In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Applicant Reactions to Selection

  • Introduction
  • Applicant Reactions Models and Theoretical Bases
  • Subsequent Reviews and Empirical Tests of Applicant Reactions Models
  • Applicants’ Preferences for Specific Selection Procedures, including International Comparisons
  • Providing Explanations to Job Applicants
  • Personality and Applicant Reactions
  • Ethnic Differences
  • Additional Outcomes and Correlates of Applicant Reactions
  • Applicant and Test-Taker Predispositions
  • Applicant Reactions of Internal versus External Applicants
  • Changes in Selection Technology and Applicant Reactions

Management Applicant Reactions to Selection
Donald M. Truxillo, Talya Bauer, Julie M. McCarthy
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0113


For most of its history, the field of personnel selection has focused on the hiring process from the viewpoint of the employer, not the viewpoint of the job applicant. Although it was acknowledged that “face validity”—that is, whether or not a selection procedure looks job-related to the applicant—is an important consideration in choosing selection procedures, little attention was given to how applicants perceived the selection process or how it might affect them. However, the early 1990s saw the development of applicant reactions models with greater attention to how applicants might perceive the selection process, as well as how this might affect their subsequent attitudes and perceptions regarding the company (e.g., intentions to buy company products) and themselves (e.g., self-esteem), as well as behaviors (e.g., whether or not they take a job; whether they bring legal action against s company). Since that time, the study of applicant reactions to selection procedures (“applicant reactions”) became a focus of study in its own right. Applicant reactions as a field involves the study of how the selection experience affects job applicant attitudes and behaviors. A related area of study is test-taking dispositions or predispositions, such as test-taking self-efficacy, test anxiety, and attitudes toward testing, which may affect an applicant’s performance during a selection procedure or their willingness to apply for jobs. Advances in selection technology have become a major focus of applicant reactions research in recent years and are expected to continue to grow.

Applicant Reactions Models and Theoretical Bases

Applicant reactions did not blossom as a field of academic research until the development of models of applicant reactions in the early 1990s. Four applicant reactions models developed at that time, and the development of these models allowed for the systematic growth of applicant reactions as a field. Arvey and Sackett 1993 provides a model based on 20th-century selection systems, whereas Schuler 1993 offers a distinctly European, applicant-focused “social validity” model. Gilliland 1993, a model based on organizational-justice theory, has dominated much of the field, whereas Ployhart and Harold 2004 integrates attribution theory.

  • Arvey, Richard D., and Paul R. Sackett. “Fairness in Selection: Current Developments and Perspectives.” In Personnel Selection in Organizations. Edited by Neal Schmitt and Walter C. Borman, 171–202. Frontiers of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.

    This model decomposed the selection system into factors (e.g., job-relatedness of a test) that could affect the way that applicants perceive the selection system. Although this model did stimulate discussion and research in the field, it gained less traction, perhaps because it was not rooted in a specific theoretical approach.

  • Gilliland, Stephen W. “The Perceived Fairness of Selection Systems: An Organizational Justice Perspective.” Academy of Management Review 18.4 (1993): 694–734.

    DOI: 10.5465/amr.1993.9402210155

    By far the most influential model of applicant reactions, and a highly cited paper in this research area, which has guided much of the subsequent research practice on applicant reactions primarily because of its rich theoretical basis: organizational-justice theory. What was innovative about this model was that Gilliland also emphasized ten procedural-justice factors. Most of the propositions of his model have been supported by subsequent research.

  • Ployhart, Robert E., and Crystal M. Harold. “The Applicant Attribution-Reaction Theory (AART): An Integrative Theory of Applicant Attributional Processing.” International Journal of Selection and Assessment 12.1–2 (2004): 84–98.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0965-075X.2004.00266.x

    Although it has received relatively little research attention, the approach of the applicant attribution-reaction theory (AART) further defines the applicants’ experience as an attributional process regarding the employer and themselves.

  • Schuler, Heinz. “Social Validity of Selection Situations: A Concept and Some Empirical Results.” In Personnel Selection and Assessment: Individual and Organizational Perspectives. Edited by Heinz Schuler, James L. Farr, and Mike Smith, 11–26. Series in Applied Psychology. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1993.

    With a more specifically European social-justice approach to applicant reactions, the model presented in this chapter focused attention on how selection procedures affect job applicants. This social-validity approach helped shift the emphasis of selection research away from a strict focus on how selection affects the employing organization (e.g., validity) as well as on how the selection experience and the way that applicants are treated can affect applicants personally.

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