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Recruitment Practices and Selectivity in the French Retail Industry Géraldine Rieucau Paris 8 University (St-Denis) and Centre d'études de l'emploi (Noisy-le-grand,

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Presentation on theme: "Recruitment Practices and Selectivity in the French Retail Industry Géraldine Rieucau Paris 8 University (St-Denis) and Centre d'études de l'emploi (Noisy-le-grand,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Recruitment Practices and Selectivity in the French Retail Industry Géraldine Rieucau Paris 8 University (St-Denis) and Centre d'études de l'emploi (Noisy-le-grand, France) CROME Lunchtime Seminar Brighton Business School, 21st March 2012

2 1. Theoretical framework 1. Recruitment in the French retail industry 1. Unsolicited applications: the main hiring channel 1. Walk-in applications: a first selection based on location and availability 1. The interview: screening on appearance and attitude or through practical questions? 1. When the actors are changing the selection process

3 Theoretical framework In standard Economics literature, employers and job-seekers face strong uncertainty (Stigler, 1962): employers are looking for information about the productivity of the applicants; job-seekers are looking for information about the characteristics of the job offers. It is necessary to reduce uncertainty in order to increase Labour Market efficiency. 1) Information channels could improve LM efficiency by reducing costs search, centralizing information and improving the quality of the match (Autor, 2010). 2) To increase the probability of getting a job, job-seekers have to multiply job search channels (to gather more information)

4 Theoretical framework (cont.) 3) Employers select workers among a pool of applicants provided by recruitment channel. They need signals to evaluate the applicant's productivity.  Signals (diploma, prior lay-off) are supposed to be correlated with further job performance (productivity).  There are risks of discrimination when selection is based on age, gender, ethnic origin... which are not correlated with productivity

5 Empirical studies point out:  Information could differ from channel to channel (Rees; 1966) job ads and public agencies provide general information about a large pool of applicants while social networks procure rich information about a few applicants.  Channels are not accessible to all job-seekers: educational standards are not critical when information is conveyed through social networks (Ioannides and Datcher Loury, 2004) but they act as a filter when the channel information is advertisement (Marchal and al. 2007)  Selection varies according to the stage of the process: for interview selectiongetting an interview, employers reject applicants not currently employed. Yet, to get a job, being unemployed is not a disadvantage (Manning, 2000) Theoretical framework (cont.)

6  Diversity in the ways applicants are evaluated: selection varies according to information channel, screening criteria, stage of selection process. Recruitment practices impact the profile of the hired workers: if all employers have the same practices, particular groups of workers may be excluded from employment because they are universally judged as ‘unemployable’.  We must pay attention to selectivity and long-term exclusion risks (as well as discrimination)  There is no “intrinsic individual productivity”. Productivity depends on the work context, the plant,... Theoretical framework (cont.)

7 The Framework of the French Economy of Conventions is useful to understand recruitment. Two relevant points: 1) LM coordination requires a shared representation of the environment:  Multiplicity of “conventional representations” of a given situation (Latsis and al. 2010)  Multiplicity of “conventional representations” of what makes a “good candidate” (Salognon, 2007) Theoretical framework: Economy of Conventions

8 2) To tackle uncertainty, actors have to “shape” information. Attention must be paid to:  The way employers and applicants first interact: face-to-face or at a distance interaction.  The “format” of the information: do employers rely on written and codified criteria or not (Thevenot, 1985)  The characteristics of the evaluation: does the judgment take into account the work context (Eymard-Duvernay et Marchal, 1997) Theoretical framework: Economy of Conventions

9 2- Recruitment in French retail industry Despite the crisis, retail industry needs to recruit all the time, especially low-skilled jobs There is a high-level of turnover in low-wage jobs (cashiers, employees for goods handling and shelving and for the warehouse). Another part of the workforce is more stable: shop assistants in specialised or Department stores; cashiers (les “anciennes”) Flexible hour and high proportion of part-time workers. Specific difficulties to find butchers, bakers, sellers for fish counter Fewer opportunities for career progression than in the past (weakening of internal labour market)

10 Job-finding channels in France (2011) Direct application Social networks Job advertise ment. Public employment agency Re-hiring School placement services Other means Employees recently hired (total sample) Employees recently hired in Retail (11% of total) In hypermarket In supermarket Source: LFS, T1et T2 2011, Insee. Employees hired for less than a year

