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The letter of recommendation: Specificity and favorability of information

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Abstract

Ninety-eight personnel directors each read one variation of a letter of recommendation contained in a 2 (specific examples versus no examples) X 2 (numerical data versus nonspecific adjective modifiers) X 2 (favorable letter versus one unfavorable statement) factorial design. A survey of their perceptions revealed that the example specificity and favorability main effects increased several positive perceptions of the recommendee. Example specificity also enhanced the perceived credibility of the letter writer. The letter variations containing specific examples with either no numbers or one unfavorable statement produced the most positive perceptions of the recommendee. One implication of these findings is that writers of letters of recommendation should emphasize specific performance examples. Whether citing numerical data or negative information is effective requires further study.

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... Furthermore, organizational scholars argued that letters of recommendation should describe job candidates' traits and their work performance in detail because such information can reduce readers' uncertainty and demonstrate great value (French, 1982;Peters & Garcia, 1962;Range et al., 1991). Specifically, Knouse (1982Knouse ( , 1983) manipulated the level of specificity of examples used in letters of recommendation and replicated his study in two different groups of letter readers-college students and personnel specialists. He found that specific examples increased the perceived credibility of those recommendations and improved overall impressions of candidates (Knouse, 1982(Knouse, , 1983. ...
... Specifically, Knouse (1982Knouse ( , 1983) manipulated the level of specificity of examples used in letters of recommendation and replicated his study in two different groups of letter readers-college students and personnel specialists. He found that specific examples increased the perceived credibility of those recommendations and improved overall impressions of candidates (Knouse, 1982(Knouse, , 1983. Thus, Hypothesis 2: Specific recommendations are (a) perceived as more credible and (b) lead to more positive impressions of the target, opposed to nonspecific recommendations. ...
... Further, Knouse (1982Knouse ( , 1983) also found that recommendations containing specific examples demonstrate that writers were more familiar with the candidate. This suggests an additional reason for the positive relationship between specificity of information and its perceived credibility. ...
Article
Other-generated information about specific targets available online reduces third parties’ uncertainty of strangers. Yet only information perceived as credible can shapes our their impressions. This study examines how impressions form after exposure to online recommendations, a type of other-generated information via LinkedIn, through credibility assessment of these recommendations. The source-target relationship and recommendation specificity were manipulated in a 2 X 2 between-groups subjects experiment (N = 213). Main effects for both independent variables were found. Perceived manipulation likelihood and perceived credibility of recommendation mediated the impact of the source-target relationship on impressions. Additionally, perceived familiarity with the target and perceived credibility of recommendation mediated the impact of recommendation specificity on impressions. This study extends warranting theory and highlights the impact of new communication technology on credibility assessment of online information and impression formation.
... They are widely used and have a significant impact on hiring decisions (Bureau of National Affairs, 1988; Friedman & Williams, 1982; Levy-Leboyer, 1994), yet traditional letters of recommendation are unreliable, poor predictors of job performance, and biased (Aamodt, Bryan, & Whitcomb, 1993; Muchinsky, 1979). In addition, the theoretical bases of research on letters of recommendation are divergent—including behavioral consistency, impression management, person perception, and person-job fit (Aamodt, et al., 1993; Baxter, Brock, Hill & Rozelle, 1981; Ceci & Peters, 1984; Knouse, 1983 Knouse, , 1987 Kryger & Shikiar, 1978). Nevertheless, three themes have remained constant over the years in letter of recommendation research: improving recommenders' accuracy in describing applicants, pointing out how improved letters benefit organizations, and questioning why letters are so widely used. ...
... about applicants to decision-makers. As a result, much of the research has involved identifying sources of inaccuracy in letters of recommendation and suggesting structural or training interventions to improve accuracy. Ceci and Peters (1984) suggest that organizations give recommenders the option of confidentiality because it increases candidness. Knouse (1983) suggests that organizations ask recommenders to focus on specific attributes of applicants because this increases letters' validity. Still, after numerous suggestions for improvement, letters of recommendation continue to reflect more about the idiosyncrasies of the recommender than the characteristics of the applicant (Aamodt, Nagy & T ...
... A primary purpose of research on letters of recommendation has been to organizations' needs for useful information about job applicants. Yet there is little reason to believe that recommenders are motivated to provide accurate information to organizations (Knouse, 1983Knouse, , 1987 Miller & Van Rybroek, 1988). When little or no basis of exchange exists between a recommender and an organization, a recommender is unlikely to be concerned about or even aware of the organization's goals. ...
... In Example 5 above, the writer has known the candidate as a former student, and, in Example 6, the candidate was the writer's colleague. Example (Knouse, 1983). ...
... Step 3.3 Classroom performance The third step in this move was "Classroom performance". This step mentions the candidate's score, overall classroom behaviour, learning In the examples above (13)(14)(15), the authors have evaluated what they observed about the candidates with regard to their (the candidates') classroom behaviours. In Example 13 above, the recommender mentions the candidate's excellent classroom behaviours, to suggest his readiness to successfully undertake the proposed programme of study. ...
Article
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The scholarship on the rhetoric of letters of recommendation (LRs) has tended to cover those from the Anglo-American and European context. The present study aimed to investigate the structural organization of the LRs through an examination of the moves. The data consisted of purposively sampled 24 LRs written for candidates seeking admission into postgraduate programmes. The quality content analysis of the data complemented by some descriptive statistics showed that the LRs were characterized by a five-move structure: purpose of writing (move 1), context of knowing the candidate (Move 2), candidate's credentials (Move 3), candidate's personal values (Move 4), and closure (Move 5). In addition, with regard to the sequence of moves, the study found: (1) that the 5-move sequence was the most frequently used; (2) that the LRs mostly began with Move 1; (3) that the 1-›3-›3 sequence occurred most frequently; and (4) that Move 5 always occurred at the end of the UEW LRs. As regards the textual space of moves, it was found that Move 3, Candidate's credentials, occupied the greatest space (i.e. 53.01%) in the LRs. Finally, the study implies that, while critical individual preferences exist in style, conventions of writing LRs are typically embedded in epistemological structures that are unique to the discipline. The present study has implications for the existing scholarship on LRs, EAP pedagogy and further research. KEYWORDS Genre, letters of recommendation, move structure, communication purpose(s), occluded 1. Introduction 1 Over the last three decades, genre studies have received great attention in several fields such as Applied Linguistics, Discourse Analysis, and Communication Studies. This growing interest in genre studies can be appreciated, given that genres present unique understanding into the nature of writing in both academic and other professional contexts. Afful (2005), for instance, contends that the genre-based approach to writing aids writers and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) practitioners, and effectively ushers them (writers and practitioners) into the academic community. Afful's view suggests that the use of the genre-based approach in text analysis can be a suitable resource in the design of ESP materials in general and EAP in particular.
