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Personnel Selection and Personality



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Personnel Selection
and Personality
Ioannis Nikolaou and Konstantina Foti
The field of employee recruitment and selec-
tion has traditionally been one of the most
energetic and active domains of research and
practice in the field of Work and Organizational
Psychology. Numerous psychology graduates
are employed in Human Resource Management
(HRM) consultancies, HRM departments, and
specialized work psychology/psychological
testing firms that are involved in recruitment,
selection, and assessment. Moreover, it has
also been one of the first fields to attract the
attention of researchers and practitioners in
both Europe and the United States (Salgado
et al., 2010). Therefore, the current book
would not be complete without a chapter
devoted to the role of personality in the field of
employee recruitment and selection.
In the most recent review of employee selection
research published in the Annual Review of
Psychology, Ryan and Ployhart (2014: 694–695)
claimed, however, that despite the long-standing
employee selection research and practice, the field
is still full of controversies, exploring ‘settled’ ques-
tions, working on ‘intractable’ challenges, expand-
ing into literatures and organizational levels far
removed from those historically investigated, and
constantly being pushed by practitioners, who
continually are confronting questions to which
researchers have not yet produced answers.
In order to describe the current state of affairs,
Ryan and Ployhart (2014: 695) describe
employee selection research as a ‘highly active
senior who has not been slowed down by age.
The development of the field is also evident
in the increasing number of studies appearing
in both mainstream Work and Organizational
Psychology Journals but also in specialized
journals (e.g., Personnel Psychology, Inter-
national Journal of Selection and Assessment,
Journal of Personnel Psychology, Personnel
Assessment & Decisions). A number of influ-
ential handbooks have recently been pub-
lished in the United States and Europe, and
the number of conference papers and sym-
posia presented at international conferences,
such as the European Association of Work
and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP),
the Academy of Management (AoM) and the
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Personnel selection and Personality 459
International Congress of Applied Psychology
(ICAP) – apart from the Society for Industrial
and Organizational Psychology Annual
Congress, which has traditionally attracted
most selection research – dealing with issues
related to employee recruitment, selection,
and assessment has been steadily increas-
ing during the last few years. Another recent
development in the field, with a European
focus, has been the creation of the European
Network of Selection Researchers (ENESER).
The ENESER’s objective (http://www.eneser.
eu) is to advance personnel selection research,
bring together researchers carrying out applied
research in the field of employee recruitment,
selection, and assessment, and act as a network
for Work and Organizational Psychologists
conducting research in this field.
What is personnel selection?
Employee recruitment and selection is one of
the most important Human Resource Manage-
ment processes in organizations (Farr and
Tippins, 2010). It deals with the effective
attraction, screening, selection, and onboard-
ing of employees in an organization. Although
we often assume that personnel selection
deals only with external candidates, organi-
zations use employee recruitment and selec-
tion practices for internal employees as well
(e.g., when an organization has to make a
decision regarding the re-allocation, transfer,
or promotion of employees).
Personnel selection also forms the basis for
a number of other important Human Resource
Management functions, such as employee
appraisal, training, development, and succes-
sion planning. The successful selection and
onboarding of an employee assists organiza-
tions in providing appropriate and effective
training and also improves the chances of the
employee being promoted or succeeding sen-
ior staff within the organization. However,
most personnel selection research has focused
on exploring the organizational outcomes of
successful employee selection. For example,
how successful selection leads to increased
job performance; better fit of the employee
to the team, department, and the organization
as a whole; and the prediction of a number
of desirable (and undesirable) work-related
behaviors (e.g., employee satisfaction and
engagement, extra-role performance and citi-
zenship behaviors, customer service, absen-
teeism, counterproductive behaviors).
However, recent research in employee
selection has also shifted its focus from the
traditional selection paradigm (i.e., the rela-
tionship between the predictor [the different
selection methods or the constructs evaluated
with these methods] and the criterion [the
outcomes we try to predict via the selection
methods, such as job performance]) toward
other important issues. For example, there
has been an increased interest in various
issues including different selection methods
(e.g., situational judgment tests), the role of
technology and the Internet in recruitment
and selection (e.g., gamification in selection,
video resumes, and the effect of social net-
working websites), the perspectives of appli-
cants (e.g., trust, fairness), the use of new
statistical and methodological approaches
(e.g., multi-level analysis and diary studies),
ethical issues and adverse impact, and high
stakes selection.
the personnel selection
The personnel selection process is an essen-
tial part of a company’s Human Resources
procedures, especially in large organizations.
A basic cornerstone of employee selection is
the job analysis procedure. It refers to the
detailed analysis of a position which is used
to identify its key components and the behav-
iors necessary for a job incumbent to perform
successfully. The job analysis consists of two
major components: job description and job
specification. Job description is often the
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most ‘apparent’ outcome of job analysis and
it includes the key job characteristics and its
main elements (e.g., procedures, methods,
standards of performance), whereas job spec-
ifications suggest the necessary requirements
the employee needs to bring into his/her
position in order to perform successfully
(e.g., necessary knowledge, skills, qualifica-
tions, abilities, and other personal character-
istics) which are also referred to as person
specifications (Voskuijl, 2005).
Job analysis is both a tactical and a stra-
tegic Human Resources procedure for an
organization. It is tactical and essential in the
sense that it provides the organization with
information on the current state of affairs
for a position but it is also strategic in that
it should be linked with an organization’s
strategy. Today’s job requirements or per-
son specifications may not be necessary or
required tomorrow, or a position necessary
for an organization’s progress may not exist
yet, but the potential employees to fill this
position may already be part of the organi-
zation. Therefore, job analysis must be both
backward and forward looking if it needs
to be really useful for an organization. Job
analysis is also necessary for other essential
Human Resource procedures, such as train-
ing and development, performance appraisal,
rewards management, succession planning.