11 A qualitative survey ( with Marie Salognon, Paris 1 University ) 35 Semi-structured interviews have been conducted (September December 2011) in Paris and suburbs – documentation information Interviews with: Store managers or RH assistant/managers (head quarter) involved in the recruitment process Recently hired employees Employees in placement agencies 6 cases of food retail companies –hyper and supermarkets (3 depth cases) 2 cases of specialised retail companies (depth cases) 1 Department store (depth case)

12 Data description (case studies) Food retailNot food retailNumber of interviews Stores belonging to chainFCH1-FCH2-FCH3 Supermarkets and hypermarkets NFCH1-NFCH224 Specialised stores Independent stores (franchised, cooperative) FI1-FI2-FI3 Supermarkets and hypermarkets DS11 (Department store) Number of interviews231235

13 Data description (respondents) Recently hiredInvolved in recruitment (store) Involved in recruitment LM intermediaries (headquarter) CashiersStore managersRH managersPublic agencies Employees for good handling and shelving Department managersRH assistantsPrivate agency Shop assistantsClerks 12 interviews10 interviews9 interviews4 interviews

14 Questions to managers and RH (semi-structured questionnaire) They were asked to provide some information about his last recruitment (internal or external recruitment) The hiring channel(s): did the recruiter place an advert on the internet/ a paper/ in the shop window? Did she notify the public agency about a vacancy? Did she use existing staff networks? Select from unsolicited applications she has received? The characteristics of the job offer: position, location, wage, contract The recruitment process: number of applicants, methods used to select and their degree of formalisation How many persons involved in the recruitment process? Reasons for the final choice, profile of the applicants rejected. Did methods involved in this particular hire differ from the usual practices or not? When the respondent is a RH manager (head quarter), interview mainly displayed on usual practices.

15 Questions to employees recently hired (semi-structured questionnaire) Previous position (unemployed, student, currently employed...). Job search process: efforts to find a job, Job-search duration etc. Reasons to apply for a job in retail industry? Prior experience in the sector? How did the respondent become aware of a vacancy? Did she need to send a resume or/and a cover letter? How did exactly happen the first interaction with the firm? The selection methods during the interview: did the person complete tests? Fill in questionnaire? Complete practical simulations? Answer to practical questions? Did other job-seekers apply for the vacancy (degree of competition)

16 3. Unsolicited applications: main hiring channel in retail Our survey confirms that direct/unsolicited applications are the main channel used by both job-seekers and employers: Employers: these applications are costless, received daily and updated. They are signalling of job-seeker's motivation “We receive a lot of resumes; many people give us and don’t expect a job ad from the Public agency. People make efforts to find themselves and we find what we want in 95% of cases in resumes" (store manager, NFCH1) Job-seekers can easily walk-in or write-in (stores are open): “I began by selecting addresses and visiting directly the stores. Then, someone told me “put your resume online," and I did it” (Cashier, FCH3)

17 Unsolicited applications : a first selection based on written criteria Applications sent by mail (write-in) => large pool of applicants => first selection based on written criteria of resume and cover letter. In general, diploma, school prestige, prior work experience are critical criteria. Discrimination risk (age, sex, ethnic origin) exists with resume examination (audit studies)  For low-wage jobs in retail, diploma is not a relevant filter.  Prior experience in retail is a useful criterion to discriminate between applicants, but lack of experience is not prohibitive  Location is relevant (to select workers who live close to the store)  Employers also examine Hobbies  Writing could also play a role (spelling etc.)

18 Filtering criteria: not diploma but hobbies or general knowledge “I always have a look on hobbies... People are looking for people like themselves. I did competitive sport and I would prefer someone who did competitive swimming rather than someone who is going to the swimming-pool every Sunday morning” (Store Manager, NFCH1) In specialised store: “We don’t examine training or educational level, but we require a level of general knowledge... And we take into account the little column "others": if there are original experiences, like investment in civic life, break for a world tour or something like that, we will really appreciate.” (RH Manager, NFCH2) Less frequent: “I don’t care “hobbies”... I am a fan of rugby but all boys like football. And I will take on none of them? I love painting, and if a guy wrote “Arts” in his CV, I'll select him? No, it doesn’t work. So I never examine hobbies” (Store manager1, FCH2)

19 Filtering criteria: spelling and writing “The first thing I do is looking for spelling mistakes. If there is any, it is over !"(Store manager2, FCH2) “When the cover letter is typed, I put it directly to trash. Because a cover letter must be handwritten!” (Clerk in charge of recruitment, FI1) And sometimes appearance (picture's applicant) “Unfortunately, there are less pictures now in CV than in the past. Because pictures are useful, we can see in three seconds" (Store manager, NFCH2)