... Weuster und Scheer (2015, S. 48) sprechen hier von der Globalformulierungstechnik. Im Gegensatz dazu werden individuelle Beispiele als besondere Auszeichnung verstanden, wenngleich es nur zwei Studien mit Empfehlungsschreiben gibt, die eine positive (Knouse, 1983) bzw. keine Wirkung (Loher et al., 1997) verhaltensbezogener Beispiele auf den Leser zeigen. ...
... B. mit Beispielen zum Fachwissen oder Sozialverhalten, wären daher sinnvoll. Auch die Wirkung der Beispiele auf den Leser ist noch nicht geklärt, da die bisherige Befundlage (Knouse, 1983;Loher et al., 1997) widersprüchlich ist. Für die letzte untersuchte Zeugnistechnik, die Reihenfolgetechnik, sind die Ergebnisse gemischt. ...
Article
Zusammenfassung. Die Analyse von Arbeitszeugnissen ist eine in der Forschung bisher vernachlässigte Personalauswahlmethode. Die vorliegende Studie untersucht die aktuelle Praxis der Zeugniserstellung in Deutschland. Im Fokus stehen zwei häufig von Personalern geäußerte Kritikpunkte: (1) die inflationäre Vergabe sehr positiver Beurteilungen und (2) der Einsatz so genannter „Zeugnistechniken“ zur Urteilskommunikation. Die Analyse von 800 Zeugnissen ergibt, dass Arbeitszeugnisse trotz des über die letzten Jahre zu beobachtenden Trends hin zu positiveren Beurteilungen nicht unterschiedslos positiv ausfallen. Zudem zeigt sich, dass die meisten der in der Ratgeberliteratur diskutierten Zeugnistechniken tatsächlich in einem nennenswerten Umfang und zielorientiert eingesetzt werden. Beispielsweise fallen im Sinne der so genannten „Knappheitstechnik“ die Beurteilungen in kürzeren Zeugnissen negativer aus. Die Nennung von individuellen Erfolgsbeispielen geht dagegen mit positiveren Zeugnisnoten einher. Des Weiteren gibt es Hinweise, dass die Änderung der Reihenfolge der Nennung von Vorgesetzten und Kollegen sowie das Auslassen bestimmter Komponenten bewusst zur Kommunikation eines negativen Urteils eingesetzt werden.
... The effect of the message's content on reader reactions was also investigated in this study. For the most direct measures of reference letter content, we used the presence or absence of specific behavioral examples (e.g., Knouse, 1983) and the inclusion of negative information about the candidate. ...
... First, the coders determined whether a reference statement contained any behavioral examples (1 = none; 2 = some). Knouse (1983) reported that references containing specific examples of behavior received higher reader evaluations than did statements without examples. Next, the coders evaluated whether any negative information was included in the reference statement (1 = some negative; 2 = all positive). ...
Article
References continue to be a required part of selection systems in employment settings and higher education. Previous research on references has often involved atheoretical validation studies. We propose that the reference message itself is but one step in a communication process and that letter tone, content, and structure can be analyzed to determine their contribution to process outcomes. A sample of 85 reference statements was used to demonstrate potential antecedents, measures, and outcomes suggested by this conceptualization. Antecedents including letter characteristics were significantly related to readers' evaluations and accept or reject recommendations. Results from regression analyses indicated initial support for measures of letter tone, content, and structure in predicting readers' evaluations. A communication-based framework is presented and implications for research and practice are discussed.
... 660); currently, the mention of a negative attribute is often the death knell for an applicant's candidacy. Also, Knouse (1983) posited that organizations, in requesting a TLOR, should encourage writers to focus on key applicant attributes. Specifically, scholars have suggested that letter writers can enhance credibility by providing detailed examples of candidates' performance (Cutler & Haggerty, 1991;Knouse, 1983). ...
... Also, Knouse (1983) posited that organizations, in requesting a TLOR, should encourage writers to focus on key applicant attributes. Specifically, scholars have suggested that letter writers can enhance credibility by providing detailed examples of candidates' performance (Cutler & Haggerty, 1991;Knouse, 1983). Others have suggested that TLOR writers should carefully attend to their composing processes (Vidali, 2009) or emphasized the importance of confidentiality in the LOR process (e.g., Ceci & Peters, 1984). ...
Article
Letters of recommendation (LOR) constitute a significant part of the application process for many professional positions, offering descriptive rather than quantitative information from a third party about an individual’s potential fit within the hiring organization. LOR, however, are appearing increasingly online, emphasizing existing problems within the genre and creating others involving trust, reliability, and confidentiality. Typically, the response has been to minimize the significance of LOR or standardize them. This paper analyzes the digital LOR genre as an exemplar of epideictic rhetoric situated within a Perelmanian framework. The study demonstrates how digital LOR operate rhetorically, enhancing the adherence between candidate, writer, audience, and institutional values and providing a means of evaluating candidate fit. To actualize that epideictic perspective, the paper also offers a rhetorical heuristic which captures how audiences can more fruitfully read epideictic, digital LOR. Thus, the paper demonstrates how to optimize the digital platform’s benefits while using LOR to their best rhetorical advantage.
