Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Perceived Fairness of a Background Information Form and a Job Knowledge Test

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Perceived Fairness of a Background Information Form and a Job Knowledge Test

Article excerpt

A wealth of empirical literature provides compelling support for collecting background information from candidates when making personnel selection decisions. For example, many studies indicate that biodata can be used to predict successful job performance, turnover, and success in completing training with criterion validity coefficients ranging between .20 and .60. (1) However, many researchers have also found that a selection tool should have positive qualities beyond test reliability and validity and that applicants' reactions may be equally important to consider when developing and evaluating a selection device. (2) For example, Smither and his colleagues (3) explained that applicants' negative reactions to a selection tool might damage the reputation of an organization, which may lead potential employees to search for jobs elsewhere. Furthermore, a selection tool that applicants perceive negatively is likely to give rise to complaints and possibly costly and time consuming appeals of personnel decisions. Last, unsatisfied candidates may intentionally perform below their ability during the assessment exercise when they are required to use a selection tool they view negatively, and this can diminish the validity and utility of the tool.

Gilliland (4) has presented such arguments against using standard HR selection tools. He has also highlighted the need to consider the ethical implications of the practice. He wrote that rejected candidates may experience problems with efficacy, esteem, and overall psychological well being as a result of taking a test that that they perceive negatively. He presented nine distributive and procedural attributes of an HR selection tool that should be considered (see Table 1). He clustered those rules into three categories--formal characteristics of the selection tool, explanation of process/tool, and interpersonal treatment--that characterize the components of candidates' judgment of the fairness of a given selection tool.

Perhaps the most important attribute of an HR selection tool is perceived job-relatedness. Gilliland cited several independent studies that indicated that perceptions of overall fairness were more positive when a selection tool was perceived to be job related. The cited studies also indicated that concrete items were perceived as being more job related than were abstract items. Thus, how job candidates perceive and react to a selection tool should not be underestimated when an organization creates and evaluates any selection instrument.

Although basing personnel selection decisions on candidates' background information has been found to be effective, there is unfortunately little information about how collecting such information is perceived by job candidates. (5) To complicate the picture further, existing research has produced inconclusive results. Kluger and Rothstein (6) concluded that collecting biodata outperformed general mental ability (GMA) assessments in being perceived as fair by job applicants. Biodata was seen as more fair than GMA because it incorporated job-relevant characteristics other than intellectual ability and, thus, provided a more holistic candidate profile. Kluger and Rothstein also reported a significant correlation between perceived job-relatedness and perception of fairness.

In contrast, Smither and colleagues (7) found that entry level managers perceived collecting biodata and other methods involving abstract items (e.g., personality measures) as having lower predictive validity than did methods that employed concrete measures (e.g., math problems, structured interviews, in basket activities). In fact, biodata was perceived as having the lowest predictive validity out of the 14 measures, with less than 45% of the entry-level managers in the Smither et al. survey indicating that collecting biodata would be a valid, job related method for selecting job candidates. Thus, to enhance candidates' perceptions of the usefulness of collecting background information, it appears that employers would do well to acknowledge the importance of how applicant perceive the procedural and distributive attributes of HR selection tools and apply recommendations from the justice literature (8) to their personnel selection process and ensure that the tools they use have the attributes identified by Gilliland. …

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