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Personnel Selection

Actually it ought to be easy: the person should fit the role. A complete profession has developed and established itself around this problem, internally as human resources and externally as recruitment consultancy. What difficulties in the problem can explain this?

The paradox of deciding consists of the fact that the arbitrariness which is contained in decisions must be made as invisible as possible by organisations. As long as the personnel selection lies exclusively with the supervisor, his arbitrariness threatens to quickly be interpreted as nepotism, as the formation of cliques and insider dealings or favouritism. In order to obscure this arbitrariness communicatively (in larger organisations), HR-personnel, committees, formalised personnel selection processes, external audits and assessments intervene in the selection. Thus it must be clear – and this is not meant as criticism! – that with this, one arbitrariness is simply replaced by another, perhaps less visible or better accepted. It is always particularly revealing to see how an organisation handles paradoxes.

Every interaction – Luhmann calls this invisibilization – brings advantages and disadvantages with it. What is important here is that it is not possible to eliminate arbitrariness from the decision-making about personnel, but that this often elicits a particularly communicative effect. The call for fairness, transparency and the revelation of the ‘true’ reasons grows from the illusory hope that one could only come to a decision with ‘factually orientated’ factors and that one could exclude social interests and expected developments in the future.