Many organizations use selection methods that are not valid based on myths surrounding selection and recruitment. This CQ Dossier describes and challenges those myths. Then, the dossier presents several valid selection methods that predict effective job performance. The dossier provides a general overview of the main selection methods that are well validated through research and science.
How to hire top talents for a competitive advantage?
Selection and Recruitment is one of the most important areas for organizations for investment in talent management.Hiring top talented individuals provides organizations with a competitive advantage. Organizations have become complacent about the impact of employees on organizational effectiveness yet one of the biggest assets they have is through the people who work for them; this leverage of people provides organizations with a competitive advantage (Pfeffer, 1994).
In recent years, Human Resources Management has become more sophisticated in its scientific methods, particularly regarding data analysis (Cascio & Aguinis, 2011). These techniques allow researchers and practitioners to identify and design effective selection and recruitment models to recruit talented employees. In recent years, the field of Human Resources Management has adopted quantitative-based selection methods to justify and validate prescriptions for recruitment and selection. These selection methods help challenge myths about selection and recruitment through demonstrating solid concurrent and predictive validity. This CQ Dossier describes those tools and methods that are effective for creating highly effective recruitment and hiring processes.
Recruitment and selection myths: Organizations still use haphazard selection methods
It is unfortunate that many organizations still rely on illogical and poorly tested assessments to evaluate candidates for job positions (Pulakos, 2005). It is important that organizations use selection methods that are proven to be scientifically valid in choosing candidates that will be excellent performers. There are also myths surrounding the frequency of use of assessment tools like graphology which purports to reveal a candidate’s character through their handwriting; however, there is little evidence that this method is a popular tool in Europe (Bangerter, Konig, Blatti, & Salvisberg, 2009).
It is unfortunate that a large number of organizations use haphazard approaches to select job incumbents particularly as scientifically valid assessments are linked to organizational outcomes that enhance the financial wealth of the firm (Pulakos, 2005). One of the reasons for this is that there are several myths surrounding recruitment and selection that foster poor choices in assessment methods (Rynes, Colbert & Brown, 2002). Rynes and colleagues identified five major myths that Human Resource professionals believe about effective human resource practices.
Myth 1: Conscientiousness versus intelligence
First, HR professionals believe that screening applicants for conscientiousness yields better performers than screening applicants for intelligence. This is a fallacy because there is a preponderance of research demonstrating that tests of cognitive ability demonstrate the highest validity for job performance (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).
Myth 2: Values versus intelligence
The second myth is that screening applicants for their values will yield better performers than screening for intelligence yet there is little evidence to support this view (Rynes et al., 2002).
Myth 3: Integrity tests
Third, HR professionals view integrity tests as not useful because job candidates misrepresent themselves on these types of tests. However, research has shown that integrity tests are valid predictors of job performance and remain valid even if candidates do fake their answers. Moreover, it is unclear how many applicants fake their responses (Berry, Sackett, & Wiemann, 2007).
Myth 4: Unstructured versus structured interviews
Fourth, despite evidence that the structured interviews are the best assessment of job performance, many HR professionals still believe that unstructured interviews with candidates yield better information than structured assessment processes (Rynes et al., 2002). Finally, HR professionals believe that the use of selection tests can create legal problems for organizations rather than to help them solve them and this is little evidence to support this myth (Rynes et al., 2002).
Selection methods: How to best predict future job performance?
The process used to evaluate job candidates and to select which ones to hire is called Personnel selection and has been an integral part of Human Resources Management (HRM) practices since the beginning of the twentieth century (Farr & Tippins, 2010). The best selection practices utilize a series of instruments or predictors to determine those candidates who are best suited for the job. Common predictors include
biographical data (application forms, work history, past experience, and biographical information),
cognitive ability tests,
structured and unstructured interviews,
job knowledge or aptitude tests,
letters of recommendation,
academic prowess (GPA and education level), and
reference checks (Cascio & Aguinis, 2011).
In utilizing best assessment methods, organizations need to first conduct a job analysis to determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that are needed to perform the job affectively (Brannick & Levine, 2002).
Cognitive ability tests
Cognitive ability tests measure a variety of abilities including verbal, quantitative, reasoning and reading comprehension. As mentioned earlier, they are valid predictors of job performance and so are excellent choices for recruitment and selection because they can be utilized across a wide range of occupations and across industries (e.g., Ree, Earles, & Teachout, 1994). Cognitive ability tests typically consist of multiple-choice items that are administered via a paper-and-pencil instrument or computer.