20 4. Walk-in applications: a first selection based on location and availability Compared to write-in applications, distance between employer and job-seeker is reduced in case of walk-in application A short face-to-face interview could occur, in the store. The format of information (speaking) is different: less selection on written codes. The applicant is able to defend her CV (she has no experience but...) Salient criteria are:  Location: walk-in applications are from applicants who live not far from the store: more on time (early hours), more flexible schedule acceptance, less commuting problems  In short interviews, availability on schedule could be discussed: ”Hi, a “lovely” student left us a resume this morning, she is available on Mondays and Tuesdays." (Employee who was speaking with a recruiter during an interview in FI1)

21 Reducing the gap For job-seeker, it is an opportunity:  To submit his resume at the right time, to the right person (“serendipity” (Mc Donald, 2010)  To “show her motivation“ (hand-delivered CV may be interpreted like a signal of motivation). “I asked the grocery employees to whom give my CV. They send me to their manager and I gave him my resume and cover letter. And he said:'' I'll call you.'' After ten days, as I had no news, I came back and actually, I started again. A few days later he called me to come to an interview“ (Employee for goods handling, FCH1) “Actually, I came here by chance, I submitted my application, and then they called me two days later, saying: "there is a person who is leaving on maternity leave, do you want a temporary contract?" (shop assistant, FCH2)

22 A direct approach In the Department store (DS), there is a collective recruitment session every Monday at 10am. All job-seekers can come and participate to this collective session;  an opportunity to avoid a strong selection based on CV and to get an interview “I had been looking for a job for several months when my mother-in-law told me about these collective session in NFI-DS. And I went to the store the following Monday “(Employee for goods handling, DS) “ I knew someone who had been working there and he told me about recruitments every Monday. If we went there with resume and cover letter, we would do a collective interview “(Cashier, DS)

23 … but appearances and attitudes are examined “A girl who is coming with trainers, jeans and carrying her two children... No way!" (manager store, FCH2) “There are young people who file their resumes, just written on the cash desk… I put these CVs directly to the bin. And those who are coming from the Job Centre and who want me to put a stamp as a proof of their job- search ! Actually, these persons are not seeking for a job!" (manager store, FI4) In the collective recruitment session: “ As they [young people] have no diploma, we pay attention to their attitude, how do they stand... They're very “natural”, they don’t realise the consequences of their behaviour. Some of them are playing with their phone...” (RH manager, DS) Compared to write-in applications : not the same first filter => other applicant profiles selected

24 5. The interview: screening on appearance and attitude or through practical questions? Frequent process: 1. First selection based on resumes (with or without first short interview in store/by call phone) 1. Face-to-face interview (popular method):  Filtering function based on the attitude, appearance (looking good) => argument: front-line employees  Common use of gender or age stereotypes to deploy workers  Different use of questionnaire (and different questionnaires)  Did the applicant have to answer to “practical questions” or to simulate work situations? Importance of “situational judgement” (Larquier and Marchal, 2011).

25 5. The interview (cont.) Filtering function of applicant’s attitude, appearance, speaking  “Is she on time? How clean is he? How does he speak?”  The judgement may be very arbitrary: “When I shake hands, I can straight away guess either it will work or not. If the handshake is soft, that’s means the guy has no will... Don’t forget we are in interactive work with customers!” (Store manager, NFCH2)

26 5. The interview (cont.) Common gender “stereotypes” for gender division “They offered me to work at the textile department, I do not know why, maybe because I am a woman“ (employee, FCH1) “The woman cashier has to be smiling, friendly... We would like to recruit only top models!” (Store manager, FI2) “They said “Girls, we need Lingerie saleswoman, do you like it?”” (cashier, DS, recruitment collective session) “ Age is not a screening criteria... But in our team, a senior would have difficulties to integrate himself” (store manager1, FCH2)

27 5. The interview (cont.) In hypermarkets and Department store, candidates have to fill a questionnaire. It is useful to start the interview The questionnaire content: - Chains and department stores are paying attention to discriminatory messages: “We don’t ask applicants if they have a car because it is discriminatory, but we ask them their ‘ability to commute’” (HR manager, FCH3)  Independent stores are less attentive about discrimination (less information about it? No RH but clerk in charge of recruitment)  “Are you married? Do you have children? What are their names and how old are they? Which Primary school did you attend” !!! (FI3)

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29 5. The interview (cont.) Does the “situational judgement” exist ? Questions about specific work situations  “What would you do if a customer asked you how this product is working? What would you do if the customer is an aggressive person?” (store manager, NDCH2)  Practical simulations : “I would like you to send me this product.”  MRS (Methode de recrutement par simulation): conducted by the Public employment service: job-seekers who have passed tests based on their abilities have an interview with store managers.  When there are practical simulations, the evaluation (judgement) is less discriminatory, less arbitrary and more balanced.