... We examine how this bias manifests across a number of valued outcomes that can determine whether or not the employee is successful in the future, including performance evaluations (Arvey & Murphy, 1998; Greenberg, 1986; Lambert, 2003; Womboh, 1996), assessments of leadership capability (Lord, Foti, & de Vader, 1984), and the tone of a written recommendations on behalf of the employee by the supervisor. A letter of recommendation represents a type of performance evaluation in which the writer documents the employee's past behavior, reports positive and negative attributes, and assesses the probability of future success (Judge & Higgins, 1998; Knouse, 1983; Shea, O'Grady, Morrison, Wagner, & Morris, 2008). We propose that the interactive effects of crying and gender on all three outcomes will be mediated by perceived typicality, leading to the following hypothesis: ...
... We examine how this bias manifests across a number of valued outcomes that can determine whether or not the employee is successful in the future, including performance evaluations (Arvey & Murphy, 1998;Greenberg, 1986;Lambert, 2003;Womboh, 1996), assessments of leadership capability (Lord, Foti, & de Vader, 1984), and the tone of a written recommendations on behalf of the employee by the supervisor. A letter of recommendation represents a type of performance evaluation in which the writer documents the employee's past behavior, reports positive and negative attributes, and assesses the probability of future success (Judge & Higgins, 1998;Knouse, 1983;Shea, O'Grady, Morrison, Wagner, & Morris, 2008). We propose that the interactive effects of crying and gender on all three outcomes will be mediated by perceived typicality, leading to the following hypothesis: ...
Article
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Our experiment is aimed at understanding how employee reactions to negative feedback are received by the feedback provider and how employee gender may play a role in the process. We focus specifically on the act of crying and, based on role congruity theory, argue that a male employee crying in response to negative performance feedback will be seen as atypical behavior by the feedback provider, which will bias evaluations of the employee on a number of different outcome variables, including performance evaluations, assessments of leadership capability, and written recommendations. That is, we expect an interactive effect between gender and crying on our outcomes, an effect that will be mediated by perceived typicality. We find support for our moderated mediation model in a sample of 169 adults, indicating that men who cry in response to negative performance feedback will experience biased evaluations from the feedback provider. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record
... organizations' needs for useful information about job applicants. Yet there is little reason to believe that recommenders are motivated to provide accurate information to organizations (Knouse, 1983(Knouse, , 1987Miller & Van Rybroek, 1988). When little or no basis of exchange exists between a recommender and an organization, a recommender is unlikely to be concerned about or even aware of the organization's goals. ...
... It is likely that people use letters of recommendation, probably unconsciously, to evaluate the risk of harm and to reject applicants deemed likely to cause harm. 5 Indeed, most employers take letters of recommendation seriously, and negative comments in recommendations are typically viewed as grounds for rejecting an applicant (Knouse, 1983;Muchinsky, 1979;Sheehan, McDevitt, & Ross, 1998). ...
Article
Full-text available
This article develops a theoretical framework for understanding the appeal and tone of letters of recommendation using an evolutionary psychological perspective. Several hypotheses derived from this framework are developed and tested. The authors’ theoretical argument makes two major points. First, over the course of human evolution, people developed a preference for narrative information about people, and the format of letters of recommendation is compatible with that preference. Second, because recommenders are acquaintances of applicants, the tone of letters should reflect the degree to which the relationship with the applicant favors the recommender’s interests. We hypothesized that, over and above an applicant’s objective qualifications, letters of recommendation will reflect cooperative, status and mating interests of recommenders. We used 532 letters of recommendation written for 169 applicants for faculty positions to test our hypotheses. The results indicated that the strength of the cooperative relationship between recommenders and applicants influenced the favorability and length of letters. In addition, male recommenders wrote more favorable letters for female than male applicants, suggesting that male mating interests may influence letter favorability. We conclude with implications for practice and future research.
... Our present study of gender and letters of reference in education focuses on the presence of statements which are potentially damaging to a candidate's chances of being employed in a teaching position. A substantial number of studies have focused on the favorable/unfavorable, or positive/negative/neutral tone of reference letters, (e.g., Bredeson, 1982;Knouse, 1983;Kryger & Shikiar, 1978;Rim, 1976), but these researchers have generally chosen to discuss overall content rather than specific statements in the letters. ...
... Evaluations of specific content of letters of reference were relatively few. Knouse (1983) assessed the importance of the informational content and showed that specific, favorable information increased the positive perception of the recommendee. La Croix's (1989) study examined gender-related language in letters of recommendation, and Guillemin (1979) used content analysis to investigate the differences in letters written about men and women. ...
Article
In the field of education, the reference letter has been—and continues to be— a valued resource in the teacher recruitment process. Often given more importance and attention than other information in the professional file (Mortalini, 1974), a candidate’s letters of reference are considered by many school district recruiters to
... Moreover, it allows raters to evaluate applicants on specific behaviors or traits such as whether the applicant speaks clearly and in an organized manner and whether they write with precision and style; making up a larger noncognitive dimension, i.e., communication skills. Previous research conducted by Knouse (1983, 339-340) indicates that the use of more specific statements about candidates' particular traits also can be be helpful when rating candidates as compared to the use of less focused statements such as " Communicates well. " By focusing on criteria-related aspects of candidates, admissions departments can use this information to differentiate across candidates who will have a higher likelihood of being successful in a university program. ...
Article
Abstract: In this paper, we discuss the importance of including noncognitive measures in admission practices at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The use of these measures can be helpful in reducing the achievement gap that is: a) consistently documented in the literature and b) strongly associated with admissions of ethnic minorities in higher education. Reliance solely on cognitive measures has been shown to negatively impact the number of students from various ethnic groups who are admitted into colleges and universities. The inclusion of noncognitive measures may provide a more comprehensive story regarding an applicant and may be helpful in differentiating across international students who have diverse backgrounds and academic profiles. Despite these advantages, there are drawbacks such as rater bias and inflation of ratings confounding the use of noncognitive measures. In addition to discussing the benefits of using noncognitive measures in higher education admissions, we will also discuss the challenges while providing suggestions to address them. Keywords: Noncognitive Skills, Higher Education Admissions, Letters of Recommendation, Fairness, Validity
... Dipboye et al., 1984) and letters of recommendation (e.g. Knouse, 1983). Similarly, we suggest that recruiters use résumé information to form causal judgments regarding whether or not applicants possess certain work-related skills and abilities. ...