The next major step in the personnel selection
procedure, following job analysis, is employee
recruitment. Employee recruitment is defined as:
an employer’s actions that are intended to (1) bring
a job opening to the attention of potential job
candidates who do not currently work for the
organization, (2) influence whether these individu-
als apply for the opening, (3) affect whether they
maintain interest in the position until a job offer is
extended, and (4) influence whether a job offer is
accepted. (Breaugh, 2013: 391)
This definition is focused on external candi-
dates but the recruitment process often deals
with internal candidates (i.e., employees who
already work for the organization and wish
to move or transfer to another position/loca-
tion or are being considered for promotion).
Employers use an array of resources to adver-
tise a job opening which include traditional
and well-established approaches (e.g., press-
media, referrals) as well as new channels (e.g.,
the Internet or social media; Acikgoz and
Bergman, 2016; Nikolaou, 2014). Recruiters
are also heavily interested in improving the
company image and its attractiveness as an
employer. They therefore make strong efforts
to build a positive image of the company both
internally and externally in order to improve
the quality of the candidates applying to the
company, but also to improve the company
image. These efforts might include participa-
tion in competitions (e.g., Best Workplace
Awards), employee engagement survey, and
employer branding initiatives.
Following recruitment, the next and most
crucial stage in the employee selection pro-
cess is the use of various selection methods
in order to select the appropriate candidate
for the job. Many researchers and practition-
ers distinguish between initial and advanced
selection methods (e.g., Heneman et al.,
2011). The aim of the former is to reduce
a large (potentially hundreds or even a few
thousands) number of applicants into a
smaller, more manageable number in order
to apply the initial selection methods. It is
impossible for an organization to have per-
sonal interviews, for example, with every
applicant applying for a job (especially if it
is advertised externally). A number of initial
methods are therefore applied at this stage
in the so-called screening process. These
methods include mainly resume/cover letter
screening, application forms, biodata, social
media screening, telephone/Skype interview,
reference checking, or even serious games
and gamification more recently (Collmus
etal., 2016). It is also a quite common prac-
tice more recently, due to the advances in
technology and online assessment, that psy-
chometric tests (e.g., ability and personality
tests) are employed earlier during the screen-
ing process. The main selection methods used
among organizations in order to reach a final
selection decision include work samples,
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Personnel selection and Personality 461
assessment centers, situational judgment
tests, and of course the interview (Ryan and
Ployhart, 2014). In the following sections, we
will focus on personality testing and its role
in employee selection.
personality testing
and employee selection
Meta-Analytic Evidence
Personality tests are being used as a selection
method in organizations by companies and
their Human Resources representatives world-
wide (Ryan et al., 1999, 2017). Numerous
studies have been conducted examining the
validity and quality of such methods in
order to explore and ensure their usefulness.
But even after a century of extensive research
on personality assessment and its associa-
tion with job performance, understanding
this relationship still remains a topic of
This issue began to receive interest from
academics and researchers more than half
a century ago and numerous studies and
meta-analyses have been conducted. In par-
ticular, a number of studies suggested that
personality can be a valid predictor of job per-
formance (Barrick and Mount, 1991; Hough
and Oswald, 2000; Ones and Viswesvaran,
1998; Ones et al., 1993), whereas others
concluded that the validity of personality ques-
tionnaires is only moderate (Oh etal., 2011;
Rothstein and Goffin, 2006) and expressed
their hesitation about the use of the Five-Factor
model (FFM) of personality in employee
selection (e.g., Block, 1995; Eysenck, 1991).
The beginning of the twenty-first century
brought along new studies based on the FFM
or the ‘Big Five’ (i.e., Conscientiousness,
Extraversion, Agreeableness, Emotional
Stability, and Openness to Experience). The
development of the FFM provided selec-
tion researchers and practitioners with a
well-defined and useful model to structure
the personality dimensions in a clear and
understandable way (Rothstein and Goffin,
2006). More specifically, the FFM repre-
sented a reasonable taxonomy for personal-
ity dimensions and also offered a coherent
system where researchers can categorize the
plentiful personality trait names that existed
(Rothstein and Goffin, 2006) providing sup-
port that personality is playing a significant
role in job performance (Barrick and Mount,
1991; Tett etal., 1991).
Another series of studies suggested that
personality is structured under three levels,
whereas the ‘Big Five’ is the third level or
the global/broad personality parallel. The
second level is the sub-dimensions of person-
ality or facets of the FFM and the primary
level consists of the items of the personality
inventories (Salgado etal., 2014). However,
the meso-structure of the FFM seems to be
a subject of controversy among researchers
due to the existence of a number of differ-
ent alternatives about the sub-dimensions of
personality traits (Judge etal., 2013; Salgado
etal., 2013; Salgado etal., 2014). Research
therefore suggests that broad personality
traits or the global factors of personality (the
third level of FFM) can accurately predict
job performance, whereas the meso-structure
of FFM does not show sufficient incremen-
tal validity (Ones and Viswesvaran, 1996;
Salgado et al., 2014).
