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Future Research

To our mind, the study of personality is deeply fascinating. That we can measure the very essence of human character is marvellous. That those measurements predict workplace behaviour is hugely useful. The focused review and analysis in this chapter demonstrate that research regarding personality and selection has made incredible progress over the past 30 years and that the area remains vibrant with novel studies frequently challenging assumptions, improving knowledge and creating a very solid platform for evidence-based practice. In keeping with the dynamic nature of the personality-selection field, we finish this chapter by presenting a number of exciting avenues that are ripe for future research. Throughout the chapter, we have noted areas of research with promising findings that need further exploration. We will briefly recapitulate these and discuss some other areas we believe deserve research attention.

Our first suggestion for future research - the further development of personality measures - is unlikely to prove universally popular. Many researchers and practitioners have a preferred tool to which they are strongly committed. However, as discussed in the early sections of this chapter, there are limitations with currently popular measures based on the Big Five (e.g., NEO-PI-R, HEXACO, HPI). Specifically, the models were developed without a guiding theoretical framework and use suboptimal psychometric procedures, meaning that debate remains regarding how many factors exist at each level of the personality hierarchy and most omnibus personality measures have less than spectacular psychometric properties (Block, 2010; Booth & Hughes, 2014). In addition, and of great importance to the selection domain, all omnibus personality measures omit a large number of potentially important traits (Booth, 2011; Paunonen & Jackson, 2000). Further research that improves personality theory and measurement along these lines is very welcome.

We believe it is time to move away from producing meta-analyses of correlations between broad personality factors and broad measures of performance. Instead, we wish to see more theory-driven model testing approaches to personality-job performance research. Particularly, process models examining the effects of mediators (e.g., teamwork, communication, motivation) and moderators (e.g., organizational culture, team composition, leader behaviour) within the personality-job performance link appear to be a fruitful avenue of exploration.

In line with the argument that universal job performance does not exist and that job roles moderate predictive validity, we call for researchers to begin building a picture of role-specific associations (e.g., leadership roles, clerical roles, sales roles, policing, teaching). Within this call, we see a crucial role for personality-oriented job analysis and narrow facets of personality. In order to facilitate such research we believe that the production of a single, exhaustive list of narrow facets would reduce the common Jingle Jangle Fallacy problem and allow for the systematic exploration of the relations between narrow traits and job performance. It is also important within this research that we move away from unidimensional measures of performance and towards more realistic multidimensional models such as that proposed by Bartram (2005). Such research would be much more theory-laden and have great practical value. In time, we will be able to aggregate these studies to provide meta-analytic estimates while retaining useful, role-specific information. Similar efforts have been successful in cognitive ability research (e.g., Bertua et al., 2005).

Traits do not exist or act in isolation; as discussed above, personality is multidimensional. Currently, most multidimensional personality research adopts a simple, cumulative regression or aggregation approach. However, we believe that the value of traits is not simply additive. Rather, traits interact to drive motivation and behaviour. A number of studies show that trait interactions are of value in understanding performance at work (e.g., Blickle et al., 2013; Judge & Erez, 2007; Oh, Lee, Ashton & De Vries, 2011). Accordingly, we call for further research in this promising area.

Similarly, the relationship between personality and job performance in some roles might be curvilinear. It is possible that too much conscientiousness or too much extraversion will be counterproductive in some roles (e.g., Bunce & West, 1995; Driskell et al., 1994; Tett et al., 1999). Examinations of curvilinear relationships might increase understanding regarding when and where traits are most relevant and potentially indicate optimal trait levels for specific workplace tasks. Studies have been undertaken examining curvilinear effects, but to date the results are generally inconclusive (e.g., Le, Oh, Robbins, Ilies, Holland & Westrick, 2011).

One area of work we have not discussed in any detail is teamwork. People often work in teams, at least to some degree, with truly solitary work virtually unheard of in most roles. Despite the fact that workplace interdependence is the norm, we measure only individual traits and individual performance. While conscientiousness is the single most important predictor for individual task performance, it is possible that other traits are very important because they have an impact on the performance and well-being of others. Examining how personality enhances or suppresses group performance is a much-needed avenue of exploration.

Response distortions remain a problem for self-ratings of personality. Further research is required to understand these distortions and generate useful methods to overcome them. Forced-choice measures have generally offered limited utility in combating social desirability. However, recent research suggests that some of this underwhelming performance might be the result of suboptimal test construction, variable scoring and analytical procedures (Brown & Maydeu-Olivares, 2013, in press; Meade, 2004). Regardless of effects on social desirability, partially ipsative forced-choice measures offer impressive levels of predictive validity and outperform those achieved using Likert-type measures. Further examinations of the predictive validity of partially ipsative measures are warranted, as are explorations of how these rating formats influence adverse impact.

In related fashion, the results from other ratings are so promising that we must continue to examine them as a plausible measurement approach. Research must consider how other ratings perform when using facet measures and compare these to broad measures. If the increment in predictive validity offered by narrow traits in self-ratings applies equally to other ratings, then other ratings become even more attractive. We also need to explore more thoroughly how other ratings differ from self-ratings: do other ratings still perform fairly across different groups (e.g., are there sex or racial differences in ratings), does the rank order of applicants change from self-ratings and other ratings and to what extent does common method bias account for the increased correlations with job performance metrics? Equally, pragmatic research regarding how to source other ratings reliably is required.

Finally, we call for a tighter integration between academia, selection practitioners and test publishers. Practitioners have the ability to accelerate progress by adopting some of the approaches outlined in this chapter and collecting real-life, real-time data which can only serve to enhance our understanding of the personality-job performance link. Bridging the science-practitioner divide discussed in the introduction is paramount to the fruitfulness of our field.

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