Article
Despite résumés being evaluated as an initial step in most employment decisions for professional-level job openings, researchers have not adequately examined the influence that applicants' résumé qualifications may have on recruiters' initial impressions of applicants' employability. Based on prior research, we hypothesised that recruiters' perceptions of job applicant employability will be associated with varying levels of job applicants' academic qualifications, work experience, and extracurricular activities as reported on applicants' résumés. Experienced recruiters (N = 244) evaluated 122 actual applicant résumés of recent or soon-to-be college graduates. Results supported our hypotheses, indicating that recruiters' perceptions of applicants' academic qualifications, work experience, and extracurricular activities interacted to predict recruiters' perceptions of applicants' employability.
... Paradoxically, there is a possibility that because of the lack of variation in letters of recommendation (Muchinsky, 1979) a small amount of criticism may actually help. Knouse (1983) found that a small amount of negative information in a letter may improve the candidate's chances because the writer is viewed as being more honest in his or her evaluation. ...
Chapter
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Organizations have no life apart from people and process. It is human decision-making that is centralized or decentralized, not some inanimate organizational structure. It is people who are departmentalized, not buildings, plants, and divisions. It is the work that people accomplish that must be integrated, not merely systems and functions. This chapter begins with the observation that people are generally disinclined to admit the influence of affect in the dollars-and-cents world of business while quite willing to acknowledge its influence in other domains. The chapter accomplishes two objectives: (1) demonstration of evolution of the romantic relationships parallels to the organizational relationships, and (2) considerable amount of empirical evidence that supports the contention, which plays an important role in both business and pleasure.
... Research suggests that greater specificity results in less vague and lofty rhetoric. 73 Specificity also adds to the perceived credi-bility of a recommendation in the minds of employers, 74 and no doubt fellowship committees as well. • Discuss what you will and will not write with the candidate: ...
... Letters with a strong focus, clear style, and great specificity are likely to benefit applicants more than letters poorly written. Indeed, research has indicated that letters containing specific examples of applicants' qualities are rated more highly than those that contain only generalizations (Knouse, 1983). In this sense, the selection decision is not solely determined by an applicant's competence, but also by how well a recommendation letter presents the candidate. ...
Article
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In an effort to standardize academic application procedures, the authors developed the Standardized Letters of Recommendation (SLR) to capture important cognitive and noncognitive qualities of graduate school candidates. The SLR, which consists of seven scales, is applied to an intern-selection scenario. Both professor ratings (n = 414) during the application process and mentor ratings of the selected students (n = 51) are collected using the SLR. A multidimensional Rasch investigation suggests that the SLR displays satisfactory internal consistency, model fit, and item fit. The two cognitive scales, knowledge and analytical skills, are found to be the best predictors for intern selection. The professor ratings are systematically higher than the mentor ratings. Possible reasons for the rating discrepancies are discussed. Also, implications for how the SLR can be used and improved in other selection situations are suggested.
... Las cartas de recomendación son documentos en los que un supervisor anterior (por ejemplo, el responsable del equipo de trabajo o del departamento en el que ha trabajado el candidato) expone una valoración de las características laborales de un empleado con el fin de facilitarle la incorporación a una nueva organización. El uso de Cartas de Recomendación plantea problemas como los siguientes (Ceci y Peters, 1984;Knouse, 1983;Loher et al., 1997;Mehrabian, 1965;Peres y Garcia, 1962;Heneman y Heneman, 1994;Wiens, Jackson, Manaugh y Matarazzo, 1969): (a) una elevada restricción del rango de sus puntuaciones como predictor, (b) la ausencia de una estructura-modelo o patrón estándar y (c) la presencia de sesgos (p. ej., el efecto de los estereotipos ocupacionales) tanto en los escritores como en los lectores de las cartas. ...
Article
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Reference check is a term that reports information about personal characteristics related to job performance of one person and that another person (usually a supervisor) provide about the first. References are based on the assumption that "the best way to find out about someone is to ask someone who knows" and they are widely used and potentially effective for personnel selection. The main objective of this paper is to answer the following question: what do the references actually measure? There have been collected the primary studies in the literature on this subject and two meta-analyses were conducted. The results indicate that reference check measure General Mental Ability and Experience. Suggestions for research to find other constructs that could be integrated in the references are provided.
... First, letters often contain overly general and vague language, and admission committees report having to "read between the lines" to determine the letter writer's true intentions (Walpole et al., 2001). Not surprisingly, letters with specific examples of applicants' qualities stand out and are considered more powerful (Knouse, 1983). Therefore, the information contained in letters is often left to the subjective interpretation of the reader, leading to misinterpretations or mistakes. ...
Article
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a web-based system designed to replace traditional, narrative letters of recommendation. The SLR includes a 7-quality, 28-item rating scale comprised of qualities identified by faculty in previous research as important to graduate school success, including knowledge and skills, creativity, communication skills, motivation, self-organization, professionalism and maturity, and teamwork. Admissions committees, in turn, receive an interactive report of the applicant information. We surveyed 421 graduate faculty and administrator respondents to ascertain interest in and preferences for the form, content, and function of the SLR. We instructed respondents to complete the SLR for an actual student (the one for whom they most recently were asked to write a letter of recommendation), and then respond to a 20-30 minute comprehensive telephone survey. Overall, a majority of faculty and administrators preferred the SLR to the system currently being used at their institutions. We list several practical implications that adopting institutions may wish to consider, and provide recommendations for subsequent activities to develop the project. Admissions committees currently rely on letters of recommendation as important sources
... Generally speaking, references show a leniency bias that makes them less useful than other available predictors (Hunter & Hunter, 1984;Muchinsky, 1979;Reilly & Chao, 1982;Schmitt et al., 1984). Still, with some refinements or when used for only certain types of information, letters of recommendation may be reasonably useful (Knouse, 1983(Knouse, , 1987(Knouse, , 1989. ...
