 1993). Despite the growing recognition that social capital can help organizations maximize their human capital to achieve and sustain competitive advantage (Burt, 1992), there has been little research examining the possible influence of social capital on employee selection.

Although many definitions of social capital have been reported in the literature, I adopted Burt's (1992) definition of social capital mentioned previously. This definition focuses on the external ties an individual maintains with people outside their organization, rather than internal ties within their organization. In other words, social capital equates to external ties that act as resources, helping individuals and organizations alike gain a competitive advantage. This definition excludes such other definitions of social capital that include internal ties (e.g., strength of group cohesion) which focus on the internal structure or ties among individuals within the group or definitions of social capital that are neutral in focus (i.e., neither internal nor external) varying with perspective and/or level of analysis (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998).

The Role of Human Capital in Résumé Screening

Human capital refers to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) an individual possesses (Coleman, 1988). Human capital has been shown to be a valid predictor of job performance across job domains. In light of this well established finding, the goal in personnel selection is to maximize the extent to which selection instruments measure the KSAs required to perform the job. It has been the central focus of Human Resource (HR) recruiters and managers for years in evaluating the person-job (P-J) fit of applicants (e.g., Edwards, 1991). However, whereas applicants' KSAs has been shown to be the primary focus in evaluating applicants' P-J fit and person-organization (P-O) fit (Schneider, 1987; Kristof-Brown, 2000), recruiters were reported to rely on values and personality traits of the applicants in evaluating P-O fit.

It is this author's argument that social capital conceptualized as external ties between the HR recruiter and the job applicant may play a role in the P-O fit evaluation process as well. First, external ties between job seekers and HR recruiters are likely to help the recruiters arrive at the P-O fit perception faster due to the recruiter's access to knowledge of the applicant's personality and value. …

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