Selecting the Best Person for the Job

Having the right people on staff is crucial to the success of an organization. Various selection devices help employers predict which applicants will be successful if hired. These devices aim to be not only valid, but also reliable. Validity is proof that the relationship between the selection device and some relevant job criterion exists. Reliability is an indicator that the device measures the same thing consistently. For example, it would be appropriate to give a keyboarding test to a candidate applying for a job as an administrative assistant. However, it would not be valid to give a keyboarding test to a candidate for a job as a physical education teacher. If a keyboarding test is given to the same individual on two separate occasions, the results should be similar. To be effective predictors, a selection device must possess an acceptable level of consistency.

For most employers, the application form is the first step in the selection process. Application forms provide a record of salient information about applicants for positions, and also furnish data for personnel research. Interviewers may use responses from the application for follow‐up questions during an interview.

These forms range from requests for basic information, such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers, to comprehensive personal history profiles detailing applicants' education, job experience skills, and accomplishments.

According to the Uniform Selection Guidelines of the EEOC, which establish standards that employers must meet to prevent disparate or unequal treatment, any employment requirement is a test, even a job application. As a result, EEOC considerations and application forms are interrelated, and managers should make sure that their application forms do not ask questions that are irrelevant to job success, or these questions may create an adverse impact on protected groups.

For example, employers should not ask whether an applicant rents or owns his or her own home, because an applicant's response may adversely affect his or her chances at the job. Minorities and women may be less likely to own a home, and home ownership is probably unrelated to job performance.

On the other hand, asking about the CPA exam for an accounting position is appropriate, even if only one‐half of all female or minority applicants have taken the exam versus nine‐tenths of male applicants.

A quick test for disparate impact suggested by the Uniform Selection Guidelines is the four‐fifths rules. Generally, a disparate impact is assumed when the proportions of protected class applicants who are actually hired is less that 80 percent (four‐fifths) of the proportion of the majority group applicants selected. For example, assume that an employer has 100 white male applicants for an entry‐level job and hires one‐half of them, for a selection ratio of 1:2, or 50 percent (50/100). The four‐fifths rule does not mean that the employers must hire four‐fifths, or 40 protected class members. Instead, the rule means that the employer's selection ratio of protected class‐applicants should be at least four‐fifths of that of the majority groups.

Testing is another method of selecting competent future employees. Although testing use has ebbed and flowed during the past two decades, recent studies reveal that more than 80 percent of employers use testing as part of their selection process.

Again, these tests must be valid and reliable, or serious EEO questions may be raised about the use of them. As a result, a manager needs to make sure that the test measures only job‐relevant dimensions of applicants.

Most tests focus on specific job‐related aptitudes and skills, such as math or motor skills. Typical types of exams include the following:

Integrity tests measure factors such as dependability, carefulness, responsibility, and honesty. These tests are used to learn about the attitudes of applicants toward a variety of job‐related subjects. Since the passage of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act in 1988, polygraph (lie detector) tests have been effectively banned in employment situations. In their place, attitude tests are being used to assess attitudes about honesty and, presumably, on‐the‐job behaviors.

Personality tests measure personality or temperament. These tests are among the least reliable. Personality tests are problematic and not very valid, because little or no relationship exists between personality and performance.

Knowledge tests are more reliable than personality tests because they measure an applicant's comprehension or knowledge of a subject. A math test for an accountant and a weather test for a pilot are examples. Human relations specialists must be able to demonstrate that the test reflects the knowledge needed to perform the job. For example, a teacher hired to teach math should not be given a keyboarding test.

Performance simulation tests are increasing in popularity. Based on job analysis data, they more easily meet the requirement of job relatedness than written tests. Performance simulation tests are made up of actual job behaviors. The best‐known performance simulation test is known as work sampling, and other credible similation processes are performed at assessment centers.

An assessment is a selection technique that examines candidates' handling of simulated job situations and evaluates a candidate's potential by observing his or her performance in experiential activities designed to simulate daily work.

Assessment centers, where work sampling is often completed, utilize line executives, supervisors, or trained psychologists to evaluate candidates as they go through exercises that simulate real problems that these candidates would confront on their jobs. Activities may include interviews, problem‐solving exercises, group discussions, and business‐decision games. Assessment centers have consistently demonstrated results that accurately predict later job performance in managerial positions.

Work sampling is an effort to create a miniature replica of a job, giving applicants the chance to demonstrate that they possess the necessary talents by actually doing the tasks.

Another widely used selection technique is the interview, a formal, in‐depth conversation conducted to evaluate an applicant's acceptability. In general, the interviewer seeks to answer three broad questions:

Can the applicant do the job?

Will the applicant do the job?

How does the applicant compare with others who are being considered for the job?

Interviews are popular because of their flexibility. They can be adapted to unskilled, skilled, managerial, and staff employees. They also allow a two‐way exchange of information where interviewers can learn about the applicant and the applicant can learn about the employer.

Interviews do have some shortcomings, however. The most noticeable flaws are in the areas of reliability and validity. Good reliability means that the interpretation of the interview results does not vary from interviewer to interviewer. Reliability is improved when identical questions are asked. The validity of interviews is often questionable because few departments use standardized questions.

Managers can boost the reliability and validity of selection interviews by planning the interviews, establishing rapport, closing the interview with time for questions, and reviewing the interview as soon as possible after its conclusion.

Reference checking and health exams are two other important selection techniques that help in the staffing decision.

Reference checking allows employers to verify information supplied by the candidate. However, obtaining information about potential candidates is often difficult because of privacy laws and employer concerns about defamation lawsuits.

Health exams identify health problems that increase absenteeism and accidents, as well as detecting diseases that may be unknown to the applicant.




National Labor Relations Act


Requires employers to recognize a union chosen by the majority of the employees and to establish procedures governing collective bargaining.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

1967, amended in 1978 and 1986

Prohibits age discrimination against employees between 40 and 65 years of age and restricts mandatory retirement.

Occupational Safety and Health Act


Establishes mandatory safety and health standards in organizations.

Vietnam‐Era Veteran's Readjustment Assistance Act


Prohibits discrimination against disabled veterans and Vietnam‐era veterans.

Mandatory Retirement Act


Prohibits the forced retirement of most employees before the age of 70.

Immigration Reform and Control Act


Prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal aliens and prohibits employment on the basis of national origin of citizenship.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act


Requires employees to provide 60 days' notice before a facility closing or mass layoff.

Employee Polygraph Protection Act


Limits an employer's ability to use lie detector tests.

Family and Medical Leave Act


Permits employees in organizations with 50 or more workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons for each year.