Article
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This paper proposes that greater attention to procedural fairness can enhance the overall effectiveness of human resource assessment practices. Recent work on the attributes of fair assessment tests is examined. Following this review, we discuss test-taker reactions to a variety of widely used instruments and procedures. Some selection techniques that show acceptable levels of statistical validity are often seen as violating norms of social justice. To alleviate this problem, suggestions for increasing justice are offered. These include (a) substituting a test that is perceived to be unfair with one that is viewed as fair, (b) modifying an existing test to improve fairness perceptions, (c) explaining to or educating the public as to the validity of existing selection devices, and (d) developing composite assessment technologies through various combination strategies.
... Letters with a strong focus, clear style, and great specificity are likely to benefit applicants more than letters poorly written. Indeed, research has indicated that letters containing specific examples of applicants' qualities are rated more highly than those that contain only generalizations (Knouse, 1983). In this sense, the selection decision is not solely determined by an applicant's competence, but also by how well a recommendation letter presents the candidate. ...
Article
In an effort to standardize academic application procedures, the Standardized Letter of Recommendation (SLR) was developed to capture important cognitive and noncognitive qualities of graduate school candidates. The SLR consists of seven scales (knowledge, analytical skills, communication skills, motivation, self- organization, professionalism and maturity, and teamwork) and was applied to an intern-selection scenario. Both professor ratings (N = 414) during the application process and mentor ratings of the selected students (N = 51) after the internship was completed were collected using the SLR. A multidimensional Rasch investigation suggests that the seven scales of the SLR displayed satisfactory psychometric properties in terms of reliability, model fit, item fit statistics, and discrimination. The two cognitive scales, knowledge and analytical skills, were found to be the best predictors for intern selection. The professor ratings and mentor ratings had moderate to high correlations, with the professor ratings being systematically higher than the mentor ratings. Possible reasons for the rating discrepancies are discussed. Also, implications for how the SLR can be used and improved in other selection situations are suggested.
... To test that possibility, using a sample of university professors, study 2 examines the influence of doubt raisers on evaluations. One reason to think that doubt raisers will have an effect is that in the sea of positive comments that make up most letters of recommendation (Knouse, 1983;Ralston & Thameling, 1988), even small numbers of doubt raisers may stand out and be disadvantageous to applicants. Although doubt raisers are not necessarily directly or overtly negative, they question an applicant's aptness for a job, suggesting that the applicant may not be the strongest candidate (Trix & Psenka, 2003). ...
Article
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The extent of gender bias in academia continues to be an object of inquiry, and recent research has begun to examine the particular gender biases emblematic in letters of recommendations. This current two-part study examines differences in the number of doubt raisers that are written in 624 authentic letters of recommendations for 174 men and women applying for eight assistant professor positions (study 1) and the impact of these doubt raisers on 305 university professors who provided evaluations of recommendation letters (study 2). The results show that both male and female recommenders use more doubt raisers in letters of recommendations for women compared to men and that the presence of certain types of doubt raisers in letters of recommendations results in negative outcomes for both genders. Since doubt raisers are more frequent in letters for women than men, women are at a disadvantage relative to men in their applications for academic positions. We discuss the implications and need for additional future research and practice that (1) raises awareness that letter writers are gatekeepers who can improve or hinder women’s progress and (2) develops methods to eliminate the skewed use of doubt raisers.
... Kuncel et al. (2014) suggested letters are often superficially positive in tone, making it more difficult to make distinctions among candidates. Perhaps letters that are effusive in praise-especially when they do not contain specific examples to back up their claim-might actually work against a student (Knouse, 1983). A second possible explanation is the nature of the applicant pool. ...
Article
School counselors write letters of recommendation for students pursuing postsecondary education and help teachers and staff prepare for this task. Although letters of recommendation may impact admission and scholarship opportunities, research about equity and bias in letters is minimal as compared to standardized tests, teacher expectations, and grading practices. In this study, researchers analyzed letters of recommendation for evidence of gender and racial bias. Results demonstrate small but significant differences by gender and race in the average length of letters as well as the types of language used to describe students. This article discusses implications for school counselors.
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This “judgmental policy capturing” study investigated how the new Graduate Record Examinations (GRE®) Writing Assessment might influence graduate admissions decisions. Of interest was the likely impact of GRE Writing Assessment scores on graduate admissions decisions, as well as the probable effects of sending actual examinee essays to graduate institutions along with test scores and whether the presence of construct-irrelevant flaws in these essays might negatively influence admissions decisions. To answer these questions, 23 graduate faculty — who represent nine graduate psychology and 14 graduate history departments and who have at least some experience with the admissions process —reviewed simulated admissions folders and made admissions decisions for a set of fictitious applicants. The study examined the relationship between these admissions decisions and a number of variables, including GRE Writing Assessment scores, the availability of examinee essays in admissions folders, GRE General Test scores, undergraduate grades, and the quality of the applicant's recommendation and personal statement. The study results suggest that GRE writing scores will probably have some impact on graduate admission decisions, but that overall, the availability of examinee essays will have substantially less, if any, influence. The study did not detect any significant tendency for graduate faculty to attend unduly to extraneous flaws in examinees' essays. A substantial majority of the participants felt that receiving applicants' GRE essays would either probably or definitely be useful.
Article
This experimental study investigates the effects of gender of the evaluator, gender of the applicant, and gender of the reference source at the screening stage of the selection process. Specifically, male and female principals were asked to evaluate resumes and reference letters of hypothetical male and female applicants for the focal position of assistant principal. In the context of selection of an assistant principal, the authors hypothesized that male principals would prefer male applicants and female principals would prefer female applicants. This hypothesis was based on the sex similarity-attraction paradigm. The sex similarity-attraction paradigm suggests that same-sex applicants will be regarded as more similar than opposite-sex applicants (Gallois, Callan & Palmer, 1992) and that applicants who are perceived as similar will be evaluated favorably (Cardy & Dobbins, 1986). Finally, although the authors anticipated that sex similarity-attraction would support an interaction effect between gender of applicant and gender of rater, as strengthened by gender of the reference letter source, the findings did not support this interaction. In fact, the main effect for gender of applicant indicates that hypothetical female administrator candidates are evaluated significantly higher than hypothetical male administrator candidates. This is contrary to about half of past selection research that suggested female applicants are given lower evaluations than male applicants. Thus, these results may be an indication that the evaluations of female applicants for administrative positions are improving to the extent that female applicants were more likely to be offered employment interviews than male applicants.
