International Journal of Selection and Assessment

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Volume 12 Issue 1‐2 (March 2004), Pages 1-205

Social Identities and Applicant Reactions (pages 75-83)

Social identity theory is proposed as a theoretical framework for better understanding applicants' reactions to selection processes. In particular, it is argued that this theory enables an understanding of how applicants' social identities interact with their perceptions of selection episodes to predict their exit from the process. First, an account of applicant reactions derived from social identity theory is presented which emphasizes the importance of applicants' social identities. It is argued that those of the applicants' identities which are salient during specific elements of the selection process are matched with their current perceptions of the organizational identity, such that degree of congruence is assessed. Intentions to exit or to refuse a job offer result if a specific level of incongruence is reached. This relationship between congruence and intentions is moderated by perceptions of the labour market and of the self. Key features of this account are then summarized, namely, the importance ascribed to candidates' experience prior to the selection process; the centrality of social identities to the theoretical account; the subjective interactionist assumptions underpinning the account; the importance of changes in the salience of identities; the potential existence of multiple organizational identities; the psychological changes which trigger a matching process; and the proposed moderators of the congruence‐exit relationship. Findings from the research literature which indirectly support two of these features of the theoretical account are described. Finally, directions for future research are suggested.

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