Improve the Hiring Process, Offer Realistic Job Previews

A candidate interviewing for a jobA couple of months ago, I decided to take a yoga class for the first time. I had done some yoga videos on my own, but I had never been to a class. I was a little nervous about what to expect, how I would fit in with others in the class, and if I’d actually be able to do any of those contorted yoga poses.

When I found a nearby yoga studio, I was excited to learn that I could attend one class free of charge. This meant I could realistically answer some of my basic questions before fully committing.

Wouldn’t it be great if a job applicant could do the same thing with a potential job?

Well, short of actually performing the job duties before being hired, there is something that employers can do: provide applicants with a true sense of what a job entails and what the environment is like. It’s called a Realistic Job Preview.

What’s in a Realistic Job Preview?

A realistic job preview, also called an RJP, provides job applicants with an honest depiction of the job, including both positive and negative aspects. According to OPM, RJPs should include “information applicants are unlikely to know or are likely to have unrealistic expectations about.” This can include a variety of information:

  • Specific job duties and expectations, such as learning to use a variety of computer systems
  • What it’s like to perform the job duties; for example, there may be a lot of ambiguity, or you may have to make quick decisions with little information
  • Job requirements such as working late, traveling, working outside in all weather conditions, or lifting heavy objects
  • Aspects of the organization’s culture such as behavioral norms and values

The key to creating an effective RJP is finding the balance between presenting the positive and negative aspects of the job. It is the balance between being honest, forthright, and upbeat, without concealing or over-emphasizing the negative aspects.

So, when creating the RJP, to help with finding the right balance of information worth sharing, hiring managers should think about what aspects of the job have been problematic for new hires in the past:

  • With what factors do people typically struggle?
  • Why are people leaving the job within a few months?
  • What didn’t new hires understand about the job that made it a poor fit?

If you can identify those aspects, as well as the positive features of the job, then you will know what information to stress in the RJP.

Another key to creating a good RJP is ensuring that the RJPs are presented to applicants early in the selection process. By giving applicants an honest and full description of the job and the organization, applicants can determine if the job is a good fit for them. Applicants can compare the information in the RJP to their own preferences. If the job is a good fit, then they can continue to pursue it. If not, then they can self-select out of the process before committing a lot of time and energy to interviews, personality tests, assessment centers, and other components in the hiring process.

Finally, keep in mind that RJPs can take a variety of forms – a paper handout or downloadable brochure, a video, a tour of the work environment if that is important, or as a conversational part of the interview process. The type you choose will likely depend on the nature of the job and the resources available for developing the RJP.

Why Use RJPs?

Research studies tell us that RJPs result in:

  • Decreased turnover, and therefore, lower costs in replacing employees who quit soon after hire
  • Increased employee commitment (because of positive perceptions of employer honesty)
  • Increased job satisfaction (because new hires have a better understanding of what will be expected)

In addition, RJPs have several other practical benefits, like helping to:

  • Provide value in recruiting and selecting successful job applicants
  • Demonstrate to applicants (and hiring manager) what knowledge and skills an applicant will need to have coming into the job on day one versus what the applicant will be trained to do upon hire
  • Provide a preview of what it’s like to work in a particular kind of environment
  • Determine job-person fit and organization-person fit
  • Begin the socialization process for a new hire

For which jobs are RJPs most effective?

It may not be practical or necessary to use RJPs in all selection processes. Research tells us that RJPs are especially effective for the following types of jobs:

  • Jobs that experience high rates of turnover soon after hire
  • Jobs that are complex or difficult
  • Jobs that have important aspects that are likely unknown or easily misunderstood by the applicant

Who Already Uses RJPs?

Both public and private sector organizations are using RJPs to make smart hires. The information presented in these organizations’ RJPs clearly communicates what it will be like to work for that organization and what will be expected. Here are a few examples:

RJPs fit right into hiring and recruiting tactics as a necessary aspect of an organization’s human capital management strategy: the right people, in the right place, at the right time. As noted in our latest complimentary research report—Unleveraged Talent: Exploring Gaps in Federal Workforce Management—organizations need to improve how they match the right skills and people to the right job.

Is your organization using RJPs? What impact have they had? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Human Capital & Human Resources
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Kriste Buchanan

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