Along with the specific levels in person-
ality structure there was also some debate
whether the broad or the narrow personality
traits are better in predicting high perform-
ing candidates in the working environment:
the so-called bandwidth-fidelity dilemma
in employee selection and personality psy-
chology. The broad five factors are therefore
compared with specific (narrow) personality
traits in order to identify the most effective
predictor. A recent meta-analysis suggests
that the FFM personality traits tend to be
weak predictors of job performance due to a
lack of scientific evidence as well as the gap
between performance criteria and the corre-
sponding personality characteristics (Murphy
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The SAGe hAndbook of PerSonAliTy And individuAl differenceS
and Dzieweczynski, 2005). According to the
meta-analysis of Barrick and Mount (2003)
there is no strong evidence in favor of nar-
row or broad personality characteristics as
the preferable predictors of job performance.
The outcomes of previous studies are still
mixed in that both narrow and broad person-
ality traits can be suitable predictors of job
performance, depending on the type of the
criterion – narrow personality characteristics
seem to predict better narrow performance
criteria and the opposite for broad personal-
ity characteristics (e.g., Bergner etal., 2010;
Ones and Viswesvaran, 1996).
Although there is limited evidence sup-
porting that the FFM personality character-
istics can predict job performance (Salgado
etal., 2014), they appear to have strong cor-
relations when this relationship is mediated
by specific occupational groups or criteria, an
issue we will discuss later in this chapter. On
the other hand, a few meta-analytic reviews
have shown that both Conscientiousness and
Emotional Stability turn out to be predictors
of job performance without any limitations
on specific occupational groups or other per-
formance criteria (Hogan and Ones 1997;
Hough and Oswald, 2000; Salgado, 1997,
1998), which is not the case for the other
three personality characteristics, namely
Extraversion, Openness to Experience, and
Agreeableness (Barrick and Mount, 1991;
Salgado etal., 2014; Tett etal., 1991).
However, there are a number of academ-
ics and researchers who claim that the cor-
relations between personality traits and job
performance are weak. This argument sug-
gests that personality tests are an unreliable
selection method due to the lack of evidence
and academic rigor (Guion and Gottier, 1965;
Morgeson etal., 2007; Schmitt etal., 1984).
It is worth mentioning, however, that most of
these studies are quite outdated. For example,
Guion and Gottier (1965) and Schmitt etal.
(1984) suggested that limited evidence exists
to support the validity of personality tests as a
selection method, thus exercising pressure to
researchers to intensify research on this topic.
There has been a lot of criticism concern-
ing meta-analysis itself and the methodol-
ogy that researchers used to conduct the
aforementioned reviews (Bobko and Stone-
Romero, 1998; Murphy, 2000; Rothstein and
Goffin, 2006). Murphy (2000) pointed out
that there are several issues in methodologi-
cal procedures that need to be managed and
addressed in order for meta-analytic reviews
to be accurate and valid. Some key points are
the quality of the data or whether the tests
and studies used in the meta-analysis are rep-
resentative of the population of existing tools
and studies (Murphy, 2000). They suggest
that researchers should follow detailed and
clear guidelines in order to evaluate and pro-
duce meta-analytic reviews (Murphy, 2000;
Rothstein and Goffin, 2006).
Another issue is the FFM and how it is
being conceptualized and measured in the
existing meta-analytic reviews (Barrick and
Mount, 2003; Rothstein and Goffin, 2006;
Salgado etal., 2014). Even though the FFM
has been a helpful taxonomy for researchers,
the model seems to be challenged methodo-
logically for its accuracy and validity (Block,
1995). Rothstein and Goffin (2006) found
that from 1994 until 2006, when their paper
was published, 57% of the studies available
at that time used the FFM to measure person-
ality. This result questions the validity of the
studies that, according to a body of research-
ers, are based on a taxonomic system that
does not represent accurately the personality
traits that are examined in the personality–
performance relationship. At the same time,
a number of alternative models offering new
theories of personality structure appeared in
the literature (Rothstein and Goffin, 2006).
A number of meta-analyses and systematic
reviews on personality and selection have
explored different predictors associated with
effective job performance, especially broad
personality characteristics that can be used in
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Personnel selection and Personality 463
personnel selection. Examples include ques-
tionnaires, which assess broad personality
traits (e.g., the Neuroticism, Extraversion,
Opennes to Experience Personality Inventory,
the Personality Research Form, and the 16
Personality Factor Questionnaire). Moreover,
a different approach is also followed when
more focused, work-related personality traits
are being used, which aim to measure nar-
rower and unique personality characteristics
(Ones and Viswesvaran, 2001). These scales
are referred to as ‘occupational personality
scales’ and, more specifically, ‘job-focused
occupational scales’ (JOBS) that examine
personality traits for particular job families
and ‘criterion-focused occupational scales’
(COPS) that examine specific criteria and
their role as predictors in the working envi-
ronment (Ones and Viswesvaran, 2001).
According to the meta-analytic review of
Ones and Viswesvaran (2001), COPS are
more accurate predictors of overall job per-
formance, especially if they are combined
with cognitive ability tests, compared to gen-
eral FFM personality traits. At the same time,
incremental validity increases when COPS
are associated with the Conscientiousness
dimension from the FFM.
