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Should You Have a Realistic Job Preview as Part of Your Hiring Process?

March 26, 2013

Last weekend, I was walking through Costco and found myself fighting to make it through crowds of people all vying for food samples. On the weekends, there are multiple stations throughout the store where you can taste samples of different foods before you buy them. Because they sell food in bulk and customers are hesitant to buy large quantities without trying it first, they have found that offering a taste boosts their sales. In general, people like free food – but they also like to be able to try something before they commit. Wouldn’t you? And, the larger the commitment, the more likely it is that you’ll want to try it.

How does this relate to the hiring process? What if you were able to taste test a new job? Wouldn’t it be nice to get a sense of the context, culture and job requirements before making a big commitment to an organization? Accepting a new job is exciting but it can also be stressful – especially if it doesn’t turn out to be exactly what you thought it would be. A Realistic Job Preview (RJP) is a way to give candidates the opportunity to see what the job is like, both good and bad, before they make a final decision.

Making a job offer or accepting a job offer is a big commitment. From the candidates’ point of view, if a job has aspects that are different than those they have experienced before, learning more about it can help make their decision about accepting the job a bit easier. From an employer’s perspective, providing an RJP can improve retention and satisfaction numbers because candidates who find the position requirements undesirable are likely to voluntarily withdraw from the hiring process.

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RJPs come in many shapes and sizes. One method that is often used is to create a video of the job to show candidates. The video can emphasize different aspects of the job and talk to job incumbents about what they like and dislike about the job. This method is relatively inexpensive and sends a consistent message to candidates. It is also beneficial for organizations that are hiring individuals who would be working around large and dangerous machinery. A video can show the context without putting candidates in harm’s way.

A more intense method of providing an RJP is the put candidates through a simulation as part of the hiring process. One of our automobile manufacturing clients does just that. They actually put their candidates through a full 8-hour day of working with nuts and bolts, drills, heavy weights and a weld simulator. Because this organization often builds manufacturing plants areas where few candidates have automobile manufacturing experience, they have built a simulation into the process to ensure that they find people who are not only able to do the job, but also willing to do it. Working on an automobile assembly line can be physically demanding and monotonous.

What we have observed, after processing thousands of candidates through this process, is that there is a certain percentage of people that will leave in the middle of the simulation day and choose not to return after lunch. When asked why they are leaving, about half of the candidates say they can’t handle the physical nature of the job and the other half say it is boring. All of the candidates who had made it to that stage of the hiring process had already completed and passed through several other steps before getting there. If the simulation had not been part of the hiring process, those individuals would have been hired and would have very likely turned over within a short period of time, which can be costly to both the candidate and the organization.

For this client, the simulation provides them great evaluative information on their candidates about their ability to perform the job, but it also provides a very realistic job preview for the candidates and gives them a chance to decide for themselves if the job is right for them. It’s better to spend money on the candidates during the hiring process than to hire and train them and then have them leave because they don’t like it.

So, to answer the question posed at the beginning of this blog, I think in most cases, organizations can benefit from providing some level of an RJP to their candidates. The type of RJP depends on the organization and the nature of the job, but RJP’s can save organizations and their candidates time and energy by finding out if there is a good job fit before an offer has been made.

Give them a taste test; you’ll be glad that you did.

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Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Director of Global Innovation at PSI and an expert in the design, development, and validation of psychological assessment tools. She runs an innovation lab that is responsible for establishing PSI’s assessment technology roadmap and strategy. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous global assessments, including personality, situational judgment, cognitive, and interactive work simulations.