Chapter 6: Employee Testing & Selection


Why Careful Selection is Important

ØThe importance of selecting the right employees

Organizational performance always depends in part on subordinates having the right skills and attributes.

Recruiting and hiring employees is costly.

The legal implications of incompetent hiring

EEO laws and court decisions related to nondiscriminatory selection procedures

The liability of negligent hiring of workers with questionable backgrounds


Avoiding Negligent Hiring Claims

ØCarefully scrutinize information supplied by the applicant on his or her employment application.

ØGet the applicant’s written authorization for reference checks, and carefully check references.

ØSave all records and information you obtain about the applicant.

ØReject applicants who make false statements of material facts or who have conviction records for offenses directly related and important to the job in question.

ØBalance the applicant’s privacy rights with others’ “need to know,” especially when you discover damaging information.

ØTake immediate disciplinary action if problems arise.


Basic Testing Concepts


The consistency of scores obtained by the same person when retested with the identical or equivalent tests.

Are the test results stable over time?

ØTest validity

The accuracy with which a test, interview, and so on measures what it purports to measure or fulfills the function it was designed to fill.

Does the test actually measure what we need for it to measure?



Types of Validity

ØCriterion validity

A type of validity based on showing that scores on the test (predictors) are related to job performance (criterion).

Are test scores in this class related to students’ knowledge of human resource management?

ØContent validity

A test that is content valid is one that contains a fair sample of the tasks and skills actually needed for the job in question.

Do the test questions in this course relate to human resource management topics?

Is taking an HR course the same as doing HR?

Examples of Web Sites Offering Information on Tests or Testing Programs:


Provides general information and sources for all types of employment tests.


Provides technical information on all types of employment and nonemployment tests.


Provides information on over 20,000 tests.


Information from Kaplan test preparation on how various admissions tests work.


One of many firms offering employment tests.



How to Validate a Test

ØStep 1: Analyze the job

Predictors: job specification (KSAOs)

Criterion: quantitative and qualitative measures of job success

ØStep 2: Choose the tests

Test battery or single test?

ØStep 3: Administer the test

Concurrent validation

Current employees’ scores with current performance

Predictive validation

Later-measured performance with prior scores


ØStep 4: Relate Test Scores and Criteria

Correlation analysis

Actual scores on the test with actual performance

ØStep 5: Cross-Validate and Revalidate

Repeat Step 3 and Step 4 with a different sample of employees.



Testing Program Guidelines

ØUse tests as supplements.

ØValidate the tests.

ØMonitor your testing/selection program

ØKeep accurate records.

ØUse a certified psychologist.

ØManage test conditions.

ØRevalidate periodically.


Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Aspects of Testing

ØA organization must be able to prove:

That its tests are related to success or failure on the job (validity)

That its tests don’t unfairly discriminate against minority or nonminority subgroups (disparate impact).

ØEEO guidelines and laws apply to all selection devices, including interviews, applications, and references.


Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Aspects of Testing (cont’d)

ØTesting alternatives if a selection device has disparate impact:

Institute a different, valid selection procedure that does not have an adverse impact.

Show that the test is valid—in other words, that it is a valid predictor of performance on the job.

Monitor the selection test to see if it has disparate impact.


Test Takers’ Individual Rights and Test Security

ØUnder the American Psychological Association’s standard for educational and psychological tests, test takers have the right:

To privacy and information.

To the confidentiality of test results.

To informed consent regarding use of these results.

To expect that only people qualified to interpret the scores will have access to them.

To expect the test is fair to all.


Using Tests at Work

ØMajor types of tests used by employers

Basic skills tests (45%)

Drug tests (47%)

Psychological tests (33%)

ØUse of testing

Less overall testing now but more testing is used as specific job skills and work demands increase.

Screen out bad or dishonest employees

Reduce turnover by personality profiling

ØSource of tests

Test publishers

Computer-Interactive Testing

ØTypes of tests

Specialized work sample tests

Numerical ability tests

Reading comprehension tests

Clerical comparing and checking tests

ØOnline tests

Telephone prescreening

Offline computer tests

Virtual “inbox” tests

Online problem solving tests

Types of Tests

ØTests of cognitive abilities

Intelligence Tests

Tests of general intellectual abilities that measure a range of abilities, including memory, vocabulary, verbal fluency, and numerical ability.

