The main goal of selection is to identify and employ those individuals who have the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to successfully complete the work of the organization. Research has shown that life history experiences, dispositions, attitudes and behavioral intentions that are theoretically related to retention can demonstrate important predictors of voluntary, organizationally avoidable turnover even when these are assessed prior to hire. Attitudes about the job and the organization, along with cognitions about intent to quit after the applicant is hired (Tett & Meyer, 1993), are important predictors of turnover. However, applicant attitudes and intentions toward the job, organization, and work in general before being hired may be predictive of turnover as well. Research suggests that most employees have developed attitudes about the job for which they are applying before they start the job (Hom & Griffeth, 1995). Consequently, attitudes and intentions prior to hire warrant consideration as important predictors of voluntary turnover. Recent research on the utility of integrity tests for selection purposes has important implications for this study (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Schmidt, 1993). An essential finding is that integrity tests can be classified into two categories: (a) clear-purpose integrity tests and (b) disguised-purpose integrity tests (Sackett, Burris, & Callahan, 1989). Clear-purpose tests are designed to directly assess attitudes regarding the criterion of interest (e.g., “Do you steal?”). Disguised-purpose tests are considerably broader in focus and are not explicitly aimed at the criterion (e.g., “Do you like to take chances?”). Such a test is less obvious to the respondent largely because the items only indirectly relate to the criterion. Also, a new employee with a strong desire to work in the job will require less time to be assimilated into the organization’s culture (Van Maanen ; Schein, 1979) and is likely to have greater psychological identification with the job (Kanungo, 1982; Lee, Ashford, Walsh, ; Mowday, 1992; Mael ; Ashforth, 1995). Evidence suggests that current employees who feel more involved with their jobs are less likely to leave (Hom ; Griffeth, 1995).
In a research study of 19 selection measures, cognitive ability tests (also referred to as general intelligence tests) had the highest predictive validity for job performance. These tests measure several mental abilities that are part of the tasks of almost every job. Abilities measured include verbal comprehension, numerical fluency, general reasoning, memory span, and logical evaluation. Research has consistently found that cognitive ability tests can be used for all jobs, and that they increase in value as the job of interest increases in complexity. These tests also are among the lowest cost selection measures. The strong relationship between job performance and scores on general mental ability tests may exist because these tests are also a strong predictor of job-related learning and problem solving. Those individuals who have greater mental ability are likely to learn more quickly than others and also may be able to better solve problems that occur when a job operation is in error or when a new demand is placed on the job incumbent. Both job learning and job problem solving translate into better job performance. Caution is recommended when using these tests; adverse impact against legally protected (e.g., racial, ethnic) groups has resulted from their use.
Job or work analyses in organizations are conducted to highlight key skills and abilities that are necessary for successful job performance (Brannick ; Levine, 2002). These skills and abilities are often used to identify tests that may be used to screen job applicants. The use of tests should be guided by the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that are identified as being critical to the job and job level. Research has shown that specific types of tests such as ability and personality tests are likely to be related to job performance (Gatewood ; Field, 2001; Hough ; Oswald, 2000; Robertson ; Smith, 2001). One type of test that is related to multiple job roles is cognitive ability because most jobs require a baseline of intelligence (Hough ; Oswald, 2000; Outtz, 2002; Ree, Earles, ; Teachout, 1994; Schmidt, 2002; Schmidt ; Hunter, 1998; Tenopyr, 2002). One of the most common forms of assessment, cognitive ability testing, addresses general knowledge and capabilities. These tests are often characterized as measures of aptitude used to determine a person’s ability to learn (Hunter, 1986; Hunter& Schmidt, 1996; Schmidt, 2002). Cognitive ability tests often include measures of verbal, mathematical, memory, and reasoning abilities (Gatewood & Field, 2001). Reasoning skills are commonly measured (Gatewood & Field, 2001), but data manipulation is less commonly assessed. The three measures in this test are combined to yield an overall aptitude evaluation. Cognitive ability testing has been shown to have validity generalization in predicting performance (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998; Viswesvaran & Ones, 2002). The strongest validity for ability tests has been found for jobs that are complex and require high levels of information processing (Gatewood & Field, 2001). Thus, selection testing and its relevance to later job performance in a complex technology organization with cognitively demanding jobs, is appropriate to address the effectiveness of an aptitude test. For example, in a well-known series of studies, the Hawthorne Studies, researchers originally attributed increases in productivity to changes in the plant’s physical environment. However, when these changes were removed the increases in productivity continued, allowing the researchers to conclude that social factors were impacting the performance of the plant employees. If the researches had sustained the changes in the physical environment, the increases in productivity may have been incorrectly assigned as the cause for improved performance.
Personality and integrity tests are self-report questionnaires in which the respondent provides information about his or her feelings or behaviors. Psychologists have agreed that the optimal personality test is one that measures the Big Five personality dimensions: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience. These personality dimensions have been theoretically linked to many different jobs and found to be statistically related to performance in various jobs. This latter is especially true for conscientiousness and extroversion. Literally hundreds of personality tests have been used for selection; however, tests of the Big Five are among a very small group of such tests that have demonstrated value in selection.
Integrity tests are intended to identify those applicants who have a high probability of engaging in acts such as stealing, embezzlement, sabotage, or violence. Integrity tests have steadily evolved in recent years and currently have demonstrated the ability to predict those behaviors. Most of these tests ask the same types of questions as do personality tests. They are scored in relationship to behaviors that are indicative of a general set of counterproductive actions that may be taken by employees. Responses that reflect or are related to these counterproductive actions are scored as signifying low integrity.
Objective measures of employee performance should also be considered when determining the validity of selection tests. Many organizations keep records of alternative measures of performance that can be considered as acceptable performance criteria. For example, increases in salary are normally indicative of strong performance. Any relationship between employee performance and aptitude test scores may have important implications for organizations. While aptitude test scores do not provide a complete picture of future employee performance, they can provide some insight into the probability of success on the job. While cognitive ability is important to initial success, perhaps this declines as work experience is established. Additionally, once an employee is on the job the supervisor has more information on which to base performance ratings so other factors likely become more important. Research has shown that cognitive ability test score is useful for predicting job performance; however, this is often only one portion of any selection process. Many organizations use multiple methods to determine if a job applicant has a good probability of being a successful addition.