Job knowledge tests
These tests are used to assess knowledge that is critical for the job (Pulakos, 2005). Typically, they are used to assess technical knowledge and can only be utilized if the person already has knowledge prior to starting the new job. They are not suitable if the applicant will be trained in job knowledge areas after hiring. Similar to cognitive ability tests, job knowledge tests can be administered using a computer or paper and pencil.
Personality tests that assess traits relevant to job performance have been found to be valid measures of subsequent job performance(Raymark, Schmit & Guion, 1997). Utilizing the traits within the Big Five Personality Model is the optimal tool for prediction of job performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991). Research has shown that conscientiousness is the best predictor of job performance yet some of the other traits are also predictors for specific types of jobs (Hough, 1992).
Resting on the idea that past behavior is a predictor of future behavior, biographical data utilizes questionnaires that ask job candidates questions that cover their backgrounds. These types of biographical inventory have also been shown to be valid predictors of job performance (Schoenfeldt, 1999).
Integrity tests measure attitudes and experiences to evaluate a candidate’s honesty, trustworthiness, and dependability (Sackett & Waneck, 1996). As mentioned previously, integrity tests are valid predictors of job performance and can be administered via paper and pencil or computer. Integrity tests utilize a multiple-choice format.
Structured interviews utilize a specific set of questions to determine whether candidates have the KSAs to perform the job effectively.Unlike unstructured interviews, they are a valid predictor of job performance if interviewers receive training in how to conduct them effectively (Judge, Higgins & Cable, 2000).
The selection methods described in this dossier are valid predictors of job performance. There are other methods that can also be utilized, such as physical strength tests and situational judgement tests. These methods can be used if they are related to the criteria that is applicable for the organization. In choosing assessment methods for selection, organizations also need to consider the cost, validity, adverse impact (whether the test discriminates against protected groups) and applicant reactions. In conclusion, this dossier challenges the myths surrounding selection and recruitment methods and provides information on valid predictors of job performance.
Hiring top talent can be a competitive advantage for organizations but requires proper selection methods
Many organizations rely on poorly tested selection methods to evaluate candidates for job positions
There are several myths surrounding recruitment and selection that foster poor choices in selection methods
The best selection practices utilize a series of instruments or predictors to determine those candidates who are best suited for the job
Management skills newsletter
Join our newsletter for exclusive management tips, training offers and videos!
References and further readings
Bangerter, A., Konig, C. J., Blatti, S., & Alexander, S. (2009). How widespread is graphology in Personnel Selection Practice? A case study of a job market myth.International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 17, 2, 219-230.
Barrick, M. R., & Mount, M. K. (1991). The big five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis.Personnel Psychology, 91, 1-26.
Berry, C., Sackett, P., & Wiemann, (2007). A review of recent developments in integrity test research.Personnel Psychology, 60, 271-301.
Brannick, M. T., & Levine, E. L. (2002).Job analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cascio, W. F., & Aguinis, H. (2011).Applied psychology in human resource management(7th ed.). Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.
Hough, L. M. (1992). The big five personality variables-construct confusion: Description versus prediction.Human Performance, 5, 135-155.
Judge, T. A., Higgins, C. A., & Cable, D. M. (2000). The employment interview: A review of recent research and recommendations for future research.Human Resource Management Review, 10, 383-406.
Pfeffer, J. (1994). Gaining a competitive advantage through people.Harvard Business School Press.
Raymark, M. J., Schmit, M. J., & Guion, R. M. (1997). Identifying potentially useful personality constructs for employee selection.Personnel Psychology, 50, 723-736.
Ree, M. J., Earles, J. A., & Teachout, M. S. (1994). Predicting job performance: Not much more than g.Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 518-524.
Rynes, S. L., Colbert, A. E., & Brown, K. G. (2002). HR professionals’ beliefs about effective human resources practices: Correspondence between research and practice.Human Resource Management, 41, 149-174.
Sackett, P. R., & Wanek, J. E. (1996). New developments in the use of measures of honesty, integrity, conscientiousness, dependability, trustworthiness, and reliability for personnel selection.Personnel Psychology, 49, 787-829.
Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings.Psychological Bulletin, 124, 2, 262-274.
Shoenfeldt, L. F. (1999). From dustbowl empiricism to rational constructs in biodata.Human Resource Management Review, 9, 147-167.
Annette was born in England and now lives in the United States. She has a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has taught at several institutions. Annette has published in several journals, including Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Human Resource Development Quarterly, and Organizational Research Methods. She worked in the public and private sector for many years, primarily as a management trainer.