Aptitude tests

Tests that measure specific mental abilities, such as inductive and deductive reasoning, verbal comprehension, memory, and numerical ability.

Types of Tests (cont’d)

ØTests of motor abilities

Tests that measure motor abilities, such as finger dexterity, manual dexterity, and reaction time.

ØTests of physical abilities

Tests that measure static strength, dynamic strength, body coordination, and stamina.

Problem from the Test of
Mechanical Comprehension

Measuring Personality and Interests


ØPersonality tests

Tests that use projective techniques and trait inventories to measure basic aspects of an applicant’s personality, such as introversion, stability, and motivation.


Personality tests—particularly the projective type—are the most difficult tests to evaluate and use.


Tests have been used successfully to predict dysfunctional job behaviors and identify successful candidates for overseas assignments.


The “Big Five”


The tendency to be sociable, assertive, active, and to experience positive effects, such as energy and zeal.

ØEmotional stability/neuroticism

The tendency to exhibit poor emotional adjustment and experience negative effects, such as anxiety, insecurity, and hostility.

ØOpenness to experience

The disposition to be imaginative, nonconforming, unconventional, and autonomous.


The tendency to be trusting, compliant, caring, and gentle.


Is comprised of two related facets: achievement and dependability.

Other Tests

ØInterest inventories

Personal development and selection devices that compare the person’s current interests with those of others now in various occupations so as to determine the preferred occupation for the individual.

ØAchievement tests

Test that measure what a person has already learned—“job knowledge” in areas like accounting, marketing, or personnel.

Other Tests (cont’d)

ØWeb-Based (Online) testing

Eliminates costly and inefficient paper-and-pencil testing processes.

Allows for role-playing by applicants.

Use of computer-based scoring eliminates rater bias.

Provides immediate scoring and feedback of results to applicants.

Can be readily customized for specific jobs.


Work Samples

ØWork samples

Actual job tasks are used in testing applicants’ performance.

ØWork sampling technique

A testing method based on measuring an applicant’s performance on actual basic job tasks.


Work Simulations

ØManagement assessment center

A simulation in which management candidates are asked to perform realistic tasks in hypothetical situations and are scored on their performance.

ØTypical simulated exercises include:

The in-basket

Leaderless group discussion

Management games

Individual presentations

Objective tests

The interview


ØVideo-Based situational testing

A situational test comprised of several video scenarios, each followed by a multiple choice question that requires the candidate to choose from among several courses of action.

While the evidence is mixed, the results suggest that video-based situational tests can be useful for selecting employees.

Work Simulations (cont’d)

ØThe miniature job training and evaluation approach

Candidates are trained to perform a sample of the job’s tasks, and then are evaluated on their performance.

The approach assumes that a person who demonstrates that he or she can learn and perform the sample of tasks will be able to learn and perform the job itself.

Background Investigations and Reference Checks

ØExtent of investigations and checks

Reference checks (87%)

Background employment checks (69%)

Criminal records (61%)

Driving records (56%)

Credit checks (35%)

ØReasons for investigations and checks

To verify factual information provided by applicants.

To uncover damaging information.


ØSources of information for background checks:

Former employers

Current supervisors

Commercial credit rating companies

Written references


ØLegal limitations on background checks

Privacy Act of 1974

Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (and Buckley Amendment of 1974)

Freedom of Information Act of 1966

1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)



ØReference providers’ concerns

Fear of legal reprisal for defamation

Not wanting to damage the applicant’s chances

Helping to get rid an incompetent employees

Making Background Checks More Useful

ØInclude on the application form a statement for applicants to sign explicitly authorizing a background check.

ØUse telephone references if possible.

ØBe persistent in obtaining information.

ØAsk open-ended questions to elicit more information from references.

ØUse references provided by the candidate as a source for other references.


Using Preemployment Information Services

ØConcerns about checking applicant histories

Various equal employment laws discourage or prohibit the use of such information in employee screening.

Courts view making employment decisions based on someone’s arrest record as unfairly discriminatory.