Chapter
General ConcernsConfidentialityLiability and Legal IssuesInformation to Request from StudentsSuggestions for Writing the Letter of RecommendationOther Considerations
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When evaluating an applicant online, individuals are often concurrently exposed to a diverse cross-section of self- and other-generated information with varying relevance to the candidate’s actual job skills. Moreover, these various data may not always be internally consistent. Utilizing profiles on the microtask site Fiverr, a fully-crossed 2 × 2 × 2 experiment (N= 92) tested main and interaction effects of exposure positively- and negatively-valenced (1) self-generated task-relevant, (2) self-generated task-irrlevant photographic, and (3) other-generated task-relevant information, all within the same stimulus. Contrast analyses results support significant interactions among cues on perceptions of an applicants’ employability and person-job fit. The significant two- and three-way interactions are discussed with respect to warranting theory and the halo effect, and practical implications for applicants and employers are presented.
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This article discusses several stylistic and legal problems with the letter of recommendation. It is proposed that writers improve the letter of recommendation by using specific examples of performance, a focus on the work situation, a job anecdote file, and a description of the job being sought.
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Investigated the effect of the status of a referent on how job applicants are rated. 300 personnel directors randomly selected from the 1987 Who's Who in the American Sociey for Personnel Administration directory were asked to rank 3 fictitious characters, each of whom had favorable letters written by high-staus, low-status, or unknown referents. Findings show that having a recommendation letter from a high-status referent resulted in a more favorable evaluation than did having a letter of reference from low-status or unknown status referent. Contrary to E. P. Bettinghaus and M. J. Cody's (1987) suggestion, however, it appears that the credibility of unknown status and low-status referents is similar in the context of personnel selection. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Recommendation letters are ubiquitous, but have problems of nonexistent guidelines and standards, redundancy, and inflation. A review of 150 letters revealed they typically state the writer's association with the applicant; the applicant's skills and ethics, supervision behavior, interpersonal skills, and worthy accomplishments; and closing positive remarks. Ethical issues in letters are often vague. Applicants should provide associations with the writer, target sites/individuals, vita or transcript, and memory cues, and should ask if the recommendation will be strong. Writers should refuse to write or warn applicants of poor or neutral letters, and give specific examples. A drastic suggestion is a moratorium on letters, which would have drawbacks. Applicants can be educated about letters and taught to discuss their strengths and weaknesses beforehand; guidelines for letters can also be established. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Examines the advantages and disadvantages of both the open and the confidential letter of recommendation and offers suggestions as to what kind of information should be included in such letters. (JC)
Article
A survey was done with 72 corporations to find out the value of professor's reference letters. The null hypothesis was corporations value reference letters from Computer Information Systems (CIS) professors, Business professors, and Humanities & Arts professors equally. Job skills (CIS) and people skills (Humanities & Arts) were considered equally important. Results from a Friedman Test reject the null hypothesis. A Sign Test on multiple comparisons indicated that employers valued professors' reference letters in the following order: CIS, Business, then Humanities & Arts. Future research needs to be done to see if employers value CIS reference letters stressing people skills greater then letters stressing job skills and knowledge.
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Integrity in writing letters of recommendation is important to academic research because it is an influential criterion used pervasively in peer review. While research in the integrity of recommendation letters has concentrated on contents of the letter, bias and reliability, few have questioned the process of letter writing. Here, I argue that letter writing should be a joint opportunity between mentor/supervisor/advisor and trainee. It results in more compelling letters, may prevent errors and the use of biased language, and serves as an excellent mentoring opportunity promoting self-reflection.
Article
Attribution theory has been proposed as a means of understanding reader perceptions of the letter of recommendation. To test the hypothesis that familiarity may moderate the attributional framework of the letter, 97 managers read letter variations arrayed in a 4 (3 months, 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years familiarity) × 2 (dispositional or situational attribution framework) factorial design. Results showed that the situational framework was more effective for shorter periods of familiarity, while the dispositional framework was more effective for longer familiarity. In addition, readers perceived long familiarity (10 years) to be detrimental. Implications for writing letters of recommendation were discussed.
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Although letters of recommendation or some form of reference checking are used by over 80% of organizations in the United States (Muchinsky, 1979), research investigating the validity of such techniques has not yielded promising results. In a study of references used in industry, Mosel and Goheen (1959) found that the validity of references was only .13. These results were supported by Browning (1968) who found the validity of references also to be .14 in predicting teaching success. Research has identified several potential reasons for this low validity. As with the employment interview, factors other than the relevant content of the letters are used to form impressions of the applicant. For example, Cowan and Kasen (1984) found that letters referring to applicants by their first name were perceived as being more positive than letters referring to applicants by a title such as, "Mr. Jones" and Knouse (1983) found that letters of recommendation containing specific examples were evaluated more positively than letters without examples. In an attempt to focus the attention of letter readers on the important content of the letter, Peres and Garcia (1962) developed a technique in which the traits contained in a letter of recommendation are highlighted and placed into one of five categories which were developed based on a content analysis of 625 letters of recommendation written for engineering applicants. These five categories and representative traits for each category are: Mental Agility: Adaptable, analytical, bright, intelligent, logical, resourceful Cooperation-Consideration: Altruistic, congenial, friendly, helpful, sincere Dependability-Reliability: Alert, critical, dependable, methodical, prompt Urbanity: Assured, chatty, cultured, forward, gregarious, sociable, talkative Vigor: Active, eager, energetic, enthusiastic, independent, industrious Unfortunately, Peres and Garcia (1962) did not attempt to validate this technique. Thus, it is the purpose of this study to investigate the reliability and validity of the technique using two separate samples.
