Recruiter Political Skill and Organization Reputation Effects on Job Applicant Attraction in the Recruitment Process: A Multi-Study Investigation

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Purpose – Researchers have identified various recruiter and organization characteristics that individually influence staffing effectiveness. In extending contemporary research, the purpose of this paper is to address a straightforward question unexamined in previous research, namely, does recruiter political skill interact with organization reputation to influence applicant attraction in the recruitment process? Specifically, the authors hypothesized that for recruiters high in political skill, as organization reputation increases, applicant attraction to the organization increases. Alternatively, for recruiters low in political skill, as organization reputation increases, there is no change in applicant attraction to the organization.

Design/methodology/approach – Three studies were conducted to create the experimental manipulation materials, pilot test them and then conduct tests of the hypotheses. Study 1 created and tested the content validity of the recruiter political skill script. Study 2 reported on the effectiveness of the recruiter political skill experimental manipulation, whereby a male actor was hired to play the part of a recruiter high in political skill and one low in political skill. Finally, Study 3 was the primary hypothesis testing investigation.

Findings – Results from a 2×2 between-subjects experimental study (N=576) supported the hypotheses. Specifically, high recruiter political skill and favorable organization reputation each demonstrated significant main effects on applicant attraction to the organization. Additionally, the authors hypothesized, and confirmed, a significant organization reputation × recruiter political skill interaction. Specifically, findings demonstrated that increases in organization reputation resulted in increased applicant attraction to the organization for those exposed to a recruiter high in political skill. However, the effect was not for a recruiter low in political skill.

Research limitations/implications – Despite the single source nature of data collections, the authors took steps to minimize potential biasing factors (e.g. time separation, including affectivity). Future research will benefit from gathering multiple sources of data. In addition, no experimental research to date exists, examining political skill in a laboratory context. This finding has important implications for the growing research base on political skill in organizations.

Practical implications – First impressions are lasting impressions, and it is very costly to organizations when recruiters lose good candidates due to the failure to make a memorable and favorable impression. This paper supports the use of political skill in the recruitment process and highlights its capability to influence and attract job applicants to organizations successfully.

Originality/value – Despite its scientific and practical appeal, the causal effects of political skill on important work outcomes in an experimental setting have not been formally investigated. As the first experimental investigation of political skill, the authors can see more clearly and precisely what political skill behaviors of recruiters tend to influence applicant attraction to organizations in the recruitment process.