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I have a question about how to refer to a particular concept. The concept is that a hiring system (or any system in which you select individual elements from a population with a lot of noise) can be inclined one of two ways:

  • it can be overly strict in filtering out and eliminating candidates, giving you a very low chance to make bad hires, but at the cost of missing out on some good hires, thus you will get some false negatives.
  • it can be overly lenient in filtering out and eliminating candidates, giving you a very low chance to miss out on good hires, but at the cost of a higher probability of hiring some bad fits as well, thus you will get some false positives.

(of course, striking the perfect balance between strict and lenient would be lovely, but I think that hiring is "messy" enough with enough "irreducible unpredictability" that it isn't feasible to have that perfect balance, although I would love to be proven wrong.)

So my question is: how should I talk about these two inclinations? When I describe hiring for a role, how can I describe these inclinations without writing a paragraph? This isn't a novel concept, so I assume that recruiting professionals or researchers of personnel selection have created terminology for this. Does anyone have any ideas?

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5 Answers 5

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In statistics, the rejection of desirable outcomes and acceptance of undesirable ones are known as type_I_and_type_II_errors.

They are commonly also called "false positive" and "false negative".

From Wikipedia:

a type I error is the mistaken rejection of an actually true null hypothesis (also known as a "false positive" finding or conclusion; example: "an innocent person is convicted"), while a type II error is the mistaken acceptance of an actually false null hypothesis (also known as a "false negative" finding or conclusion; example: "a guilty person is not convicted").

Your concepts of "lenient" and "strict" could be described as minimizing either type I errors (rejecting good candidates) or type II errors (hiring bad candidates).

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If your audience is users of staffing software, I think broaden and narrow the search (criteria)/query results would work (or broad / narrow search criteria). Broad(en)/narrow are intuitively understood and more versatile, since these can apply to the search criteria as well as the resulting candidate pool/profiles, whereas strict/lenient are appropriate only for the former. You also have the concise broader/narrower for comparisons.

You say "This isn't a novel concept," and I agree. I would think that searches in this field are very similar to software searches in general. If so, I don't see the need to redefine or complicate the terminology.

At the beginning of the search, a search firm can encourage its client to broaden, rather than narrow, the candidate profiles it is willing to consider. Tyson report, June 2003 in John Dembitz; Dot It Right, Do It Now! (2021)

Furthermore, ICplanet's Web-based interface makes easy work of locating candidates. It not only requires minimal training, but also provides a wealth of selection criteria to help narrow or broaden the query results. InfoWorld, Vol. 22 n.30 (2000)

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In addition to other answers the words "shortlist" and "longlist" are sometimes used.

First one sets criteria for applicants. Only those who meet this criteria should apply. As @DjinTonic says, broad or narrow criteria will give more or fewer applicants, usually.

The next stage is to decide which of the applicants to invite for interview of perhaps to take a test. In doing this a longlist or a shortlist approach may be used depending how many people you wish to test or interview.

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The locution highly selective is idiomatic enough to be given a page by Collins Cobuild. The Oxford Collocation Dictionary lists 'highly selective' as a common collocation, adding 'Highly is used before some adjectives to mean "very".'

Vocabulary.com defines this common sense of 'selective':

selective [adjective]: characterized by very careful or fastidious selection

Sadly, after reading through the other common adjectival collocates of 'selective' (it does already carry the 'punctilious' flavour) I've had to concede that the weak not [at all] highly selective is the best I can come up with for the opposite approach.

Minimally selective has been used by some communicators. But I wouldn't see it as a strong collocation. An example:

Does Attending a More Selective College Equal a Bigger Paycheck?

18 June 2020 In PNPI Featured Reports_Meghan Clancy;18 June 2020

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) recently released a report entitled Does Attending a More Selective College Equal a Bigger Paycheck? The report explores the relationship between the selectivity of an undergraduate four-year institution and college graduates’ early career earnings....

Selectivity was calculated by the National Center for Education Statistics using admissions rates and ACT/SAT scores. The resulting classifications were, from least to most selective: “open admission,” “minimally selective,” “moderately selective,” or “very selective.”

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rigorous

1: manifesting, exercising, or favoring rigor : very strict
2b : HARSH, SEVERE
3 : scrupulously accurate : PRECISE

or

stringent

2: marked by rigor, strictness, or severity especially with regard to rule or standard

as opposed to

lax

2: deficient in firmness : not stringent

or

tolerant

1 : inclined to tolerate
especially : marked by forbearance or endurance

might work.

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