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Personnel selection:
definition, criteria and process

Eine Frau interviewt einen Mann im Vorstellungsgespräch. Der Mann ist nicht fokussiert. Nur seine linke Körperhälfte ist von hinten sichtbar. Im Fokus steht die Frau, die freundlich lächelt und sich Notizen an ihrem Tablet macht.

Clever and clearly drafted personnel selection for making the best decision

Personnel selection is a complex process in recruiting, where many different factors play a role. A key aspect of this process is analysing the applicant—after all, incorrect decisions only cost time and money in the short to long term.

Selecting, training and developing personnel is costly. Making a wrong decision here will increase staff turnover, impacting productivity, efficiency and your team’s mood. It will make it hard for employees or entire departments to develop work routines if they have to (permanently) onboard new colleagues or fill vacancies.

Defining personnel selection: important process for commercial success

Personnel selection encompasses all the workflows and activities for creating a job profile, analysing and evaluating—internal and external—candidates as well as making the final decision for or against applicants. In any organisation, this is quite a critical process that can have a considerable influence on the quality of employees and the overall performance of the organisation.

The personnel selection process should be defined clearly and based on scientific research. This helps you to ensure that you and all the people involved select the best talents for the advertised position.
Analysing the candidates is based on aptitude diagnostics, helping to find a scientific prognosis about the success for a certain job. Using a variety of criteria, recruiters can assess a candidate’s aptitude for a position with the help of this diagnosis. It facilitates a more comprehensive and objective selection process than relying on one’s instinct or gut feeling.

It’s important to include several criteria in the selection process because it’s not one single factor that will accurately forecast the job performance. Using a comprehensive approach for personnel selection enables you and your organisation to ensure that you will be hiring the best employees for the work to be done.

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Criteria for personnel selection

It cannot be disputed that you should—if not must—select your personnel using a standardised application process. In the long run, this will save you money and hassle, improve visibility across your recruiting process — and hence the trust in your organisation.

Follow these criteria when selecting internal or external personnel:

Ein Mann und eine Frau sitzen sich während des Bewerbungsgesprächs gegenüber. Die Frau ist nicht fokussiert, der Blick geht über ihre rechte Schulter. Der Mann ist im Fokus, er lächelt freundlich.

Being unbiased is not easy when selecting and/or assessing personnel. Human nature has a tendency to be influenced by its own opinion—albeit unintentionally—and it shows in the way we interact with other people. An applicant’s looks, e.g., may influence our assessment positively or negatively. Structured interviews help to remain unbiased when making personnel decisions, in contrast to free interviews with spontaneous questions that cannot be evaluated without bias in most cases.

Being unbiased is not easy when selecting and/or assessing personnel. Human nature has a tendency to be influenced by its own opinion—albeit unintentionally—and it shows in the way we interact with other people. An applicant’s looks, e.g., may influence our assessment positively or negatively. Structured interviews help to remain unbiased when making personnel decisions, in contrast to free interviews with spontaneous questions that cannot be evaluated without bias in most cases.


A process’s reliability is an important measure for its repeatability. When selecting personnel, ask yourself the following question: Would my and/or our assessment be the same if we were to repeat the process? Ideally, it would be, meaning that no external factors would influence your outcomes. Employing automated analyses of personality tests or cognitive performance tests will help you guarantee this kind of reliability. Adding the human factor will most probably result in a different outcome and/or related decision, or a different weighting of the selection criteria.

A process’s reliability is an important measure for its repeatability. When selecting personnel, ask yourself the following question: Would my and/or our assessment be the same if we were to repeat the process? Ideally, it would be, meaning that no external factors would influence your outcomes. Employing automated analyses of personality tests or cognitive performance tests will help you guarantee this kind of reliability. Adding the human factor will most probably result in a different outcome and/or related decision, or a different weighting of the selection criteria.


Selecting a talent purely on their previous merits, experience gained and qualifications is negligent. Rather, an informed evaluation about whether the candidate can meet the requirements of the job should support your personnel selection. This is why you need an (additional) tool and thus a personnel selection process being able to evaluate current capabilities as well as (future) potential.

Selecting a talent purely on their previous merits, experience gained and qualifications is negligent. Rather, an informed evaluation about whether the candidate can meet the requirements of the job should support your personnel selection. This is why you need an (additional) tool and thus a personnel selection process being able to evaluate current capabilities as well as (future) potential.


More and more, organisations looking for potential employees need to keep an eye on their cultural fit. Therefore, ensure to shortlist not only those fitting your company culture but also those whose values match yours.

More and more, organisations looking for potential employees need to keep an eye on their cultural fit. Therefore, ensure to shortlist not only those fitting your company culture but also those whose values match yours.


 

Personnel selection process: clear objectives and criteria for identifying the right candidate

Prior to advancing your personnel selection to the implementation stage, you need to define parameters and/or selection criteria you want to ask your candidates about. Try to categorise your requirements into fields and to define selection criteria for each of these fields.

Ein Mann interviewt eine Frau in einem Vorstellungsgespräch. Er ist im Fokus des Bildes und schaut interessiert. Eine Hand, in der er einen Stift hält, liegt an seinem Kinn und erweckt den Eindruck, als würde er nachdenken.

