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journal contribution
posted on 05.06.2017 by Hinton, Susan, Schapper, Jan
Recruitment is an inexact science where hiring decisions rely on an unpredictable combination of subjective judgements, intuition and formal selection criteria. Like all human resource management functions, recruitment is a social process. It is the first step in the social relationship that develops between representatives of the organisation and potential employees. This social relationship is undergoing radical change in the late 1990's. The recruitment industry is going digital and employers are being persuaded to use web-based recruitment strategies with the claim their organisation will be "empowered" by the use of the Internet to access " a gold standard workforce"2. Puzzled by this hyperbole and the rhetoric of cyber-recruitment, we, two management academics decided to become participants in this brave new world of e-cruitment. Despite the promises of a sophisticated and effective method of attracting the best candidates for employers, as potential employees we found the on-line interaction to be frustrating and time-wasting. Having spent many hours attempting to respond to the prompts, we experienced the decision protocols underlying the webbased recruitment programs to be so immutable we could not even succeed in registering our interest in the advertised position. This experience lead us into a dialogue as we both sought to understand our personal responses to the dissonance between the rhetoric of e-cruitment and our reality. Reflecting her theoretical bias towards a psychoanalytic perspective, Jan asked 'What in the process of recruitment is being defended against by the adoption of e-cruitment methods?' Sue's social constructionist perspective led her to a different question. 'What are the disciplinary effects of emerging social practices such as e-cruitment? In the spirit of co-operative inquiry that encompasses a both/and approac h we will use these two critical theoretical perspectives to analyse the construction of 'e-cruitment' as a digital tool for attracting and selecting human resources. We intend to hold a dialogue that includes theoretical insights from both these perspectives to broaden our understanding of the issues as well as identifying the gaps and silences in each perspective. From a psychoanalytic perspective, organisations both create and seek to contain anxieties for its participants. Rules, procedures and processes it is argued, are not just instruments of efficiencies but also establish a sense of order and control that serve to protect members from organisational anxieties. Within the field of human resource management exists the myth of "the best employee" and recruiters are charged with the organisational responsibility to find that one best employee for the job. To do this requires them to sit in judgement on others and on the basis of whatever assessment tool/s, predict future performance. To assist with this impossible task and to minimise some of the many anxieties this may invoke, we argue recruiters seek to separate their individual self from this process by the creation of more "scientific" tools of selection - job analyses are conducted, job descriptions fine tuned, competencies identified and now ecruitment strategies are being tried. The discourses surrounding e-cruitment and the taken-for-granted nature of the technologies that brings people together through cyber-space, creates the myth of boundaryless, globalised, democratic, yet personalised access to jobs and careers. In contrast to this view, we argue that e-cruitment practices are highly inflexible, discriminatory and de-personalising. We conclude that e-cruitment has the effect of defending against complexity and ambiguity and narrowing and disciplining recruitment practices. Foucault's work on the constitutive and disciplinary effects of social discourses that impose particular and seemingly unchallengeable 'truths' about the social world hel ps us to understand the e-cruitment phenomenon. The unruly and often unpredictable practices of recruitment and selection are made controllable and certain through discourses of technical rationality and managerialism.


Year of first publication



Working paper series (Monash University. Department of Management).