Evolving Personnel Selection Practices in New Zealand Organisations and Recruitment Firms

Article excerpt

Interviews were conducted with representatives from 100 randomly-selected organisations with 200 or more employees, and 30 recruitment consultancies in New Zealand in order to determine current personnel selection practices, how those practices have changed over recent years, and respondents' beliefs about the predictive validity of alternative selection procedures. In comparison to a parallel survey conducted in the early 1990's (Taylor, Mills & O'Driscoll, 1993), results demonstrate a substantial increase in the use of psychological tests, greater standardization/structure of selection procedures and linking of selection methods to pre-determined job competencies. Areas where practice-research gaps in personnel selection continue are discussed in terms of both how practitioners could better apply research findings and how research could better respond to practitioner needs.

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One of the fundamental applications of organisational psychology, both in New Zealand and overseas, has been the development, implementation, and evaluation of methods for staff selection. While this aspect of organisational psychology has been a rich area of research for over 70 years, there has been a proliferation of personnel selection theory and research over the past 15 years.

The extent to which selection research is able to improve organisations' ability to better match people and jobs-ultimately to improve staff members' productivity, tenure and job satisfaction-is dependent on whether findings are adopted by practitioners. The identification of research-practice gaps is important to determine both areas of research which require further dissemination to practitioners, and areas of practice which can be improved through the application of research.

This paper reports on two surveys of selection practices in New Zealand, one of relatively large organisations (employing 200 or more staff) and the other of recruitment consultancies. These surveys follow up on two, parallel surveys conducted in 1991 and reported in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology (Taylor, Mills & O'Driscoll, 1993), with the aim of identifying changes that may have occurred in organisations' and consultancies' selection practices in the intervening years.

Recent Influences on Selection Practices in New Zealand

A few factors are likely to have led to recent changes in staff selection practices in New Zealand over the past decade. These include: (1) a proliferation of selection research; (2) improved dissemination of research findings to recruitment practitioners; (3) greater accessibility of occupational tests; and (4) changes in employment-related legislation. We provide a brief review of these influences below.

Proliferation of selection research. Starting in the mid-1980's, there has been a resurgence of interest in selection research. Major organisational psychology journals, such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and the Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, regularly publish research on personnel selection methods, and even journals with broader scopes than organisational psychology (e.g., Psychological Bulletin, Human Performance, Journal of Organizational Behavior) have recently included articles reporting selection research.

Much of the recent staff selection research is applicable to recruitment practice. For example, personality research has recently focused on particular, job-relevant personality traits, primarily the Five-Factor model, though also other job-oriented traits, such as integrity, proactivity and customer service orientation. Large scale meta-analyses of the validity of personality tests in occupational settings (e.g., Barrick & Mount, 1991; Tett, Jackson & Rothstein, 1991) have now demonstrated that measures of particular job-related personality constructs are able to predict important aspects of job performance, and in the case of conscientiousness and integrity, personality can make incremental contributions to validity beyond cognitive ability test scores (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). …