The following table may help:

Requirements field

Selection criteria


Job based on own qualification

 
  • Know-how
  • Professional skills and experience
  • Competence
  • Social skills
  • Solution-driven


Personal satisfaction and needs

 
  • (Intrinsic) motivation
  • Inner drive (affiliation, work performance and power)
  • Attitude and values


Potentials for development

 
  • Ability and willingness to learn
  • Performance potential
  • Self-confidence and assertiveness
  • Social skills

Personnel selection tools

There are several processes you can use for personnel selection to attract the right applicants and choose the right employee. These processes along the candidate journey ought to guarantee you the highest level of quality during each process step.

Perform a detailed requirements analysis before placing a job ad. Its aim is to describe the job and its requirements to candidates in as much detail as possible. Most probably, there is an old job ad you can use as a basis. Please consider, however, that responsibilities may have been added or changed over time.

Therefore, have a detailed conversation with the person currently doing the job, as well as with employees, department heads and team leaders. Ask about the responsibilities that are part of the job but also if there are points of criticism with the job description and its responsibilities. Your goal should be to get as clear a picture as possible of the current situation to be able to compose a realistic and up-to-date job ad.

Perform a detailed requirements analysis before placing a job ad. Its aim is to describe the job and its requirements to candidates in as much detail as possible. Most probably, there is an old job ad you can use as a basis. Please consider, however, that responsibilities may have been added or changed over time.

Therefore, have a detailed conversation with the person currently doing the job, as well as with employees, department heads and team leaders. Ask about the responsibilities that are part of the job but also if there are points of criticism with the job description and its responsibilities. Your goal should be to get as clear a picture as possible of the current situation to be able to compose a realistic and up-to-date job ad.


Having created a requirements profile or maybe even a list of suitable applicants using this input, you now need to get to know them a little better. There are a variety of options in the personnel selection process.

A telephone interview often starts this process, followed by further talks. It is a good opportunity for a first impression and to find out if there is a common basis.

A video interview is another option you should avail yourself of. It gives you the opportunity to also observe the candidate’s non-verbal communication and gain an impression of their personality.

A persönliche Gespräch is generally considered the best option to get to know your candidate as you will be able to see the whole person, their gestures, facial expression and behaviour. Normally, the atmosphere is more relaxed and you are able to use spontaneous and direct follow-up questions to find out more about the person than you would in other types of interviews.

Having created a requirements profile or maybe even a list of suitable applicants using this input, you now need to get to know them a little better. There are a variety of options in the personnel selection process.

A telephone interview often starts this process, followed by further talks. It is a good opportunity for a first impression and to find out if there is a common basis.

A video interview is another option you should avail yourself of. It gives you the opportunity to also observe the candidate’s non-verbal communication and gain an impression of their personality.

A persönliche Gespräch is generally considered the best option to get to know your candidate as you will be able to see the whole person, their gestures, facial expression and behaviour. Normally, the atmosphere is more relaxed and you are able to use spontaneous and direct follow-up questions to find out more about the person than you would in other types of interviews.


The last step in a personnel selection process is reviewing references presented by applicants. It is typical for applicants to include references such as sample work or letters of commendation in their curricula vitae. However, you are also entitled to obtain this information yourself. You may consult company networks, newspaper articles or blogs written by the applicant, or other professional and relevant publications. It is also possible to contact former colleagues or superiors.

The last step in a personnel selection process is reviewing references presented by applicants. It is typical for applicants to include references such as sample work or letters of commendation in their curricula vitae. However, you are also entitled to obtain this information yourself. You may consult company networks, newspaper articles or blogs written by the applicant, or other professional and relevant publications. It is also possible to contact former colleagues or superiors.


Assessment centre, work samples and work trials are among the more complex personnel selection tools. The effort is worth it, however, because they allow a good prognosis of the candidate’s work performance. For example, a job interview, in combination with a work trial, can give a more complete impression of the talent’s capabilities than can either tool on its own.

Assessment centre, work samples and work trials are among the more complex personnel selection tools. The effort is worth it, however, because they allow a good prognosis of the candidate’s work performance. For example, a job interview, in combination with a work trial, can give a more complete impression of the talent’s capabilities than can either tool on its own.


Your challenge is to develop a mix of tools in the personnel selection process ensuring an accurate prognosis of the candidate’s aptitude while being cost-efficient for your organisation.

Zwei Männer unterhalten sich im Büro.

Conclusion: personnel selection requires foresight, strategy and tactfulness

The HR department is usually in charge of the general personnel selection process and specifically of developing a requirements profile and the analysis. Often, HR employees review the application documents according to certain qualifications to make a pre-selection. The next steps, commonly the job interview or an assessment centre, usually involve supervisors.

In some organisations with a strong team working structure, personnel selection is often done as a team. This helps candidates to meet their potential colleagues as soon as possible. It makes it possible to evaluate individual candidates more thoroughly and ensures that the person chosen is a good fit for the team they will work with most closely. Ultimately, this improves the overall experience in this selection process for employee and employer.

Please consider: The current labour market favours employees so it is companies who need to apply for talents. This is another reason why you should pay attention to a reputable and transparent personnel selection process and test that candidates feel comfortable with—and don’t deter them.

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