Month: September 2009

Personality tests are poor predictors of job performance

A growing number of organisations use personality testing as part of their recruitment and promotion processes. But according to a group of American psychologists, such tests may not be valid predictors of job performance.

It might seem obvious that someone’s personality is a good predictor of job performance, but Frederick P. Morgeson, Professor of Management at Michigan State University, says that the relationship between the two is often highly tenuous.

In an article published in a recent issue of Personnel Psychology, Morgeson and colleagues John R. Hollenbeck and Neal W. Schmitt of Michigan State University, Michael A. Campion of Purdue University, Robert L. Dipboye of the University of Central Florida and Kevin Murphy of Pennsylvania State University, argue that the sort of tests used by tens of thousands of employers worldwide suffer from some serious limitations.

One obvious criticism of personality tests, especially the self-report kind, is the potential for faked answers as candidates seek to present themselves to employers in the best possible light.

Despite substantial research devoted to techniques that will mitigate, or at least alleviate, the impact of faked answers, there have been no clear-cut methods developed to solve the problem, the psychologists argue.

As Robert Dipboye says, “we need to engage applicants in a more open process where we disclose what we are looking for and gain the trust of test-takers rather than playing paper-and-pencil games with them.”

But the problems with personality testing run far deeper then this. According to Kevin Murphy, “as predictors of job performance, their validity is disappointingly low.”

Neal Schmitt is even more blunt. “Why are we looking at personality as a valid predictor of job performance when the validities haven’t changed in the past 20 years and are still close to zero?”

Nevertheless, while this might suggest that companies ought to reconsider their use of personality measures in making important hiring decisions and key appointments, Dipboye argues that research should be aimed at improving self-reported personality tests, rather than scraping them completely.

One strategy he advocates would be to allow people to elaborate on their responses to questions rather than offering one-word ambiguous responses.

Tests should also be clearly job-related and avoid ambiguous and embarrassing questions, he added.

Frederick Morgeson said that better ways to predict job performance include work samples, cognitive ability tests and structured interviews, all areas in which organizational psychology could greatly benefit human resource managers.

“Science is designed to uncover truth and can help improve the odds of making better personnel decisions,” he concluded.

Author: Brian Amble

This is a copy of this interesting post from this site: Personality tests poor predictors of performance

The Buriden’s Ass ‘method’ of decision making

The Buriden’s Ass ‘method’ of decision making is used when two or more equally attractive alternatives exist and it is difficult to make a choice. It is of course based on the old fable of Buriden’s Ass, who starved to death because he was tethered halfway between two equally large and succulent piles of hay – he couldn’t make up his mind which one to walk over to and eat. The approach is really simple; if the outcome of a choice between two options in terms of benefit is equally attractive focus on the drawbacks or downside risk of choosing an option. Pick the option based on minimising the downside – I am not sure how this would have helped Buriden’s ass but let’s put that to one side.


Your kindly old boss wants to increase your salary but in the credit crunch times he offers you these choices:

1. Take an increase in salary,
2. Go part time and work fewer days per week at the current annual salary,
3. Take a long paid sabbatical each year of six weeks and continue at the same annual salary.

In terms of economic value, each of the three choices comes out exactly the same.

Now drawbacks of:

1. Is that I still have to commute each day to the office in rain or snow whilst
2. Means I will have to cope on my current salary for another year and my wife might nag and
3. Although attractive means I will be out of circulation for a long time and may lose track of my grip on the business and my job.

I’d go for 2) as although I get no rise this year there is a good chance I could get one in the future and spend the money on the extra days off I would have in the bank.

Try one yourself:

You are offered a choice of new assignments
1) an ex patriot assignment in Holland for 2 years
2) a promotion to manager of the small department you currently work within and
3) a transfer to the head office in London doing the same job as now but with a higher salary.

All are economically equivalent which would you choose?

Careers: Hors d’oeuvres & Referent Others

This week’s career counselling post starts with a party – a party that was over years ago but left me with a nagging career-related anecdote that I hoped could be made sense of one day. And now, years later, organizational psychology suggests a place for it.

