HRM1283 Employee Selection Donna Verity and Chris Carella
LESSON 6: EMPLOYEE SELECTION
The greatest competitive advantage that organizations have is their human
resources and as a result, companies are paying more attention to building a strong
and skilled workforce. Once a pool of candidates has been identified through the
recruitment process, it is then time to assess the pool of candidates and select
those who can make the best contribution to organization goals.
Topics will include:
• person-job fit
• person-organization fit
• the selection process
• reliability and validity
• application forms
• biographical information blanks
• background checks
• employment tests
• the employment interview
• questions pre and post hiring
• reaching a selection decision
At the end of this module, you will be able to:
1. Identify the objectives of the selection process
2. Identify the various sources of information used for personnel selection
3. Describe the different types of employment tests and explain when to use them
4. Explain the different approaches to conducting an employment interview
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5. Describe the various strategies for selection
TEXT READING: Employee Selection
Pages 245 - 293
the process of choosing individuals who have relevant qualifications
to fill existing or projected job openings.
Source: Text, p. 246
The goal of selection is to have more successes than failures. See Figure 6.1 on
page 246 shows the overall goal in chart format.
Person-Job Fit begins with job analysis. Job descriptions and job specifications
are the first step in selection because they provide information about what the
tasks of the work and what is required to perform the job successfully. This then
provides the basis for the development of questions and identifies information that
needs to be collected from the candidate and other sources to determine if there is
a fit to the job.
Person-Organization Fit is another method used to determine if a prospective
candidate will be offered a position. Not only does the candidate need to have the
right skills, but many organizations also place a priority on finding people who will
fit into the broader company e.g. people who have the same values. Employers
who value organizational fit will even pass up on a qualified candidate if they
believe that they will not fit into the overall workplace.
The Selection Process
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The steps in the selection process are:
1. Completion of the application
2. Initial interview by HR
3. Employment testing
4. Background investigation
5. Preliminary selection in HR department
6. Supervisor/team interview
7. Hiring decision
Not all steps will take place e.g. employment testing may not happen. However, it
is important to note that the purpose of each step is to reduce the number of
candidates at each level.
2. RELIABLE AND VALID INFORMATION
If selection decisions are to be effective, the information you collect needs to be
reliable and valid.
Reliability basically means that if two raters were to use the same methods in
selecting the same candidate, they should basically come up with a similar result.
Validity has to do with how well the processes that were used measured the
person’s knowledge, skills and abilities.
a) Criterion-Related Validity is the extent to which your selection tool predicts
the success of the candidate’s performance based on some criteria, such as quality
or quantity. For example, if candidates with high test scores tend to have better
productivity than those with lower test scores, then there is criterion related
b) Concurrent Validity is the extent to which test scores (or other predictor
information) match criterion data obtained at about the same time from current
employees. For example, the test scores of your candidates are matched to the
test scores of your current high performers.
c) Predictive Validity is the extent to which applicants’ test scores match the data
obtained from employees after they have been on the job for some time period.
There is also face validity - how relevant a test or other selection procedure
appears to the applicant.
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Cross Validation is used to verify the results of your validity tests. Giving the test
to a different group of people from the same population as the original group does
this. However, you do not have to run validity studies in all cases. The more data
you have over time, the easier selection becomes.
Content validity looks at the knowledge and skills needed to do the job and picks a
representative sample to measure. Job analysis is a source of content validity
because it is most often based on the opinions of subject matter experts. For
example, the RCMP has used content validity by having a group of experienced
staff in the job develop an outline that covers the essential knowledge that one
should have to be able to perform that work. You can also see this method used in
developing licensing tests for professionals such as physicians, architects,
accountants, and psychologists.
This method is not used widely in employment situations because of the difficulty in
creating the test instruments internally. Construct validity measures a theoretical
construct or trait. For example, a mechanical comprehension test consists of a wide
variety of tasks that are assumed to measure the construct of mechanical
comprehension. To use it in employment situations, one has to show that the test
measures the construct, AND that the construct or trait is related to satisfactory job
performance. Large organizations use the services of psychologists to develop this
type of testing for them e.g. there is a test now that indicates whether a person has
the abilities required by call centre staff.
3. SOURCES OF INFORMATION ABOUT JOB CANDIDATES
Application forms, whether paper or electronic, are generally the first step in the
selection process. The information provided on application forms is the basis for
other questions you might have about a candidate’s background or skills.
However, some employers may be using application forms that are in violation of
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human rights and employment equity legislation. It is important for HR to check all
application forms periodically.
The online application process has become much more popular in recent years.
Some companies even use software to sort through applications and conduct
screening tests online. There are some advantages and disadvantages associated
with online applications. It can generate a larger number of applications and tends
to promote greater employee diversity. However, in the potentially large volume of
applications, many fail to meet the minimum qualification.
