Using Personality Questionnaires for Selection

David J. Hughes and Mark Batey


Employee selection is the process of choosing which member(s) of an applicant pool is (are) most likely to behave in a manner that will achieve or surpass organizationally defined metrics of success, such as selling products direct to consumers, preventing crime, building and nurturing business-to-business relationships, caring for the sick and educating or inspiring others to perform to the best of their ability. The definition of successful job performance varies greatly across roles and organizations. Thus, while some elements of behaviour are important for all jobs (e.g., exertion of effort), it is likely that many other behavioural patterns will be suited to performance in some roles but not others. This straightforward observation has led to a broad consensus from industry and academia that personality testing, which as we discuss below is the fundamental descriptor of human behaviour, should be useful during selection programmes. However, whether and to what extent personality is useful remains a contested issue (see Morgeson, Campion, Dipboye, Hollenbeck, Murphy & Schmitt, 2007a; Ones, Dilchert, Viswesvaran & Judge, 2007). In this chapter we critically consider the evidence regarding the use of personality assessments in selection.

We begin by setting the scene of personality test use in selection before defining personality, considering why it should be of value in selection and briefly considering how we arrived at the current state of knowledge in personality research generally. We then examine the predictive validity evidence for personality in selection, considering personality as a single predictor of job performance and as a part of a broader selection programme. We then explore debates regarding what level of the personality hierarchy (broad factors vs. narrow traits) is more useful during selection, whether universal job performance exists or whether different jobs require different behaviours and thus nuanced personality assessment, and we consider the potential utility of ‘other ratings’ of personality. We then move on from predictive validity and discuss how and when personality measures might be

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.

used within a selection programme. Finally, we suggest areas of research that offer great promise for improving our understanding, and subsequently evidence-based practice within selection.

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