The incremental validity of a selection
method above and beyond another method
is an important issue in employee selection
because recruiters often combine a number
of different methods. This is especially the
case for personality tests (Day and Silverman,
1989; Goffin etal., 1996; McManus and Kelly,
1999; Schmidt and Hunter, 1998), which are
often used in combination with other selection
methods. For example, Goffin and colleagues
(1996) found that evaluations of managerial
potential by an assessment center provided
incremental validity over and above per-
sonality tests. These results state clearly the
importance of incremental validity in selec-
tion methods and in the successful prediction
of job performance. Although the incremental
validity of personality seems to be an impor-
tant predictor from which Human Resources
practitioners can benefit, in order to adopt
relevant measurements in their selection pro-
cedures only a few relevant studies have been
conducted (Rothstein and Goffin, 2006).
moderators and mediators of
the personality–performance
Another issue attracting increased interest is
the examination of moderators and mediators
in the relationship between personality and job
performance (Rothstein and Goffin, 2006;
Sackett and Lievens, 2008). Moderating and
mediating variables seem to be important
because they are considered to underline and
sometimes determine the role of personality
tests as an employee selection method
(Rothstein and Goffin, 2006). Barrick and
Mount (1991) found that Conscientiousness
predicted job performance for the criteria of
job proficiency, training proficiency, and per-
sonnel data, among all the different occupation
groups examined (professionals, police, sales,
managers, and skilled/semi-skilled), while the
rest of the personality traits also demonstrated
significant predictive effects depending on the
performance criterion and occupational group
(Rothstein and Goffin, 2006). Another exam-
ple is autonomy at work as a moderator
between personality and job performance.
Research suggests that individuals with high
scores in Conscientiousness and Extraversion
and low scores in Agreeableness are better
performers in jobs where autonomy is high
(Barrick and Mount, 1993). At the same time a
number of studies supported that personality
has indirect effects on work-related perfor-
mance, which leads to the conclusion that
mediating variables are the ones that have an
effect on job performance rather than personal-
ity directly (Barrick etal., 1993; Rothstein and
Goffin, 2006; Rothstein and Jelly, 2003).
Another set of potential mediators in the
personality–performance relationship are
individuals’ motivational intentions (Barrick,
2005; Hogan, 1996). Mitchell (1997: 60)
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The SAGe hAndbook of PerSonAliTy And individuAl differenceS
describes motivation as the ‘arousal, direc-
tion, intensity and persistence of voluntary
actions that are goal directed’. Focusing on
motivation, researchers suggested that there
are three types of motivational intentions that
seem to affect work-related behavior (Barrick
etal., 2002; Penney etal., 2011; Sackett and
Lievens, 2008). First is status striving, a term
that refers to actions ‘directed toward obtain-
ing power and dominance within a status hier-
archy’ (Barrick et al., 2002: 44). The FFM
trait of Extraversion is related to status striv-
ing because Extraversion characteristics such
as sociability, determination, or high energy
are features that are enabling motivational
intentions for status striving (Barrick etal.,
2002). Next is communion striving, which
refers to actions ‘directed toward obtaining
acceptance in personal relationships’ or ‘get-
ting along with others at work’ (Barrick etal.,
2002: 44). Research suggests that the person-
ality trait that seems to be associated with
this motivational intention is Agreeableness
(Penney etal., 2011) because agreeable peo-
ple tend to be friendly and willing to help
others as well as showing a preference for
cooperation rather than competition (Barrick
and Mount, 2003; Costa and McCrae, 1992).
The third type of motivational intention is
accomplishment striving where the definition
refers to ‘an individual’s intention to accom-
plish work tasks’ (Barrick etal., 2002: 44)
and is linked to Emotional Stability because
unstable individuals are less likely to strive
for accomplishments (Penney et al., 2011).
Finally, Conscientiousness is associated with
job performance when this relationship is
mediated by goal-setting behaviors in the
occupational group of sales representatives
(Barrick et al., 1993). The studies focusing
on mediating effects and their effects on per-
formance are a useful tool for organizations
because Human Resources Professionals can
improve their selection methods by using
tools such as situational judgment tests (SJT)
that can be used to supplement personality
tests (Rothstein and Goffin, 2006; Sackett
and Lievens, 2008).
expanding the performance
criterion domain
The majority of research conducted on per-
sonality and job performance has focused on
the overall job performance of individuals.
However, other research suggests that we
should focus on specific dimensions of job
performance, rather than overall job perfor-
mance (Penney etal., 2011). Job performance
can be divided into three narrower dimen-
sions. One dimension is task performance,
which is defined as the activities that ‘contrib-
ute to the organization’s technical core either
directly by implementing a part of its techno-
logical process, or indirectly by providing it
with needed materials or services’ (Borman
and Motowidlo, 1997: 99). As an illustration,
task performance for the position of a sales-
man includes closing a sale or knowing the
product that one is selling (Borman and
Motowidlo, 1997) or delivering mail to the
right addresses for a mailman (Penney etal.,
2011). In other words, task performance is
concerned with in-role duties of a job that are
mandatory for an employee to carry out. Next
is contextual performance, which refers to
activities that shape the context in which task
performance occurs in a social and psycho-
logical way (Borman and Motowidlo, 1997;
Penney etal., 2011). Examples that describe
this dimension are voluntary work or helping
a colleague (Borman and Motowidlo, 1997;
Penney etal., 2011). There are different terms
that have often been used to describe contex-
tual performance, such as organizational citi-
zenship behavior (Organ, 1988). The last
dimension of performance is counterproduc-
tive behavior referring to harmful behaviors
employees adopt against other co-workers or
the organization itself, such as absenteeism,
theft, drug/alcohol use, or intentionally poor
performance (Penney etal., 2011).
