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Selecting a candidate for a job

“Face to face interaction can be regarded as a dynamic process of perception, diagnosis and action engaged in by two or more people with varying degrees of competence”. What are the main elements in the process of perception and how might our understanding of these enhance our interactive abilities in recruiting and selecting a candidate for a job? Introduction This essay is firstly going to examine the perceptual process and secondly the stages that employers may go through when recruiting and selecting a candidate.

It will make reference to theory, and will relate the theory to practice with the provision of practical examples. It will also refer to relevant legislation and conclude with thoughts and suggestions on both the theory and the practice. Definition of Perception Perception is the active psychological process in which stimuli are selected and organised into meaningful patterns. Gardner Murphy wrote, (Personality: A Biosocial Approach to Origins and Structure, copyright 1947 by Harper & Bros) “If we understand the differences in perceiving we shall go far in understanding the differences in the resulting behaviour.

The relation between the outer world and the individual is gravely misconstrued by the assumption that this world registers upon us all in about

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the same way, that the real differences between people are differences in what is done about this world. The contemporary point of view . . . has involved emphasis upon the basic notion that every individual lives in a more or less ‘private world’ . . . ; there is no standard objective world except through our slow yielding to a rather painful compromise process . . .

that is less coercive, less ‘final,’ than the private world. ” Murphy’s message will be recognisable to anyone who has ever assessed individuals’ behaviour in a mass recruitment situation – and seen how many varied reactions to the same basic points there are. Only a foolish individual believes that a group will react to a message in unison, or that a group that does react in unison thinks in unison. The reaction to this hypothetical message is one more situation that shows us that awareness of human perception is a valuable skill.

It is valuable to not only be aware of the active process of perception that is constantly and subconsciously undertaken by your audience or colleagues, but also by oneself. Process of Perception The active process of perception can be organised into three stages; selection and attention of stimuli, organisation and interpretation of stimuli and finally a behavioural reaction. That this process is active suggests that as humans we have a choice of which stimuli we select or deselect, and it will be shown how this choice is based on both internal and external factors.

First Stage – Selection and Attention of Stimuli As humans we are bombarded with endless stimuli throughout our day-to-day life. Stimuli come in the form of taste, colour, shape, movement, smell, pain, pleasure, feelings and noise. We are so sensitive to these stimuli that within a fraction of a second after the eyes, nose, ears, tongue or skin is stimulated; one knows whether the object is either familiar or unfamiliar and whether it is desirable or dangerous. As individuals we pay more attention to some stimuli than we do to others and the reason we do this is because of both internal and external factors.

Internal factors known as an individual’s perceptual set can be affected by, motivation, past experiences, goals, learning, intelligence, ability, training, moods, needs and drives, interests and personality. External factors affecting perceptual selectivity come from the stimulus and the context in which they are received. These stimuli are usually given more attention when, for example, they are; large, intense, loud, bright, repeated, moving, and novel. The process of selection is consequently based on both internal and external factors.

Cultural differences play a large part in this first stage of the process. As L. K. Frank indicates, “In every culture the individual is of necessity cribbed, cabined and confined within the limitations of what his culture tells him see, to believe, to do and to feel… ” Second Stage – Organisation and Interpretation of Stimuli The organisation and interpretation of external stimuli is a phenomenon most easily defined by the work of Max Wertheimer’s Gestalt school of psychology, with the words ‘structure’ and ‘organisation’ becoming the focal points for the Gestalt psychologists.

They believe that stimuli can be organised in a certain way, and that it is to this structural organisation, rather than to individual sensory elements, that humans respond. Gestalt principles suggest that the analysis of stimuli by the human brain should not break down the stimuli into distinct parts but should instead focus on the broader picture. The central tenet is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It makes sense to superimpose this Gestalt way of thinking upon a HR situation, implementing a more humanistic than dissecting and scientific approach.

Third Stage – Behavioural Reaction The active process of perception ends with a behavioural reaction affected by previous experiences and learning. This does not have to be a movement, it can be a thought. During this stage of the process, behaviour may be altered, to ensure that stimuli are not challenging. For example, a supporter of the Conservative party might read The Telegraph to restrict their chances of having their political views tested.

Having now described the three stages of the perceptual process, but before examining the process of recruitment and selection, this essay will now describe three Gestalt principles on perception and show how these behavioural patterns could create perceptual distortions. Human Psychology and Perceptual Distortions The following section will refer to the work of Gestalt psychologists and make reference to the most common perceptual distortions that relate to recruitment and selection. The principle of figure/ground is one of the most basic laws of perception.

In its basic sense, it refers to our ability to separate elements based upon contrast, that is, dark and light, black and white. It suggests that the eye differentiates an object from its surrounding area, a form, silhouette, or shape and then naturally perceived as figure (object), while the surrounding area is perceived as ground (background). Balancing figure and ground can make the perceived image clearer. The principle of closure suggests that as humans we tend to see complete figures even when part of the information is missing.

The Gestalt theorists believed that the mind reacts to patterns that are familiar, even though we often receive incomplete information. It is speculated that this is a survival instinct, allowing us to complete the form of a predator even with incomplete information. The principle of grouping refers to the characteristics of stimuli which cause humans to structure or interpret shapes, objects or problems in a certain way. The primary factors which effect grouping are; proximity, similarity, closure and simplicity.

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