Although a significant body of work has amassed that explores the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of employee turnover in organizations, little is known about how employees go about quitting once they have made the decision to leave. That is, after the decision to voluntarily quit their job is made, employees must then navigate through the process of planning for their exit, announcing their resignation, and potentially working at their company for weeks after their plans to resign have been made public. Our lack of understanding of the resignation process is important as how employees quit their jobs has the potential to impact the performance and turnover intentions of other organizational members, as well as to harm or benefit the reputation of the organization, overall. Moreover, voluntary turnover is likely to increase in the coming decades. In this chapter, we unpack the resignation process. Specifically, drawing from the communication literature and prior work on employee socialization, we develop a three-stage model of the resignation process that captures the activities and decisions employees face as they quit their jobs, and how individual differences may influence how they behave in each of these three stages. In doing so, we develop a foundation upon which researchers can begin to build a better understanding of what employees go through after they have decided to quit but before they have exited their organization for the final time. Copyright r 2015 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
Article
How do you judge whether a letter of reference is credible? Probably on the basis of the specific information it contains. Human resource professionals require letters containing specific information for making placement decisions, but they may be influenced by the way the letters are written as well as the factors wchich appear to influence how credible the readers judge a letter of reference to be. The provision of specific examples raises credibility, but so does using a “better” writing style. Some recommendations are made to practitioners for accurately assesing the credibilty of letters of reference.
Article
In recent years, researchers have examined how numerical ability may moderate an individual's response to different types of numeric information, but there is scant research examining how numerical ability may moderate responses to non-numeric vs. numeric information. The present study uses an experiment (complete data for 120 participants) to examine a moderated-mediation model that tests how numeracy may moderate the impact of numeric and non-numeric descriptions of climate change risks on worry and concern for victims, which may, in turn, impact willingness to donate to relevant organizations. The inclusion of numeric instead of non-numeric descriptors significantly increased both concern for victims and willingness to donate for low numerate individuals while there was no difference for highly numerate individuals.
Article
This meta-analytic review discusses research evidence concerning the persuasive effects of three variations in the articulation of an advocate's supporting argumentation. Greater explicitness in identification of the sources of information and in the completeness of an argument significantly enhance persuasive effectiveness and perceived credibility; greater quantitative specificity has no significant effect on these outcomes.
Article
This study tested the effect of vividness of language in letters of recommendation on the informational value of information in letters and job applicants' recommendations. 120 personnel administrators read either a favorable-vivid, unfavorable-vivid, favorable-pallid, or unfavorable-pallid letter of reference concerning a fictitious job applicant for a management position. Analysis showed that vividness of language influenced perceived favorableness of information but failed to affect recommendations for a candidate.
Article
In this study we investigated how performance on a standardized writing assessment might influence graduate admissions decisions if, along with summary test scores, test takers' essays were made available to admissions committees. This question was addressed within the context of a judgmental "policy capturing" study, in which graduate faculty in 2 disciplines (history and psychology) reviewed simulated admission folders and made "admissions decisions" for a set of fictitious applicants. We examined the relation between these admissions decisions and a number of variables-in particular, scores derived from the writing assessment and the availability of examinee essays. A particular focus of the study was the extent to which any effects (of sending test takers' essays) depended on the presence of construct-irrelevant flaws in the essays. The study results suggest that, overall, the availability of examinee essays would have relatively little, if any, influence on graduate admissions decisions, beyond the effects associated with summary test scores from the writing assessment. We did not detect any significant tendency for graduate faculty to attend unduly to extraneous flaws in examinees' essays. .
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The role of attribution theory in recent research on personnel employment selection is reviewed. First, the influence of applicant attributions upon the job search process and initial job success is examined. Then the attributions of potential employers are examined in terms of various selection instruments—resumes, letters of recommendation, employment interviews, and employment testing. Finally, a preliminary general model of attribution in selection is presented. Limitations and new directions for applying attribution theory to personnel selection are discussed.
Article
This article reviews the literature related to vocational behavior and career development published during 1983. Journals in the fields of psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior were examined, and 445 relevant articles published in 42 different journals were identified. The review is organized around issues pertinent to the counseling psychology perspective (i.e., career development, vocational choice, vocational behavior of women, assessment, intervention strategies) and the industrial/organizational psychology perspective (i.e., personnel functions, worker adjustment problems, work adjustment) on vocational behavior.
Conference Paper
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We will discuss the use of references and recommendation letters. Presentations will include data on the reliability, validity, and adverse impact of recommendations; advice on what should and should not be included in references; and discussions on the ethical and legal issues that can arise when serving as a reference.
Article
This unique book provides readers with vital information on one of the most important survival-success skill of the twenty-first century - influencing. By bringing the most consistent and dependable academic studies to light, and translating their conclusions into specific, behavioural steps, it gives readers an effective practical guide to successful influencing. Fully revised to include the most up-to-date material, topics covered in this second edition include: verbal and non-verbal influencing impression management networking influencing in a group public speaking. Combining academic rigour and practical relevance, this is an essential purchase for all students of organizational behaviour and theory, communication, and political persuasion as well as for those interested in analyzing the art of influencing.
Article
Despite the widespread use of letters of recommendation (LORs) in selection systems, research has largely failed to consider the potential emergence of bias in interpretations of LORs. The present study fills this void by examining both race and gender bias in evaluations of LORs and assessing the efficacy of elaboration as a strategy for reducing such bias. Undergraduate students (n = 423) rated four LORs that varied with regard to applicant race and gender. Results suggest that bias does exist in evaluations of LORs, but that requiring raters to expand on their evaluations (i.e., elaborate) reduces this bias. Implications include elaboration as a strategy organizations can implement to reduce bias from emerging when relying on LORs as a selection tool.
Article
This investigation offers a concise review of the literature concerning the selection of employment referents and tests the extent to which college students value the recommended selection criteria.
Article
The most important decision facing sales managers is the selection of successful sales people. Though the process has been refined and improved, selecting those who will be successful is one of the greatest costs and challenges to Sales Management today. This article presents a review of several methods currently being utilized and insights to techniques that can be used.