From the FFM it is mainly Conscientiousness
and secondly Emotional Stability that have
shown positive associations with all three types
of performance (Penney etal., 2011). It is worth
mentioning that Agreeableness also seems
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Personnel selection and Personality 465
to be a strong predictor of contextual perfor-
mance and counterproductive behaviour –
in contrast to Extraversion and Openness to
Experience which appear to have only weak
validities with the three performance dimen-
sions (Penney et al., 2011). Speaking of
service-oriented behavior, researchers often
refer to the attitudes and manners an individual
should maintain when serving a customer, for
example being polite and fulfilling the requests
of customers. Those behaviors are associated
with both communion striving and achieve-
ment striving because people with those moti-
vational intentions are more likely to adapt to
service-oriented performance. Furthermore,
personality in general – and Conscientiousness
and Agreeableness in particular – seem to
be important in service-oriented citizen-
ship behaviors at work (Bettencourt et al.,
2001). In addition, researchers are also refer-
ring to internal service-oriented behaviors as
equally important as the external ones. In fact,
the personality traits of Agreeableness and
Conscientiousness appear to reach high validi-
ties for occupations requiring good communi-
cation, collaboration, and similar interpersonal
skills which are important when working in
teams (Mount etal., 1998). Moreover, research
suggests that satisfactory internal services lead
to an increase in organizational effectiveness
(Penney etal., 2011). To sum up, in this newly
introduced approach, both external and internal
behaviors of service-orientation are strongly
related to personality and can improve the
validity results of the FFM traits.
The second trend that Penney and her col-
leagues (2011) suggested adding in the crite-
rion domain is adaptive performance, which
refers to the recognition of opportunities that
lead to change, the proactive enhancement
of behavior and competencies in response to
change, and the application of those compe-
tencies in the workplace. This type of per-
formance and the ability of individuals to
adapt is found to be highly associated with
high Openness to Experience, although an
unexpected correlation also existed with low
Conscientiousness (LePine etal., 2000).
Bandwidth-Fidelity Dilemma
The bandwidth-fidelity dilemma (BFD) is
about whether researchers should use nar-
rowly defined or broadly defined variables
when exploring the personality–job perfor-
mance relationship (Cronbach and Gleser,
1965; Hogan and Roberts, 1996; Ones and
Viswesvaran, 1996). More specifically, band-
width refers to ‘the amount of information that
is contained in a message’ (Cheng etal., 2009:
1–2), and ‘the amount of complexity of the
information one tries to obtain in a given space
of time’ (Cronbach, 1960: 600). Additionally,
fidelity refers to ‘the accuracy of the informa-
tion conveyed’ (Cheng et al., 2009: 1–2).
Cronbach (1960) was not using the word fidel-
ity but instead was referring to this concept as
accuracy, decision making, validity, and relia-
bility (Hogan and Roberts, 1996).
A number of arguments in favor of each
side have been cited. A lot of researchers
have argued that the FFM dimensions of per-
sonality have great bandwidth and too much
information is lost when data are aggregated
to the level of the FFM. On the other hand,
other researchers and practitioners not only
support the appropriateness of broad person-
ality traits as better predictors of work perfor-
mance, but also argue that the best predictor
of job performance is a linear combination of
a number of broadly defined traits.
Studies and meta-analytic reviews sug-
gest that the BFD can be better understood
via three main approaches (Salgado et al.,
2014). First, researchers suggest that broad
measures, for example the FFM, are the most
valid predictors of both broad and narrow
performance criteria (Ones and Viswesvaran,
1996). A different approach supports that
narrow personality measurements are better
for predicting narrow performance criteria
and, at the same time, narrow measures allow
researchers to explain possible variances
over global measures when broad criteria are
also examined (Ashton, 1998; Christiansen
and Robie, 2011; Paunonen etal., 1999; Tett
etal., 2003). A third approach claims that the
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The SAGe hAndbook of PerSonAliTy And individuAl differenceS
broadness of criteria used in research deter-
mine the personality predictors that are suit-
able and appropriate according to the existing
circumstances (Hogan and Roberts, 1996;
Moberg, 1998; Schneider etal., 1996).
More supportive evidence regarding the
use of broad personality traits in selection
are provided by Mount and Barrick (1995).
In a follow-up of their original meta-analysis,
Barrick and Mount (1991) examined in more
detail the validity of the Conscientiousness
dimension of the FFM along with two of
its components, achievement and depend-
ability, across a number of specific criteria.
Using their previous meta-analysis as a start-
ing point, but increasing the total sample by
approximately 50%, they were expecting,
along with the BFD, that broad dimensions
(i.e., Conscientiousness) would be better
predictors of broad criteria (e.g., overall job
proficiency), whereas the best predictors of
narrower criteria (e.g., effort, employee reli-
ability) are expected to be narrower dimen-
sions (i.e., achievement, dependability).
Another point in favor of those who support
the limited importance of personality in
selection settings is the phenomenon of
faking and social desirability in personality
testing, and their effect on predictive validity.
The tendency for applicants to respond in a
socially desirable way reduces the accuracy
of personality tests and their usefulness in
employee selection (Ones and Viswesvaran,
1998; Rothstein and Goffin, 2006).
Research suggests that when candidates
are motivated to present a socially acceptable
appearance and personality, they seem to fake
their responses when taking a personality test
(Viswesvaran and Ones, 1999). However, a
number of studies have provided a more opti-
mistic view, suggesting that faking does not
affect the criterion-related validity of personal-
ity tests and are therefore trustworthy and accu-
rate as a selection method (Barrick and Mount,
1996; Hough etal., 1990; Ones etal., 1996).
This statement, however, has received major
criticism due to the fact that other studies have
suggested that faking reduces the validity of
personality tests (Douglas etal., 1996).
