Realistic Job Review

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What is Realistic Job Review?

A realistic job review (RJR) involves providing recruits with complete information about the job and the organization. While an RJR may seem like common sense, it actually stands in contrast to the traditional approach to recruiting, sometimes referred to as the “flypaper approach” in which the organization tries to attract applicants by selectively presenting only positive aspects of the job and downplaying any negative aspects.

In an RJR, the recruit is given both positive and negative information – in essence, the whole truth. Thus if a job involves long hours and extensive travel, this information would not be withheld or glossed over, but rather discussed openly.

Realistic Job Review Model

According to John Wanous, the goal of an RJR is to increase newcomers’ satisfaction and commitment and the likelihood that they will remain with the organization. A model of the RJR process suggests four interrelated mechanisms: vaccination, self-selection, coping, and personal commitment.

Vaccination Against Unrealistically High Expectations

providing accurate information to outsiders is similar to vaccinating people against a disease. New recruits are given information that permits them to adjust their expectations to the reality of the job. For example, a realistic portrayal of typical overtime or weekend work may assist applicants in understanding all that will be required of them in a given job.


realistic expectations enable new recruits to decide whether the job and the organization match their individual needs. If they are incompatible, the recruit will probably not accept the position, thus saving the organization from hiring someone who would likely be dissatisfied and quit.

The model suggests that self-selecting individuals are more likely to be satisfied employees. Self-selection obviously assumes that the organization has enough other applicants that it can afford to let applicants select themselves out of the hiring process.

Coping Effect

realistic expectations help newcomers develop a clear idea of their roles, which in turn enables them to develop coping strategies for performing their jobs effectively.

Personal Commitment

a new recruit who makes a decision to join in an organization based on a realistic perspective will develop a stronger personal commitment to that choice. This may lead to job satisfaction and a long-term commitment to remain with the organization. Although the RJR occurs during the recruitment process, it can also be considered as an HRD intervention in that it shares many of the same goals and techniques as other HRD approaches.

As we described earlier, the socialization process really begins before an employee formally joins the organization, and the RJR addresses its initial step (i.e., anticipatory socialization) by attempting to adjust unrealistic impressions and reinforce accurate expectations.

Uses of Realistic Job Reviews

The first step in developing an RJP is to assess the need for one. Interviews, questionnaires, and organizational records can be used to assess the satisfaction, commitment, and turnover of new employees in an organization.

In addition, questions should be asked about whether new recruits’ expectations were realistic and the extent to which the organization met their expectations. Employees who voluntarily leave the organization should be interviewed to state their reasons for leaving (this is typically done in an exit interview).

Often, employees leave for reasons that are unrelated to their job satisfaction (including following a spouse/partner to a new location, a change of heart about a career choice, returning to school, or receiving a better job offer elsewhere); in these cases, an RJR would likely do little to reduce the turnover.

Furthermore, it is important to consider the performance level of individuals who voluntarily leave the organization. Some turnover may be desirable, for example, if the organization’s poorest performers are the ones who are leaving. However, if this is not the case, and the organization would like to improve the situation (as when it is difficult to find new recruits), an alternative selection or training approach would likely be more effective than an RJR.

Supports of this view have suggested a number of conditions in which an RJR can be both useful and effective, including:

  1. When job candidates can be selective about job offers, especially during times of low unemployment

  2. When the selection ratio is low (the organization has many more job applicants than positions available)

  3. When the new recruits are unlikely to have enough information available to them to develop realistic expectations (such as with entry level, complex, or “unique” jobs)

  4. When replacement costs are high

A variety of media for delivering an RJR have been suggested, including printed materials (like booklets), audiovisual presentations (videos), discussions with a representative of the organization (usually a recruiter or job incumbent), oral presentations, and interviews.

Given that an RJP can be seen as a philosophy of recruiting rather than simply a specific program, other media are also possible, including job advertisements, recruiting literature, direct observation of the work environment (such as a tour), work simulations, and actual work experience for the recruit (such as a co-op or internship).

In addition to selecting what media will use to present the RJR, its content must be chosen.

The following issues should be considered in determining RJR content:

  1. Descriptive or Judgmental Content – descriptive content focuses on factual information, while judgmental content communicates incumbents’ feelings.

  2. Extensive or Intensive Content – Extensive content contains all pertinent information, while intensive content implies selective information that is presented more briefly and forcefully.

  3. Degree of Content Negativity – Should the contents of the RJR be highly negative, moderately negative, or somewhere in between?

  4. Message Source – if an audiovisual medium is used, should actors, job incumbents, or other organization members, such as supervisors or trainers, present the message?

Timing is critical to the RJR. According to theory, RJRs should be given as early as possible (before a job offer is made) in order to activate important mechanisms like vaccination and self-selection.

However, this can be an expensive proposition, depending on the number of recruits and the media used. In addition, senior management may be less likely to approve using negative information if the RJR is given early (such as in a recruiting video) rather than late in the process (after an offer is made).

Research does not offer clear guidance on the timing of RJRs because in many of the studies the RJR was presented later in the process (e.g., after an offer or after the recruit accepted an offer). Although these studies have shown that RJRs are effective in lowering expectations and turnover, it may be that the timing used in these studies has led to conservative estimates of effectiveness.

Early delivery of the RJR seems to be the best approach, using multiple forms of media – such as job ads, recruiting brochures, and videos, DVDs, or online multimedia presentations – to communicate realistic information throughout the organizational entry process. Then, more expensive approaches can be used later, if necessary, when there are fewer individuals to process.

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