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Setting the Scene

There are three key stakeholders in the personality-selection domain: academia, organizations and test publishers. In principle, these three stakeholders share one objective: to produce and use assessments that are reliable and valid. However, each constituency possesses potentially conflicting drives and foci, which have led to some disarray in the development and use of personality assessments in selection.

Academics have a primary interest in understanding the nature, theory and structure of personality. A focus on considering what personality is and what it is not, how it is structured, the processes underlying personality observations and the nomological net that informs our understanding of how different aspects of personality and other individual difference constructs relate. Organizations have a primary interest in using personality assessments to deliver a return on investment. A focus is what predicts both productive and counterproductive behaviour and performance in organizational contexts. Finally, test publishers hold a primary interest in commercializing personality assessments thereby making money from personality measures - a focus on what is marketable and useable by those willing to pay for their assessments.

The result is a marketplace where the tools that organizations use are often at odds with the theoretical foundations prized by academics. Further, in an effort to present what appears to be either a unique or similar product, test publishers produce tools that possess the same trait labels, but measure different constructs, or tools with different trait labels that measure the same constructs. This is often referred to as the ‘Jingle Jangle Fallacy’ (Kelley, 1927; Thorndike, 1904). Ultimately, these trends stifle scientific progress and lead to confusion for practitioners and organizations, neither knowing which personality measures, if any, to use. What we have in the case of personality in selection is a classic example of a scientist/practitioner divide and often a lack of evidence- based practice (Rynes, Gyluk & Brown, 2007). The most theoretically and empirically valid measures are often passed over for less-grounded counterparts, with many test publishers failing to publish their validity studies and others simply not conducting them. These issues muddy the waters when we attempt to assess the utility of personality measures in selection. It is far beyond the scope of this chapter to put an end to this confusion, but we can at least start to address some of the important issues regarding how useful personality testing really is and, perhaps most importantly, what can we do to maximize its utility.

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