The Contribution of Others’ Methods in Recruitment and Selection

Biodata, References, Resumes and CVs

Adrian Furnham


Those wishing to select and recruit people know what a difficult task they face. People are complex and capricious, difficult both to predict and understand. Most attempt to find methods that help them gather data to be able to assess the ability, motivation and personality of an individual. Some become desperate and turn to methods such as graphology which has long since been discredited, though it remains widely used in France (Cook, 2009). This is discussed in a later section.

The questions for assessors and selectors are essentially what to assess, how to assess these characteristics, who is best suited to do it and when and why it should be done in a particular way.

To some extent the ‘what’ can neatly be divided into three areas:

  • What a person can do. This refers to their ability. It is about their capacity to do various tasks efficiently given that they have the desire to do so. It also refers to their ability to learn new tasks. Assessing what a person can do is often measured by cognitive ability (intelligence) and skills tests.
  • What a person will do. This refers to people’s motivation or what they will to do when asked or instructed so to do. Motivation refers to values and drives. It is the extent to which people are energized and focused on achieving a particular goal or set of goals. Everyone can be persuaded to do things as a function of rewards and punishments, but this refers to what a person will do on an everyday basis without strong rewards or punishments shaping behaviour.
  • What a person wants to do. This refers to preferences for certain activities over others. It is about what a person likes to do and will do freely with any form of cohesion. It is about values, personality and motivation, which push in one direction or another.

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.

Assessors need to know all three things about the job applicant they are assessing and recruiting.

It is generally accepted that it is reasonably easy to assess individuals’ ability accurately. It is also not difficult to assess their normal and abnormal personality. It is, however, much more difficult to assess motivation, in part because people are often unable and unwilling to say what really motivates them.

There are, in essence, five methods to collect data on people: self-report, observational data, biographical data, test data and physiological data. In this chapter three of these are considered: self-report data, observational data and personal history. We also briefly discuss methods such as graphology, which have become popular in some countries, but lack any evidence to support their use as a selection tool.

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