Several approaches have appeared in order
for researchers to reduce – and if possible
eliminate – the effect of faking on person-
ality tests. One primary strategy for deal-
ing with fake responses in a personality test
is the design of Social Desirability Scales.
When test-takers are scoring high on social
desirability scales, then an assumption that
responses may be faked is made. However,
research results suggest that this is not the case
and, when this assumption is made, includ-
ing social desirability scales can often lead
to reduced criterion-related validity (Mueller-
Hanson etal., 2003). Another approach is fak-
ing warning, where test-takers are warned that
fake responses can be detected. Meta-analytic
reviews on faking warning concluded that it is
effective and fake responses are significantly
reduced and improvement of hiring deci-
sions has therefore been noted (Dwight and
Donovan, 2003). The benefits of researchers
and practitioners for faking warning is that
faking is reduced, the method is cheap, and
it can be easily combined with other existing
methods (Rothstein and Goffin, 2006).
Another method for reducing faking is
the use of forced-choice personality tests.
Forced-choice personality assessment was
designed by researchers in an effort to mini-
mize faking and receive more honest and
reliable answers by applicants. According
to this approach every personality trait in
the test is presented by 2–4 statements, and
the candidate is instructed to choose the
statement that describes him/her the most and
the least. The statements used are phrased in
a way where social desirability is equally
perceived. Consequently, response distortion
is not triggered. The most typical examples
of the forced-choice approach are primarily
the ‘Edwards Personal Preference Schedule’
(Edwards, 1959), the ‘Gordon Personal
Inventory’ (Gordon, 1956), the ‘Occupational
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Personnel selection and Personality 467
Personality Questionnaire 3.2i’ (Jackson
et al., 2000) and the ‘Employee Screening
Questionnaire’ (Rothstein and Goffin, 2006).
Forced-choice received a lot of support but
also a lot of criticism about its validity in pre-
dicting accurately the personality traits that
it was supposed to predict and also about the
fact that response distortion was encouraged
(Rothstein and Goffin, 2006). This criticism
was addressed by Jackson and colleagues
(2000), where they overcame poor item devel-
opment by designing the ‘Employee Screening
Questionnaire’ with high criterion-related valid-
ity. Criticism of these forced-choice personality
tests might cause more negative reactions from
candidates than other traditional tests. Further
research is needed in order for this approach to
be evaluated because, until now, limited studies
have addressed the forced-choice assessment
approach (Christiansen et al., 2005; Jackson
etal., 2000; Martin etal., 2002).
future trends in personality
testing and employee selection
The previous discussion has implied that the
use of personality testing in occupational set-
tings has largely remained unchanged during
recent decades. Applicants used to complete
a self-report assessment of personality during
the selection process, their results were eval-
uated, and then a decision was made.
Normally, this process was taking place at
the beginning of the selection process, but
not for everyone applying due to cost and
administration reasons. Candidates had to get
together in order to complete a paper-and-
pencil version of the test under supervised
conditions. Technology, and especially the
Internet, has changed how personality assess-
ment is used in employee selection. Moreover,
new personality constructs have recently
appeared, challenging the hegemony of the
FFM, and new modes of assessment are also
often being used by organizations to assess
personality constructs.
The Role of Technology
Technology – especially the Internet – has
had a major impact on employee recruitment
and selection, probably more than any other
Human Resource Management function.
Reynolds and Dickter (2010) claim that the
widespread use of computers and technology
in organizations offers a major opportunity
for Work and Organizational Psychologists to
become more strategic. For example, most
companies use job boards and social network-
ing websites, such as LinkedIn, to advertise
their job openings and attract candidates, or
specialized software and platforms, such as
applicant tracking systems, to manage the
recruitment process. Similarly, the selection
process has also changed rapidly with most
new trends relating to testing and assessment,
such as automated testing, computer-aided
and computer adaptive testing.
With almost 60% of companies using some
kind of tests, especially in entry-level man-
agement positions (Ryan et al., 2015), it is
reasonable to expect that technology will have
a major impact in the use of tests. In recent
years, companies have started to integrate
the testing process earlier in the whole selec-
tion process, with candidates completing the
questionnaire(s) remotely via the web, either
in a proctored or unproctored way. Proctored
testing requires some kind of supervision
and is especially important for cognitive
ability tests. However, personality tests are
often completed remotely in an unproctored
way (e.g., the applicant takes a test at home
or some other convenient location without
supervision and they do not include the same
type of problems associated with cognitive
tests, such as person identification, test secu-
rity and, most importantly, cheating; Karim
etal., 2014). Unproctored testing has a series
of advantages for both employers and appli-
cants and therefore it has become extremely
popular recently in many employee selec-
tion procedures. These tests offer massive
economic savings to companies, and also the
opportunity to assess large numbers of their
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The SAGe hAndbook of PerSonAliTy And individuAl differenceS
applicant pool. There are a lot of companies
where all candidates applying for a job or
registering their resume into their database go
through an online assessment.
For most organizations, unproctored test-
ing has now become the standard method
by which they evaluate candidates’ profiles.
Similarly, for many test publishers and con-
sulting firms it has become the primary
method of delivering their tests (Schmitt,
2014). However, the most significant issue
regarding the use of online testing is the equiv-
alence between online tests or computer test-
ing and the traditional paper-and-pencil tests.
Although there is limited research exploring
this issue with satisfactory findings (Bartram
and Brown, 2004; Ployhart, Weekley, Holtz,
and Kemp, 2003; Salgado and Moscoso,
2003) it has only focused on proctored test-
ing due to its importance for cognitive ability
tests. An important area of future research is
therefore to explore the equivalence between
unproctored and traditional, paper-and-
pencil personality tests as a selection method
(Reynolds and Dickter, 2010).