The EEOC says a poor credit history should not by itself preclude someone from getting a job.


Checking Background Information

ØStep 1—Disclosure and authorization.

Inform the employee/applicant that a report will be requested and obtain written authorization.

ØStep 2—Certification.

The employer must certify to the reporting agency that the employer will comply with the federal and state legal requirements.

ØStep 3—Providing copies of reports.

The employer must provide copies of the report to the applicant or employee if adverse action is contemplated.

Checking Background Information (cont’d)

ØStep 4—Notice after adverse action.

After the employer provides the employee or applicant with copies of the investigative reports and a “reasonable period” has elapsed, the employer may take an adverse action.


Collecting Background Information

ØCheck all applicable state laws.

ØReview the impact of federal equal employment laws.

ØRemember the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

ØDo not obtain information that you’re not going to use.

ØRemember that using arrest information will be highly suspect.

ØAvoid blanket policies (such as “we hire no one with a record of workers’ compensation claims”).

ØUse information that is specific and job related.

ØKeep information confidential and up to date.

ØNever authorize an unreasonable investigation.

Collecting Background Information (cont’d)

ØMake sure you always get at least two forms of identification from the applicant.

ØAlways require applicants to fill out a job application.

ØCompare the application to the résumé

ØParticularly for executive candidates, include background checks of such things as involvement in lawsuits, and of articles about the candidate in local or national newspapers.

ØSeparate the tasks of (1) hiring and (2) doing the background check.


The Polygraph and Honesty Testing

ØThe polygraph (or lie detector)

A device that measures physiological changes,

The assumption is that such changes reflect changes in emotional state that accompany lying.

ØEmployee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988.

Prohibits employers (in most all cases) from conducting polygraph examinations of all job applicants and most employees.

Also prohibited are other mechanical or electrical devices including psychological stress evaluators and voice stress analyzers.


Permitted Users of the Polygraph

ØEmployers with contracts involving:

National defense or security

Nuclear-power (Department of Energy)

Access to highly classified information

Counterintelligence (the FBI or Department of Justice)

ØOther exceptions

Hiring of private security personnel

Hiring persons with access to drugs

Conducting ongoing investigations involving economic loss or injury to an employer’s business.


Paper-and-Pencil Honesty Tests

ØPaper-and-pencil honesty tests

Psychological tests designed to predict job applicants’ proneness to dishonesty and other forms of counterproductivity.

Measure attitudes regarding things like tolerance of others who steal, acceptance of rationalizations for theft, and admission of theft-related activities.


Antitheft Screening Procedure

ØAsk blunt questions.

ØListen, rather than talk.

ØDo a credit check.

ØCheck all employment and personal references.

ØUse paper-and-pencil honesty tests and psychological tests.

ØTest for drugs.

ØEstablish a search-and-seizure policy and conduct searches.


ØGraphology (handwriting analysis)

Assumes that handwriting reflects basic personality traits.

Graphology’s validity is highly suspect.


Physical Examination

ØReasons for preemployment medical examinations:

To verify that the applicant meets the physical requirements of the position

To discover any medical limitations you should take into account in placing the applicant.

To establish a record and baseline of the applicant’s health for future insurance or compensation claims.

To reduce absenteeism and accidents

To detect communicable diseases that may be unknown to the applicant.


Substance Abuse Screening

ØTypes of screening:

Before formal hiring

After a work accident

Presence of obvious behavioral symptoms

Random or periodic basis

Transfer or promotion to new position

ØTypes of tests


Hair follicle testing


Substance Abuse in the Workplace


Impairment versus presence

Recreational use versus habituation

Intrusiveness of procedures

Accuracy of tests

Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988

Americans with Disabilities Act


Complying with Immigration Law  - Post 9/11

ØHire only citizens and aliens lawfully authorized to work in the United States.

ØAdvise all new job applicants of your policy.

ØRequire all new employees to complete and sign the INS I-9 form to certify that they are eligible for employment.

ØExamine documentation presented by new employees, record information about the documents on the verification form, and sign the form.

ØRetain the form for three years or for one year past the employment of the individual, whichever is longer.

ØIf requested, present the form for inspection by INS or Department of Labor officers.