An investigation into applicant reactions to online testing: perceptions towards feedback provision in occupational selection

Martin, Christopher (2021) An investigation into applicant reactions to online testing: perceptions towards feedback provision in occupational selection. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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A main aim of this doctoral research was to examine job applicant reactions towards online testing, and specifically different forms of feedback provision. As job recruitment is a `bilateral process` with the recruiters aiming to employ a candidate, and from the candidate`s perspective the feedback provision and selection process may indicate the employer`s future behaviour in determining whether they accept a job offer. The research is underpinned by organisational justice theory and by Gilliland’s (1993) organisational justice model. This model considers how elements of procedural and distributive justice interact and examines the effect such fairness reactions have in terms of individual and organisational outcomes.

The research was designed to build on a literature review, followed by a pilot study to test several psychological constructs to explore applicant feelings in a field setting. This preliminary phase then informed the experimental phase. The first experiment compared applicant reactions to paper-and-pencil testing compared to online testing, and to positive and negative feedback. Having established no clear differences in test-takers fairness and justice reactions across mode of test administration on a verbal (i.e. comprehension) ability test, the second experiment then focused on test-reactions towards online testing which are nowadays more widely used in graduate recruitment. Interpersonal, non-interpersonal, and combined forms of feedback were manipulated, alongside three types of feedback messages (passed, reject no explanation, reject with explanation), after participants had undertaken two online tests. Perceived stress was found to increase when rejection was reinforced with an automated report compared to interpersonal feedback, whereas with a positive outcome there was decreased stress in the report condition. These findings suggest that personal communication is important when there is bad news. These insights paved the way for the field study.

In this field study, candidates who had recently applied for a job position involving some aspect of online testing were invited to participate in a self-report survey. The aim of the study was to investigate feelings of fairness and justice, and to compare outcome favourability (job offer, rejection), and the effect of providing explanations (or no explanations) to candidates within a field setting. Findings revealed the applicants’ preference of holistic (overall performance) over mechanical (one aspect of performance) explanations of recruitment decisions, while perceptions of fairness and justice were based on outcome favourability. Furthermore, feedback acceptance fully mediated the effect of outcome favourability (job offer, rejection) and process fairness, clear and open manner, and organisational fulfilment obligations. Pertinently, providing an explanation of the recruitment decision resulted in lower stress irrespective of a positive or negative outcome. This finding suggests that an explanation of recruitment decisions can mitigate the psychological effects of rejection and enhance candidate reactions towards the recruiting organisation.

In summary, this research has made some important contributions to the field of occupational selection by investigating applicant reactions to online testing. It has highlighted the importance of feedback and its beneficial psychological effect on applicants irrespective of decision outcome. This new insight allays fears of feedback having detrimental effects by recruiters, often due to litigation and image concerns. The research employed experimental and field studies to highlight these issues.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Glazebrook, Cris
Cripps, Barry
Keywords: applicant reactions, feedback, outcome favourability, online testing, holistic explanation, mechanical explanation
Subjects: H Social sciences > HF Commerce
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 65785
Depositing User: Martin, Christopher
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2022 13:20
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2022 13:20

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