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PEOPLE RESOURCING Chapter Twelve Advanced Methods of Employee Selection.

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1 PEOPLE RESOURCING Chapter Twelve Advanced Methods of Employee Selection

2 There are four advanced, specifically ‘high-validity’ methods of employee selection: biodata analysis ability tests personality tests assessment centres.

3 Biodata This refers to biographical data – using detailed information concerning an applicant’s past to make deductions about his or her likely performance in a future job. It typically requires the completion of a detailed multiple- choice questionnaire. The employer then screens applicants according to how closely their characteristics match those of the better current employees. It is only ever used by a minority of employers – it remains controversial and costly to develop. The biodata questionnaire technique is only effective if designed separately for each job.

4 Opinion is divided over whether biodata questionnaires should include ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ questions. Hard questions are factual. Soft questions are more directly job-related. The aim is to allow inferences to be made. Problems with soft questions: They do not allow candidates to say that they would react differently in different circumstances. It is easy for applicants to select the response they think is likely to give them the highest score They can be seen as an arbitrary and unfair method of selection by rejected employees. This in turn can have an adverse effect on the organisation’s image in the labour market.

5 Problems with biodata in general: the lack of portability between job types that questionnaires age rapidly, and need to be revised frequently that it is costly and time-consuming to produce – requiring large numbers of employees at the developmental stage. Biodata is best used in the following circumstances: where large numbers of applications are received for a job where there are large numbers of existing staff employed in the same position where the nature of work is unlikely to change to any great degree over time where job applications are screened centrally.

6 Ability testing Ability testing is used in some form by 70% of larger employers, but usually as a back-up to other selection techniques. Types: general ability (eg IQ tests) literacy or numeracy job-specific skills (eg typing, driving) trainability tests. Advantages: higher validity inexpensive transportability between jobs.

7 Furnham (2005) distinguishes between questions that measure ‘crystallised intelligence’ and those that measure ‘fluid intelligence’. Crystallised intelligence corresponds to specific pieces of knowledge that are picked up over time. Fluid intelligence is ‘the ability to perceive relationships, deal with unfamiliar problems and gain new types of knowledge’. Fluid intelligence has been found to be the most accurate predictor of success in a job.

8 Problems with ability tests: Uncertainty about whether candidates can raise their performance with practice Anxiety levels, which can make strong candidates perform poorly Failed ‘test-taking strategies’ (trading accuracy for speed), which can make strong candidates perform poorly Bias against people whose first language is not English They are unsuitable when all candidates for a job are likely to share a similar level of general intelligence They cannot be used in isolation – success in a role involves many factors in addition to mental ability.

9 Personality testing This involves inferences about a candidate’s suitability for a job based on his or her responses in personality questionnaires or inventories. There are several basic assumptions: that human personality is measurable/‘mappable’ that underlying personality traits remain stable over time and across different situations that individual jobs can be analysed in terms of the personality traits that would be most suitable for the job-holder that a questionnaire completed in 30–60 minutes provides enough information about an individual’s personality to be able to make meaningful inferences.

10 Five basic psychological constructs or ‘traits’ form the building-blocks of personalities: extroversion–introversion (enjoyment of socialising and change) emotional stability (anxiety levels) agreeableness (avoidance of conflict) conscientiousness (organisation) openness to experience (flexibility). Another theory suggests that the most important single trait in terms of predicting effective work performance is self-esteem.

11 Personality test data may be used to make inferences about: how well the individual’s personality matches that believed to be ideal for the job how well the individual will fit in with the general organisational culture how well the individual’s personality might complement those of existing team members whether an individual, otherwise well-qualified, might be unsuitable for a post because he or she scores too high or low in terms of a particular personality trait. Even if the results are not themselves crucial determinants of the selection decision, they can flag areas to raise and discuss at the interview stage.

12 Techniques: Asking candidates to agree or disagree with a statement, or to use a Likert scale. This is problematic because it allows candidates to fake their answers in an attempt to make them appear more suitable Using ‘ipsative’/forced-choice questions. This is problematic because it tends to set one psychological construct against another Including a ‘lie-index’/‘social desirability index’ Using computer programs that tailor the questions as the candidate progresses.

13 Professional issues in the use of selection tests In the absence of statutory regulation, the CIPD has produced a code of practice on psychological testing: Selection decisions should not be made through psychological tests alone. Individuals responsible for administering tests, evaluating tests and/or providing feedback should have the relevant certificate of competence from the British Psychological Society. Feedback should be given to all candidates. Only official tests should be used. Test users should maintain the highest standards of confidentiality. Test results should be used to make decisions only when they are shown to have a clear potential impact on likely performance in the job in question.

14 Assessment centres Assessment centres are used for the selection of some staff (mainly management and graduates) by almost half of all UK organisations. The extent of their use increases steeply with the size of the employer. They are the ‘Rolls Royce’ of selection methods – they have good predictive ability, can be tailored to specific demands, and are popular with candidates. The aim is to observe candidate behaviour in a work- related situation. The focus is therefore on potential rather than on past achievement. The main disadvantage is the cost.

15 Common assessment centre activities: in-tray exercises – these require candidates to demonstrate a number of different competencies group exercises presentations role-playing report-writing work trial or trainability techniques. More than one activity may be used to measure a candidate’s performance on each competency – to reduce the extent to which situational factors may influence a candidate’s abilities.

16 A common method used to show which exercises are testing which competencies is the assessment centre matrix: Source: IDS (1995b)

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