Article
Previous research has indicated that letters of recommendation are poor predictors of future performance, in part because characteristics of the letter writer and letter reader interfere with the objective analysis of the content of the letter. To help correct this problem, Peres and Garcia (1962) developed a technique for analyzing the content of letters of recommendation by identifying traits mentioned in each letter and placing the traits into one of five categories. It was the purpose of this paper to determine if the Peres and Garcia technique would be a valid method of predicting performance of psychology instructors and graduate students. The results of the two studies indicate that traits from letters of recommendation can be reliably classified into the five Peres and Garcia categories and that these traits are valid predictors of future performance (r's = .32 and .38).
Article
Billions of Dollars, Lires, Yens, etc. have been spent worldwide in researching the selection process in an effort to find a solution to identifying successful sales people. Though the process has been refined and improved, selecting those who would be successful is one of the greatest costs and challenges to sales management today. This article presents a review of several methods currently being utilized.
Article
A look at the number of ways that the control process can be applied to various aspects of personnel administration indicates that personnel directors and top level executives can exercise the same type of control over the personnel functions as are usually demanded of other functions such as production and finance.
Article
Examined 80 letters of recommendation on 40 candidates for admission to graduate school as naturally occurring instances of person perception. Results reveal a pattern of nondiscriminative, nonconsensual, and nondifferentiating descriptions. Internal analyses of a subsample of the letters suggested that this pattern probably did not arise as a consequence of differential acquaintance on the part of the writers. (14 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Replicated R. E. Carlson's (see record 1971-21928-001) study of the effects of favorability, order, and type of information on interviewers' decisions. Raters were 80 psychology students in introductory and upper-level courses. Results showed that unfavorable information was more important to interviewers' ratings than favorable information. However, this effect was moderated by the expected typical applicant-an applicant of high caliber leading to a more favorable 1st impression of unfavorable information. Unfavorable information showed contrast effects moderated by the type of information. Interviewers' confidence in evaluations was greater for favorable than for unfavorable information. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Determined the effect of early expectancies on an interviewer's causal interpretations of an applicant's past performance outcomes. 72 students each read a series of 10 transcripts that they believed had been taken from an actual interview. Each transcript dealt with a single educational or work-related outcome, with 5 of the transcripts dealing with success situations and 5 with failure situations. Prior to reading the transcripts, each S received a letter of reference, thus creating an expectancy: 24 Ss received a favorable letter of reference, 24 received an unfavorable letter, and 24 received a neutral letter. Results suggest that an interviewer with an unfavorable expectancy is likely to give the applicant less credit for past successes and to hold the applicant more personally responsible for past failures. Results also indicate that the final decision to accept or reject an applicant is closely related to these causal interpretations of past outcomes. (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
How do interviewers react as information shifts in the direction of favorability or unfavorability? No actual interviews were involved. Protocols were used by 16 raters. "Primacy effects are shown to be related to the first shift in direction of evidence; magnitude of effects are shown to be related to the degree of interviewer committment at the point of shift and the weight of the challenging information." From Psyc Abstracts 36:01:3LD97B. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Reviews the current research on reference reports (i.e., letters of recommendation for job applicants) from 4 perspectives: frequency of use, desired and empirical content, evaluation as selection instruments via traditional psychometric criteria (i.e., reliability and validity), and legal constraints. While the existing literature indicates that the reports are frequently used as a selection device, their psychometric properties do not warrant the extensive use they receive. Reference reports are characterized by low interrater reliability and low criterion-related validity. Problems of leniency and restriction, the impact of recent legislation, and the utility of reference reports as selection devices in personnel management are discussed. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
To examine the effects of numerical units upon reading time and recall, 50 university students were exposed to text containing numerical references and 50 were exposed to identical text with descriptive modifiers substituted for the numbers. Numerical data significantly increased reading time but, in the predicted direction, fell short of significance in decreasing recall. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Suggests that previous findings that employment interviewers give too much weight to negative information when evaluating an applicant are an artifact of the research methods used. 39 employment interviewers rated information units and applicants. The research design included 2 refinements: (a) comparable scales were used for obtaining measures of both information valence and information use, and (b) redundant information was partialled out. Results show that interviewers processed negative information accurately but did not place sufficient weight on positive information. Some probable causes and practical implications of this finding are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Examines relationships among 3 ANOVA measures of association—eta squared, epsilon squared, and omega squared. The rationale for each measure is developed within the fixed-effects ANOVA model, and the measures are related to corresponding measures of association in the regression model. Special attention is paid to the conceptual distinction between measures of association in fixed- vs random-effects designs. Limitations of these measures in fixed-effects designs are discussed, and recommendations for usage are provided. (43 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
After a quick recapitulation of previous reviews of the employment interview, recent research from about 1975 is reviewed and summarized. Research dealing with the reliability and validity of the interview, methodological issues, decision making, interviewer training, minority characteristics, nonverbal behavior, interviewee characteristics, and interviewee training is summarized. Trends and directions are noted, suggestions for further research extended, and a discussion of why persistence in the use of interview exists is presented.
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4th Ed Bibliogr. s. 479 - 522
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5 SETS OF 100 HYPOTHETICAL STIMULUS PERSONS WERE CONSTRUCTED. SS MADE ASSESSMENT DECISIONS TO DESCRIPTIONS CONTAINING FAVORABLE AND UNFAVORABLE ADJECTIVES. THE RESULTS DEMONSTRATED THAT IN MOST OF THE CONDITIONS, THE UNFAVORABLE ADJECTIVES WERE MORE INFLUENTIAL UPON THE ASSESSMENT THAN WERE THE FAVORABLE ADJECTIVES. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESULTS FOR ASSESSMENT DECISIONS IN THE EMPLOYMENT INTERVIEW IS DISCUSSED.
The mathematical theory of communication Smith, P. C. Behaviors, results, and organizational effectiveness: The problem of criteria Handbook of industrial and organizational psychology
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Communicating through letters and reports
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The letter of recommendation: Length of letter and informational specificity. Paper presented at the meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association
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