Section II Selection

Using Ability Tests in Selection

Jesus F. Salgado


General mental ability (GMA) and specific cognitive tests have been recognized as the most powerful predictors of overall job performance, task performance, academic performance and training proficiency (Ackerman & Heggestad, 1997; Guion, 1998; Murphy, 2002; Ones, Dilchert, Viswesvaran & Salgado, 2010; Reeve & Hackel, 2002; Salgado, 1999; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998; Schmitt, 2014; Vinchur & Koppes, 2011). Thus, cognitive ability tests occupy the most relevant place among the personnel selection procedures.

There are at least six important reasons supporting the claim that cognitive ability tests play a key role in personnel selection procedures (Scherbaum, Goldstein, Yusko, Ryan & Hanges; 2012; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). First, GMA tests have the highest validity and lowest application cost. Second, the empirical evidence on the validity of GMA measures for predicting job performance is stronger than that for any other method. Third, GMA has been shown to be the best predictor of job-related learning. It is the best predictor of acquisition of job knowledge on the job and of performance in job training programmes. Fourth, the theoretical foundations of GMA are stronger than for any other personnel selection measure, and theories of intelligence have been developed and tested by psychologists for over 90 years. Fifth, the incremental contribution of specific abilities (defined as ability factors unrelated to the general factor, or g) to the prediction of performance or training outcomes may be minimal beyond g. Sixth, the findings on the validity of GMA and cognitive tests are the major contribution of industrial, work and organizational (IWO) psychology to the study of GMA and its use in applied settings.

This chapter reviews the literature on the use of ability tests in personnel selection, focusing on several relevant issues: 1) the definition of cognitive abilities and prevalence of use in personnel selection; 2) the main theoretical models of the psychometric structure of GMA and cognitive abilities; 3) the criterion validity and validity generalization of GMA

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection and Employee Retention,

First Edition. Edited by Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

and specific cognitive abilities, including their incremental validity over GMA validity; 4) issues of group differences, bias and fairness; 5) applicant reactions and justice perceptions; and 6) suggestions for future research.

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