Biographical Information Blanks
Most application forms ask candidates to report on their past experiences
and accomplishments. A different approach is the use of the Biographical
Information Blank (BIB) which includes questions about experiences that
the job applicant had with others in the past, such as parents, teachers,
The applicants answer a series of multiple choice or short answer
questions, which include biodata items, related to health, family
background, socioeconomic status, hobbies, interests, values and
attitudes. After being validated, BIBs are usually scored like tests.
Weights are assigned to an applicant's responses according to how much
a response to a particular item relates to valid predictors of job success
Virtually all employers conduct some form of background check on applicants to
verify information supplied by the applicants. It is not unusual (unfortunately) for
candidates to falsify educational requirements or work experiences.
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Most prospective employers check references by telephone or mail. You may find
though, that the telephone will provide you more honest information because many
former employers are loathe to put negative information in writing. Tone of voice,
hesitation in speaking, etc. can all be good indicators of past performance.
Reference checks can:
•reduce white collar crime
You can also leave yourself open to legal action if you do not do a reference check.
For example, if you hire a person who was previously terminated for sexual
harassment and that person harasses a current employee of yours, you could be
open to action in that you were not diligent in protecting your current staff because
you did not do a reference. That is not to say the previous employer would have
given you the information. However, you need to be able to say that you did check
and the fact that you were not provided with the information is not your fault.
Written requests are also seen as time consuming by the person completing the
reference so they will not be thorough in their completion. In addition, written
requests are often completed by HR, rather than by the manager or the supervisor
who had a closer relationship with the staff member. On the telephone, you are
more likely to speak to the manager or supervisor.
A good question to always ask is “would you rehire this person”. The answer to this
question is often telling.
It is always good business to have applicants provide permission in writing for you
to speak to their references, and some agencies require this. Employers are also
often requesting credit reports on individuals. You need permission to seek this
information but at the same time, like all jobs, you should only do so if it is related
to the work. For example, someone who is fixing cars is less of a risk than
someone who is handling uncut diamonds in a jewellery exchange. Financial
institutions often require this information.
Polygraph tests are rarely used in Canada, and some provinces like Ontario, prohibit
their use. There are also honesty and integrity tests that can be valid for predicting
job performance, as well as controlling theft, disciplinary problems, and
absenteeism. However, like any good set of selection tools, this test should be only
be one indicator of whether the candidate is appropriate for the job. Figure 5-8 on
p. 200 provides some example questions that might be found on an integrity test.
One other method is graphology or handwriting analysis. There is no evidence
supporting the validity of this method and it should not be used.
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4. EMPLOYMENT TESTS
An employment test is an objective and standardized measure of a sample of
behaviour that is used to gauge a person's knowledge, skills, abilities, and other
characteristics (KSAOs) in relation to other individuals.
Psychological selection tools have been around for more than 60 years, however, if
your organization intends to use this type of testing, it is important to use trained
professionals in administering and/or evaluating the tests.
Classification of Employment Tests
Tests can be classified generally, as either “aptitude” (measuring a person s
capacity to learn or acquire new skills) or “achievement” (measuring what a person
currently knows and can do).
Cognitive Ability Tests measure mental abilities such as intelligence, verbal
fluency, numerical ability, and reasoning ability. Figure 6.6 on p. 261 provides
examples of questions from the General Competency Test administered by the
Public Service Commission of Canada. The validity issue of cognitive tests has to do
with the fact that they are connected to general intelligence and it needs to be
shown that this is also connected closely to the job.
Personality and Interest Inventories measure a person's disposition e.g.
whether you are an extrovert which might lead the employer to believe that you
would be a good salesperson. The five most common personality factors measured
are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and
openness to experience. While many employers have used personality test, they
actually have a low validity when used for performance on the job. They are best
used when doing career planning. Figure 6.7 shows the facets as well as sample
items from the California Psychological Inventory.
Physical Ability Tests are common for physically demanding and potentially
dangerous jobs such as firefighter. They tend to be good predictors of
performance, accidents, and injuries. It is very important to show that the physical
requirements of the job are valid before testing.
Job Knowledge Tests measure the candidate’s understanding of the job and the
work to be performed. These are often used to reduce on-the-job training.
Work Sample Tests or Job Sample Tests ask candidates to perform tasks that
are actually part of the job. They are similar to a job "tryout" and are used
frequently in office/clerical jobs.
One advantage of job knowledge tests and job sample tests is that they are
objective sources of information about an individual’s knowledge and skills. These
types of tests are used most commonly in professional positions and in the military.
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5. THE EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW
While the interview is a very traditional selection tool, there is evidence to suggest
that the quality of the interviewer themselves will influence the interview, and that
other elements such as whether the interview is structured or not will influence the
success of the candidate.
Generally, it is recommended that a more highly structured interview be used over
an unstructured approach so that validity is high.
The Nondirective Interview gives maximum freedom to the interviewer to
determine the course of the interview. It is particularly useful in bringing out any
information, attitudes, and feelings that may otherwise not be allowed to surface
and is common in the selection of candidates for higher level positions in
The Structured Interview uses a standard set of questions and preferred
answers for rating candidates. This type of interview is especially good to respond
to employment equity concerns and to increase the validity of interviews. It is very