The development and destruction of organizational trust during recruitment and selection

Searle, Rosalind and Billsberry, Jon (2011). The development and destruction of organizational trust during recruitment and selection. In: Searle, Rosalind and Skinner, Denise eds. Trust And Human Resource Management. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 67–86.



Recruitment and selection are processes which precede the formal HR (human resource) employment cycle (Searle and Skinner, ch. 1 in this volume). HR recruitment processes generate potential applicants from which the organization assesses and selects suitable new employees(Searle, 2009). While research has identified high levels of trust as common within the early stages of the employment relationship (Robinson, 1996), few have considered applicants’ trust in the organization during the pre-employment stage. We contend that as the start of a relationship is the ‘most critical time frame for organizational participants to develop trust’ (McKnight et al., 1998: 473), this is a serious omission. Recruitment and selection present a unique context in which to examine organizational trust as they comprise key situations in which the trustworthiness of an organization is articulated and enacted.

In this chapter, we shall demonstrate how these processes affect not only the trust perceptions of applicants, but also those of existing staff. By explicitly recognizing the role of organizational trust in pre-entry processes, we reveal new insights about the behaviour of applicants and recruiters, and demonstrate the fragility of trust. We contend that applicant attraction is predicated on organizational trust made salient through these processes, which underpin applicants’ recruitment, subsequent selection and job offer behaviour.

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