New Constructs and Modes
of Assessment
Although the FFM remains undeniably the
most well-studied and widely used personal-
ity model in employee selection research, it
is not the only one out there. For example, a
number of researchers have explored broader
constructs than the five factors, many of
which are especially applicable in personnel
selection. For example, a widely used con-
struct and testing method, especially in the
United States, is integrity testing. In one
of the first critical evaluations of integrity
tests, they were defined as ‘paper-and-pencil
instruments for personnel selection that are
used to predict dishonesty or counterproduc-
tivity. These tests are composed of items that
query job applicants about their attitudes
toward theft and inquire about any past
thefts’ (Camara and Schneider, 1994: 112).
Since then, the field of integrity testing has
developed even more, not only with the
appearance of online integrity testing but,
most importantly, with the increased capacity
of integrity tests to predict other performance-
related criteria and not only counterproduc-
tive work behavior. For example, in a recent
meta-analysis, van Iddekinge et al. (2012)
demonstrated that integrity tests can also be
valid predictors of overall job performance
and training performance, providing further
support for their usefulness as a valid
selection method.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is another con-
cept that is often linked with personality and
has created major disputes among practition-
ers. Although there is limited research linking
EI with employee selection, it is a concept
that has attracted interest, especially among
practitioners and the popular management
and psychology literature. A major issue con-
cerning EI research in relation to employee
selection is how EI is measured. When EI is
measured with an ability-based measure, it
often demonstrates moderate to high correla-
tions with intelligence tests and, as a result,
with overall job performance. However,
when it is measured with personality-type
questionnaires, EI demonstrates low to aver-
age correlations with personality factors, is
susceptible to social desirability and faking,
and demonstrates poor correlations with job
performance (Cherniss, 2010). A few studies
(e.g., Blickle etal., 2009; Christiansen etal.,
2010; Iliescu etal., 2012) have provided evi-
dence for the usefulness of EI for predicting
important work-related outcomes, such as
job performance but, as many authors have
noted, we need to be careful with the inter-
pretation of these results because researchers
often use student samples and not real appli-
cants in real-life selection settings, with a few
exceptions (e.g., Lievens etal., 2011).
The general factor of personality (GFP)
has also received increased attention recently
in the academic literature. The GFP supports
the notion that there is an inherent hierarchical
structure within the FFM and reflects a mix of
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Personnel selection and Personality 469
socially desirable characteristics. Individuals
with high scores on the GFP tend to be open-
minded, conscientious, sociable, emotionally
stable, and possess high levels of self-esteem
and mental health (Linden et al., 2014). The
concept of the GFP seems to offer promising
avenues for employee selection research and
practice in the future, despite the small number
of studies exploring its predictive validity (van
der Linden etal., 2010). A similar broad con-
struct to the GFP is the construct of Core Self-
Evaluations (CSE). CSE is a broad personality
construct consisting of four specific traits: self-
esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of con-
trol, and neuroticism (Bono and Judge, 2003;
Judge etal., 2002). According to Judge etal.
(2004: 328–329) ‘Individuals with positive
core self-evaluations appraise themselves in a
consistently positive manner across situations;
such individuals see themselves as capable,
worthy, and in control of their lives.’ Limited
studies have explored the CSE in recruitment
and selection settings (e.g., Anderson et al.,
2012; Nikolaou, 2011); therefore, as Chang
et al. (2012) proposed, the incremental pre-
diction of CSE ought to be directly evaluated,
above and beyond the effect of conscientious-
ness and cognitive ability. They also propose
that two other important issues should be
explored further if CSE is going to be a useful
construct in employee selection research and
practise – the issue of faking and the possibil-
ity of CSE leading to adverse impact.
Not only do new constructs appear, but
new modes of assessing traditional and new
personality dimensions have also appeared.
Situational judgment tests (SJT) have been
one of the methods used recently to assess
aspects of personality. The SJT consist of a
series of job-related situations/scenarios deliv-
ered mainly via different means (e.g., written,
online, video-based format). Clevenger etal.
(2001) have claimed that the SJT are often
correlated with conscientiousness and neurot-
icism and that they can also successfully pre-
dict job performance, above job knowledge,
cognitive ability, job experience and consci-
entiousness. McDaniel and Nguyen (2001)
have provided evidence that the SJT are also
correlated with agreeableness. Similar find-
ings were also obtained in the meta-analysis
of McDaniel etal. (2007) who also supported
the significant impact of SJT on predicting job
performance above and beyond the effect of
personality and cognitive ability tests.
More recently, another form of assessment
has also appeared which is the use of seri-
ous games or gamification as an attempt to
improve applicant reactions toward traditional
selection methods and improve the compa-
ny’s image among highly sought after appli-
cants. One such example of this is Insanely
Driven (http://insanelydriven.archive.lessrain., which is an interactive selection game
in which each job applicant is placed into a
series of unusual situations and asked to make
a variety of decisions. Another similar exam-
ple, where the first author is also involved is
Owiwi (, which is a
serious game application assessing a number
of soft skills and soon also personality char-
acteristics based on the FFM (Georgiou and
Nikolaou, 2017). The benefit of these ‘games’
is that they can provide immediate feedback
to participants, in a simple form, when they
complete the game. Although research is still
limited in the field (Armstrong etal., 2016),
this is a promising area of research and prac-
tice for the future, attracting already a fair
amount of media coverage.
concluding remarks
Personality has been a major part of research
and practice from the early ages of psychol-
ogy, otherwise it would not be in one of the
most applied psychology fields, such as
Work and Organizational Psychology. From
the early stages of personality testing through
modern developments (e.g., online testing
and gamification), personality is an impor-
tant part of most selection settings and has
remained a vibrant and exciting area of
research. However, personality research and
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practice in employee selection has to stay up-
to-date and keep up with the recent develop-
ments in other close scientific areas, such
as personality psychology and Human
Resources Management, if it wants to remain
useful both for researchers and practitioners.
