Biographical data, or biodata, include information about a person’s background and life history (e.g., civil status, education and previous employment), ranging from objectively determined dates - date of first job, time in last job, years of higher education - to subjective preferences, though some rule that out as invalid biodata. Some, however, suggest that all biodata must be objective and verifiable. The diversity of constructs assessed (explicitly or implicitly) by biodata is such that there is no common definition. Indeed, ‘biodata scales have been shown to measure numerous constructs, such as temperament, assessment of work conditions, values, skills, aptitudes, and abilities’ (Mount, Witt & Barrick, 2000, p. 300). Some have argued that biodata represent a more valid predictor of occupational success than traditional personality tests (Mumford, Costanza, Connelly & Johnson, 1996) and reduce any aversive impact in comparison to cognitive ability or intelligence tests (Stokes, Mumford & Owens, 1994).
Biodata enthusiasts argue that the ‘best predictor of future performance is past performance’ (Wernimont & Campbell, 1968, p. 372), and that it is one of the best routes for understanding and improving the prediction of work performance. It is the link between individuals’ life history and their performance at work (Fleishman, 1988).
Biodata are typically obtained from an application form. These are used extensively in most Western countries. In biodata terms they become weighted application blanks. The aim is to design an application form that collects only data known and shown to predict specific work-related performance. The form collects biographical information that has previously been correlated with desirable work criteria (notably job performance). Further it incorporates ‘weighted scoring’, by which questions are coded and treated as individual predictors of relevant work criteria.