Unpacking the Routines of Hiring in Pakistan: A Conventionalist Perspective, by Qamar Ali

PhD project supervised by Julia Brandl, University of Innsbruck and Wolfgang Mayrhofer, WU Vienna (co-supervisor).

PhD exam will be 19 July 2018.


  • Julia Brandl, University of Innsbruck
  • Markus Helfen, University of Innsbruck (internal examiner)
  • Arjan Kozica, University of Reutlingen (external examiner)

Abstract. Wright Mills (1970) has famously noted that the study and analysis of employment relations lack sociological imagination. This dissertation analyses the micro-politics of structurally and culturally bound human resourcing activities within the organizational situational context. It addresses the question of coordination of HR work in practice; how actors interact with their environment while coordinating across organizational and societal settings. In order to understand the everyday human problems and preferences in a social scientific analytical manner, this dissertation puts individuals’ actions in the perspective of broader societal issues. The dissertation provides a conventionalist analysis of the sociology of human resourcing practices. Taking the case of Pakistan, a ‘developing’ South Asian country, it unearths the prevailing discourse of human resource management research in the country and examines in a social scientific analytic style the underlying mechanisms of decision-making behind HRM practices, mainly of recruitment and selection. In so doing, it signifies studying the sociological side of human resourcing practices. By adopting the pragmatic philosophy of social scientific analysis, the dissertation benefits from a variety of methodological approaches and methodical techniques including ethnography, in-depth interviews, and experiments. Based on Neuman (2000)’s paradigms of social science research, the dissertation first shows how HRM research in Pakistan comprises positivist, critical, and interpretivist studies, thereby explicating dominant research paradigms in the country. By zooming in on recruitment processes, it further unearths applicants’ and recruiters’ hitherto unexplained behaviors in the context of Pakistan. First, despite significant differences of the content, style and the channels of advertisements and consequent differences in job applicants’ perceptions about organizational attractiveness, there are no statistically significant differences in their intentions to apply for the job. Second, despite significant differences in recruitment channels’ potential of producing organizational attractiveness, recruiters, on the other hand, have no preferences in choosing between these channels. These findings are put into the perspective of broader societal issues, such as unemployment, lack of entrepreneurial orientation, etc. Using the theoretical notions developed within the French pragmatic sociology, also known as sociology of conventions, (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1991, 2006), namely, modes of engagements (Thévenot, 2001b) and structures of complex domination (Boltanski, 2011), the dissertation then explores the practices and processes of selection of academicians. To this end, it illustrates how top management in the south Asian context deploys coordinative power to maneuver rules and regulations, and interpret laws in their favor, but also in what ways participating actors may resist this. In so doing, the dissertation raises researchers’ awareness of factors that can contribute to inequalities in hiring, particularly in power-driven contexts.  The studies in this dissertation explicate everyday dilemmas of employment relationships by focusing upon HRM practices in situ, thereby intending to fill the theory-practice void in HRM research. Only a limited number of studies hitherto have concentrated upon the highly political and complex nature of employment relationships in practice, in contrast to the normative studies, which mostly tend to downplay the everyday human dilemmas. The dissertation particularly emphasizes the socio-political side of HR work. In doing so, it accentuates the need for the so- called ‘practice turn’ in HRM research. Using the pragmatic-realist ‘sociology of conventions’ in the study and analysis of human resourcing practices, specifically recruitment and selection practices, in Pakistan, the dissertation unfolds the potential of this approach for benefiting HRM research concerning investigating employment relationships and theorizing the dynamic nature of employment management practices.