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... SNWs give the user more control of their job search since they are not only able to search for an OJV but also to cross-check the information from various sources. Both job seekers and employers go beyond the traditional recruiting processes by using multiple recruitment channels (Nikolaou and Foti 2018). ...
... Greeks will be more open to take risks and look for jobs that suit their needs and qualifications. The internet and more specifically the SMWs have "changed the scenery in job search, and the recruitment process" (Nikolaou 2014 185) and will increasingly play a vital role in how young people in Greece will be looking for employment and new professional opportunities (Nikolaou and Foti 2018). ...
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With the project “Real-time Labour Market Information on Skill Requirements: Setting up the EU System for Online Vacancy Analysis”, Cedefop explores online job-vacancies (OJVs) as a new source of real-time Labour Market Information. By crawling the most important online job-portals of the 28 EU Member States, Cedefop will further its understanding of the changing skills demand in different sectors and occupations. A systematic overview of the online job portal landscape in each of the 28 EU Member States will identify the most relevant online job portals and provide context for the data scraped from them. With the Landscaping Activity, Cedefop seeks to acquire insights into the structure of online job-portal markets and the extent to which online job-portals are used in recruitment and job search. Furthermore, it aims to better understand which factors cause variation in the formats and content of OJVs in different countries. This Country Report was compiled between January and February 2018 and constitutes a first overview of the online job-portal landscape in Greece. It is based on desk research of available data sources in Greece (e.g. public data, academic research and publications of interest groups) and expert opinions.
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Much has been speculated regarding the influence of cultural norms on the acceptance and use of personnel selection testing. This study examined the cross-level direct effects of four societal cultural variables (performance orientation, future orientation, uncertainty avoidance and tightness-looseness) on selection practices of organizations in 23 countries. 1,153 HR professionals responded to a survey regarding testing practices in hiring contexts. Overall, little evidence of a connection between cultural practices and selection practices emerged. Implications of these findings for personnel selection and cross-cultural research as well as directions for future work in this area are described.
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This article reviews the literature linking the Big Five personality traits with job performance in order to identify the most promising directions for future research. Specifically, we recommend expanding the criterion domain to include internal and external service-oriented behavior as well as adaptive performance. We also review situational moderators of the personality–performance relationship and suggest additional moderators at the task, social, and organizational levels. Finally, we discuss trait interactions and explain why we expect that our capability to predict employee behavior will be considerably improved by considering the interaction among traits.Research Highlights► Big Five traits and job performance. ► Expanding the performance criterion domain. ► Moderators of the personality–performance relationship. ► Big Five trait interactions and job performance.
It no longer needs to be stressed that the nature of work is changing rapidly. In the past decade many authors described developments in information technology, the global economy, economic competition, and the impact of those changes on the organization and nature of work. This would result in instability of jobs in terms of responsibilities and tasks. As a consequence the usefulness of detailed job analysis is questioned. Schmidt stated more than ten years ago that some methods of job analysis were only suited to disappearing stable bureau-cratic organizations. Some authors describe job analysis as old-fashioned and inflexible and embrace the concept and practice of competency modeling. However, others argue that with a shift of focus and principles traditional job analysis techniques can be broadened to work analysis and keep their relevance for organizations.
This paper is a conceptual and methodological critique of arguments advanced by Ones and Viswesvaran (1996, this issue) favoring ‘broad’ over ‘narrow’ personality traits for personnel selection and theoretical explanation. We agree with Ones and Viswesvaran that predictors should match criteria in terms of specificity. We depart from them, however, in our view of how traits should be chosen to obtain the best possible prediction and explanation of a complex overall job performance criterion. We argue that the best criterion-related validities will be attained if researchers use a construct-oriented approach to match specific traits (i.e. traits narrower than the Big Five) to those specific job performance dimensions that have been found to be job relevant. We further argue that researchers should focus on development of theories of job performance that incorporate constructs that are both specific and meaningful. If researchers seek to emphasize only overall job performance and personality traits greater than or equal to the Big Five in breadth, we will fail to acquire a great deal of important knowledge about the nature and causes of important aspects of work behavior.
Core self-evaluation (CSE) represents the fundamental appraisals individuals make about their self-worth and capabilities. CSE is conceptualized as a higher order construct composed of broad and evaluative traits (e.g., self-esteem and generalized self-efficacy). The authors review 15 years of CSE theory and research, focusing in particular on the outcomes, mediators, and moderators of CSE via qualitative and quantitative literature reviews. Meta-analytic results support the relation of CSE with various outcomes, including job and life satisfaction, in-role and extra-role job performance, and perceptions of the work environment (e.g., job characteristics and fairness). The authors conclude with a critical evaluation of CSE theory, measurement, and construct validity, highlighting areas of promise and concern for future CSE research. Key topics requiring further research include integrating CSE within an approach/avoidance framework, ruling out alternative explanations for the emergence of the higher order construct, testing the possibility of intraindividual change in CSE, evaluating the usefulness of CSE for staffing and performance management, and moving beyond CSE to also consider core external evaluations.