Here’s the tale:

A recently retired manager was telling of a conflict with employee A. It seems that employee A had negotiated a raise with the manager and received one. Both were satisfied until employee A learned that employee B, who was newly hired and less experienced, was already making a higher salary than employee B, in spite of employee A’s recent raise. Employee A protested to the manager, claiming that, regardless of just having received a raise, it was unfair that he should be earning less than employee B. The manager was clearly indignant. His response to employee A was that he negotiated and received what he asked for and should be happy with it. Employee B’s salary was irrelevant.

No one challenged him because, after all, it was a party – not a courtroom. But still, I remember inwardly trying to put myself on all sides of the issue but not really being able to decide what seemed right in terms of the big picture. However, I knew one thing: In employee A’s position, I would have felt slighted. I would still have tried to perform the job to the best of my abilities but invest beyond the actual requirements of the job? Probably – but maybe not always.

The preceding paragraph sets us up nicely to talk about psychological contract renegotiation and organizational commitment – but that’s not where we are heading.

This week, we go to equity theory (Adams, 1965; in Stephens & Feldman, 1997).

Equity theory is a motivational theory, one of many, in fact. Basically, motivational theories address three issues: 1) What motivates people to choose to behave in one way versus another, 2) What motivates someone to stop a particular behavior, 3) What causes an individual to increase his or her investment in a behavior. (Stephens & Feldman, 1997).

Two ideas are central to equity theory, specifically: 1) How people compare their inputs (what they invest) with what they receive, 2) The ratio of the inputs and outcomes to that of others – specifically “comparable” others. The idea of “comparable” others is what we take note of here. The manager above apparently didn’t think much about it, but Employee A certainly did. Clearly, he felt under-rewarded compared with employee B.

It wasn’t fair. But is it healthy? And what might the costs be to the organization?

Using the term “referent” others instead of “comparable” others but with similar meaning, Beard and Edwards 1995 cite a long list of negative outcomes that are associated with an individual’s perception of being disadvantaged compared with another person. On the list:

— “Increased sickness and accident compensation costs” (Sashkin & Williams, 1990).
— “Reduced job satisfaction and feelings of justice” (e.g. Martin, 1986).
— “Lower employee performance” (Summers & Hendrix, 1991).
— “Increased absenteeism and turnover” (e.g. Telly, French & Scott, 1971).

Information from a couple of other studies:
— Williams (1995) studied factors that preceded employee benefit satisfaction. The variables that were most strongly and positively associated with benefit level satisfaction were benefits administration and benefit comparisons made versus “referent” others.
— Shore (2006) researched how employees compare their pay levels with three different referent groups: 1) groups other employees within the organization 2) groups persons employed outside the organizations 3) specific “other” individuals.

They found partial support for their hypothesis that “work attitudes would be impacted more strongly when individuals made pay comparisons with a group referent than with an individual referent other.” They also found a couple of other interesting results. Perceptions of internal equity predicted work motivation and perceived organizational support. However, external equity predicted intent to leave the organization.

This isn’t exactly party talk if you want to be invited back the next time your friends get together; but it’s an entree that companies and the parties that comprise them should keep on their menus of organizational life.

Till next week, all my best,

Primary References
Shore, T, Tashchian, A & Jourdan, L. (2006). Effects of internal and external pay comparison on work attitudes, 36: 2578-2598.

Stephens, G, Feldman, D. (1997). A motivational approach for understanding career versus personal life investments. In G. Ferris (Ed.) Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management (Vol. 15): London: JAI Press.

Williams, M. (1995). Antecedents of employee benefit level satisfaction: a test of a model. 21: 1097-1128.

Secondary References
Adams, J.S. (1965). Injustice in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. New York: Academic Press.

Martin, J. (1986) When expectations and justice do not coincide. In H. Bierhoff, R, L. Cohen & J. Greenberg (Eds). Justice in Social Relations. New York: Plenum.

Sashkin, M. & Williams, R. (1990). Does fairness make a difference? Organizational Dynamics, 19: 56-71.

Summers, T & Hendrix, W. (1991). Modelling the role of pay equity perceptions: A field study. Journal of Occupational Psychology. 64: 145-157.

Telly, C, French, W & Scott, W. (1971). The relationship of inequity to turnover among hourly workers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16: 164-172