30 6. When the actors are changing the selection process FCH1: current process of hiring formalisation and centralisation (we observed RH assistants who were working): 1. All applications received in stores are scanned and sent to the “recruitment central cell” 2. Assistant RH examine unsolicited applications and applications received in response to job ads 3. Assistant RH call the applicants they have selected and have a short interview by phone (they have to follow a guideline for the interview) 4. Successful candidates after the call have an appointment for a face- to-face interview at the store where the vacancy is 5. After the face-to-face interview, the store manager can accept or reject the candidate (they mainly accept)

31 This centralisation reinforces the first stage of selection  Strong first selection through written criteria  Critical distance between job-seekers and recruiters.  When it is a phone-interview, selection is quick and quite “radical”. “I was looking for fish counter, I did a phone call and asked the applicant “Let me live this specific relationship with the product...” and he answered me “I like fish, what else?” Well, no way!” (assistant RH, FCH1) “ I failed the phone conversation. He was asking me “Which are the capabilities to be “cash hostess”?” – people don’t say “cashier” I don’t know why – and I was thinking “Let me think, Let me think...” (Cashier, FCH1) First RH phone selection => face-to-face interview is less critical => less opportunity for practical simulation

32 The centralisation is reinforcing the RH power  Great reliance on formalised practices and written criteria can reflect an effort to avoid discrimination and “subjective” judgement “Before [the centralised process] in store, it could be “Well, I don’t like this guy, I will rush!.... (FCH1, RHmanager2) “With this centralisation, all our job ads are posted on the web site, we can avoid discriminatory content” (FCH1, RHmanager1)  The use of formalised practices also reflects the increasing power of HR (Dobbin, 1993)  Centralisation reinforces RH managers while store managers are less involved in recruitment (little confidence in their “field” judgement- the evaluation is little “contextualised”)

33 This centralisation is changing the profile of hired workers  Less opportunity for applicants who live close to the store (more competition than with walk-in applications)  Less opportunity for those who don’t pass the filtering selection based on CV => Students have an advantage with this recruitment process. Employers keen to use student labour because it is relatively cheap, flexible and perceived to be a good quality (productivity) “ They are dismissing workers who have been there for several years and taking on students, because we [students] always agree. They offered us to close the store at 11pm on 23th December, and we said “yes”. They offered us to work every Sunday and we said “yes”. Indeed, we always say “yes”. May be it is easier for other employees to say “no”, because they have family or something like” (cashier-student, FCH1)

34 Changing the selection methods NFCH1 (toys chain stores) No recruitment centralisation. Store managers are quite independent to recruit for file low-wages jobs The store manager we met used to recruit by a common way: job advertisement placed in the shop window (to capture applicants who are living not far) => first CV selection => face-to-face interview => choice. This manager had been involved in MRS experience with public employment agency and RH managers (MRS’ principles: (1) ability to hold a specific job are tested by public employment agencies (2) interview with store manager without CV) After the MRS experience, he decided to change his recruitment practices to fill cashier vacancies

35 He put as usual job advertisement in the shop window but he didn’t examine the resumes from persons who applied and asked all the applicants to come. He asked the applicants: - To fill a short questionnaire (what does it take to be a good cashier?) - To complete a practical test (count a cash content and give change) According to the store manager himself “I changed my mind about recruitment practices: some candidates I would have hired after an interview and questionnaire, completely failed the practical exercise and I didn’t select them“ (Store manager, NFCH1) => changes in selection methods are changing the result of the selection

36 Conclusions: Recruitment analysis contributes to the understanding of the working of the low-wages Labour Market. The framework of Economy of Conventions is appropriate for thinking about recruitment. It is appropriate for pointing out both the diversity and the recurrences of the recruitment practices in a same sector French particularities:  Direct applications are the main hiring channel. Very poor image of public employment agencies (except for some methods as MRS)  Discrimination legislation is little regarded in independent store => UK context?


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