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Recruitment & Selection

 Importance of effective recruitment

The recruitment of skilled and effective staff is a central workforce development issue for the AOD field. Recruitment and selection is not only about choosing the most suitable candidate. The recruitment and selection experience can also impact on the likelihood that a candidate will accept a job offer and on their subsequent commitment to remaining with the organisation.

Committing time and resources to develop a comprehensive recruitment strategy is a worthwhile investment. Poor recruitment choices (i.e., poor person-job fit) can have a range of undesirable consequences for the organisation and the worker including:

  • Higher rates of turnover
  • Reduced performance effectiveness
  • Lowered job satisfaction
  • Reduced work motivation.

Key strategies for successful recruitment

Recruitment and selection is not only about choosing the most suitable candidate. The recruitment and selection experience can also impact on the likelihood that a candidate will accept a job offer and on their subsequent commitment to remaining with the organisation.

Committing time and resources to develop a comprehensive recruitment strategy is a worthwhile investment. Poor recruitment choices (i.e., poor person-job fit) can have a range of undesirable consequences for the organisation and the worker including:

  • Higher rates of turnover
  • Reduced performance effectiveness
  • Lowered job satisfaction
  • Reduced work motivation.

Recruitment challenges in the AOD field

Recruitment of skilled and effective staff is a central workforce development issue for the AOD field. Challenges to recruitment of effective staff include:

  • Lack of qualified applicants
  • Inadequate salary packages
  • Lack of resources (including funds)
  • Limited scope for advancement and promotion
  • Lack of job security
  • Remoteness of services
  • Stigma attached to working in the AOD field.  

Mainstream generalist workers

Some of the barriers that are faced by specialist AOD workers, e.g. low salary, may not apply to mainstream workers. Other factors may, however, be relevant to both, e.g. stigma associated with AOD work. Three recruitment barriers which are relevant to both workforce groups (and particularly to the mainstream workforce) include:

  • role desirability (attitudes toward AOD work)
  • role support (funding and infrastructure)
  • role competency (skills and knowledge) and
  • role legitimacy (work practice policies, work relevance, organisational support).

The recruitment barriers encountered by the specialist and mainstream workforce groups are also likely to impact negatively on retention rates. In the non-government sector in particular, many of these recruitment and retention issues are linked to inadequate funding.

Barriers to Recruitment

Surveys of AOD treatment agencies consistently indicate that the field faces considerable recruitment challenges. The majority of AOD treatment agency managers report difficulty in recruiting qualified and suitably skilled workers, particularly in rural and regional agencies (Pitts, 2001; Roche et al., 2004; Wolinski et al., 2003). This trend continues with a recent survey of non-government treatment agency managers indicating a decline in response to job advertisements (Gethin, 2008).

Recruitment challenges may be due to the growth in AOD services which has increased the demand for specialist workers. Moreover, the nature of the employment market may also impact on the supply of workers, particularly if it is a tight employment market. This may especially be the case for nurses, who make up more than 30% of the AOD specialist workforce.

Barriers to recruitment most commonly cited by AOD workers and agency managers include:

  • low salary and poor benefits
  • a perception that AOD clients are difficult to work with
  • stigma and lack of respect associated with AOD work
  • lack of opportunity for career progression
  • lack of career paths and opportunities (Duraisingam et al., 2006; Gethin, 2008; Pitts, 2001).

 Overcoming barriers to recruitment

The recruitment of AOD specialist workers and mainstream AOD workers requires a co-ordinated national approach to raise the profile of the AOD field and improve recognition of the quality and value of the work undertaken by AOD workers. While low levels of remuneration is an issue across the board, particular effort is required to address the salary and award disparity between the NGO and Public sector workers.

Other recruitment strategies could involve the funding and promotion of AOD content in undergraduate courses and ensure relevance of any AOD content is taught (NADA, 2003). Awareness of AOD work and the image associated with this work could be improved by encouraging greater participation of the AOD workforce in government consultations, the use of media campaigns, and by further supporting professional bodies that represent the AOD field (NADA, 2003). Strategies are also required that address stigma and negative attitudes associated with AOD work.

Initiatives are needed that improve partnerships and linkages between government and non-government AOD agencies and between the AOD field and the wider health and welfare sector in order to improve/create career paths and allow for innovative strategies such as cross sectoral staff exchanges or placements.

Steps towards effective recruitment

Three key steps to develop an effective recruitment process are: 

Step 1: Ensure an up-to-date job description which contains information related to:

  • Specific tasks and activities required for a job
  • The knowledge, skills and abilities required for effective performance by the job incumbent.  

Step 2: Develop an effective recruitment strategy which considers:

  • Appropriate sources of recruitment (i.e., advertisements, personal referrals, employment agencies, direct applications)
  • Appropriate recruiters (e.g., supervisor or co-worker).

 Step 3: Evaluate the recruitment strategy to determine its efficacy. For example:

  • Conduct a cost-benefit analysis in terms of the number of applicants referred, interviewed, selected, and hired
  • Compare the effectiveness of applicants hired from various sources.

 Overview of selection techniques

Evidence-based best practice for three of the most commonly used selection techniques is outlined below.

1. Curriculum vitaes or résumés and written applications

A curriculum vitae (CV) provides valuable information relating to a person's professional qualifications and experience. All information in the CV should be verified where appropriate (e.g., asking applicants to explain gaps in employment history). Requesting job applicants to address specific selection criteria (i.e., essential and desirable) can improve the efficiency of reviewing CVs.

2. Conducting interviews

Structured interviews are recommended. A structured interview involves asking each candidate the same set of questions and assessing their responses on the basis of pre-determined criteria. Questions and assessment criteria should be based on accurate, updated job descriptions. It is also helpful to develop criteria to categorise responses (e.g., as excellent, good, average and unsatisfactory). An interview panel consisting of a representative selection of people may also be helpful.

Two common types of structured interview questions are:

  1. Situational questions which ask candidates about hypothetical scenarios that may be encountered in the job and how they would respond in that situation
  2. Experienced-based questions which focus on specific examples of the candidate's prior work experiences and their responses to past situations that are relevant to the job in question.

3. Reference checks

Referees are useful for identifying past employment problems and clarifying the accuracy of information presented in an interview or CV. Only a small percentage of all reference checks are negative, therefore, it is often difficult to differentiate between candidates on the basis of reference checks alone.

Induction Procedures

An effective induction helps new workers understand their role and where they "fit" within the organisation. It also equips them with the tools they need to perform their work role. Two useful induction tools are:

1. Induction manual/kits which may contain:

  • An induction checklist
  • Organisational philosophy / ethics / history
  • Strategic values of the organisation
  • An organisational chart / structure
  • An employment manual on policies and procedures
  • An orientation to the workplace (including parking and safety issues)
  • Information about episodes of care, the duty system, supervision, staff meetings, etc.

2. Mentoring/‘buddy' system

New workers can be paired with experienced workers from a similar area to "show them the ropes". Alternatively, a more formal / structured mentoring system can be a useful induction strategy in which new workers are paired with a mentor who can assist them with their ongoing professional development.

More Information

  • For more information about recruitment and selection, please see Chapter 10 (pdf 1.2MB) of the TIPS Kit.
  • If you would like to advertise a position or if you would like to find out what positions may be available, please see the Of Substance Jobs Board.
  • McEneaney, K. (December, 2008). 'Strengthening the Addiction Workforce'. Addiction Professional.