657Personnel Review, Vol. 30 No. 6, 2001, pp. 657-676. # MCB University Press, 0048-3486
Received February 2000
Revised November 2000
Accepted November 2000
Personality testing in
Problems and issues in the application of
typical selection practices
Winfred Arthur, Jr
Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station,
David J. Woehr
Department of Management, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville,
Tennessee, USA, and
William G. Graziano
Department of Psychology, Texas A&M University, College Station,
Keywords Employee selection, Individual behaviour, Personality tests
Abstract Complex issues arise when personality variables are incorporated into traditional
approaches to personnel selection. Personality assessment and testing in employment contexts is more complicated than it would appear. Rather than arguing against considering personality
variables, we focus on five problematic issues associated with their use in personnel selection. These
issues are: the appropriateness of linear selection models; the problem of personality-related selfselection effects; the multi-dimensionality of personality; bias associated with social desirability,
impression management, and faking in top-down selection models; and the legal implications of
personality assessment in employment contexts. Recommends that practitioners and researchers be
cognizant of these issues in the use of personality tests in employment decisions.
Personality is receiving renewed attention in selection and employment
contexts. A search of PsycINFO abstracts using “job performance and
personalityâ€™â€™ as keywords and limited to 1990-2000 identified 248 journal
articles and 127 dissertation abstracts for just the past ten years alone.
Taxonomic advances such as the emergence of the five-factor model (FFM) of
personality structure (Goldberg, 1993; John, 1990; McCrae and Costa, 1990; Ozer
and Reise, 1994; Wiggins and Trapnell, 1997) as well as meta-analysis based
validity evidence (e.g. Barrick and Mount, 1991; Tett et al., 1991) have played a
major role in this resurgent interest in the use of personality variables as
predictors of job performance. This renewed interest is further evidenced in the
many other primary studies (e.g. Arthur and Graziano, 1996; Digman and
Inouye, 1986; Graziano et al., 1996; Hogan et al., 1992; Mount et al., 1994; Nolan
et al., 1994) that have demonstrated relations among specified personality
variables and real world criteria of interest.
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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 11th Annual Conference of the Society for
Industrial and Organizational Psychology in St Louis, Missouri, USA, April 1997.
However, personality assessment for personnel selection purposes carries
with it several potentially problematic issues. The present paper identifies and
discusses some of the issues that arise when the assessment of personality
variables is incorporated into traditional approaches to personnel selection. We
do not argue against the importance of considering personality variables
in employment contexts. Neither is it our intent to provide an exhaustive
review of the personality literature. Rather, we focus on problematic issues
with the conceptualization and use of personality variables as they apply to
personnel selection and human resource management (HRM) researchers and
practitioners. None of these issues are new, but they appear in different forms
within the psychometric, personality, and industrial/organizational (I/O)
psychology literatures (e.g. Block, 1995; Ozer and Reise, 1994). The present
paper assembles and presents these issues in a manner that makes them salient
and accessible to both researchers and practitioners. Five major issues are
identified and discussed. These interrelated issues are:
(1) the appropriateness of linear selection models;
(2) the problem of personality-related self-selection effects;
(3) the multi-dimensionality of personality and generation of “compositeâ€™â€™
(4) the detection of bias associated with social desirability, impression
management, and faking and the use of top-down selection models; and
(5) the legal implications of personality assessment in employment
The appropriateness of linear models
Personnel selection is characterized by the use of linear models to represent the
relationship between predictors and criteria (Chaplin, 1997). These models
assume that extreme (usually higher) scores on the predictor are always more
desirable. This assumption may be useful for many variables involving
knowledge, skill, ability, and aptitude, but the assumption is particularly
problematic for personality variables. In fact, one can generate several
conceptually and theoretically sound scenarios where the relationship between
personality variables and job performance is better conceptualized as being
nonlinear. For instance, one can envisage a situation where moderate levels of
agreeableness may be related to effectiveness in customer relations, with low
and high levels of agreeableness, on the other hand, being somewhat counterproductive (Graziano et al., 1996; Graziano and Eisenberg, 1997). Is it possible
to be too conscientious to perform certain roles effectively or to be too openminded to reach decisions for action? We think so. Murphy (1996, p. 22)
comments on this possibility when he notes that an individual who is high on
conscientiousness “might be so conventional and rule-bound that he or she
cannot function in anything but the most bureaucratic settingâ€™â€™.
659Accordingly, the relations among various personality constructs and job
performance may be better conceptualized, under some circumstances, as being
nonlinear. That is, more is not necessarily better. Some “optimalâ€™â€™ level or
optimal combination of particular characteristics (that may not necessarily
include the highest score) will be best associated with job performance.
However, to identify and test for nonlinear relationships, it would be important
to formulate hypotheses for these relationships based on prior theoretical and
conceptual considerations. The failure to do this may be one of the reasons for
the rarity of nonlinear relationships in the extant literature. In support of this
reasoning, we conducted a search of the journal article abstracts of the extant
literature from 1990-2000 using PsycINFO and failed to identify even one study
that reported in its abstract to have empirically tested for the nonlinearity of
the relationship between personality variables and performance. A further
detailed search that expanded on the preceding search identified one published
article (Day and Silverman, 1989), two conference papers (Robie and Ryan,
1998; Sinclair and Lyne, 1997), and two dissertations (Robins, 1995;
Scarborough, 1996) that have explored nonlinearity in the relationships
between personality variables and job performance.
Interestingly, four of the five citations noted above found support for a
nonlinear relationship between personality variables and job performance. Day
and Silverman (1989) found impulse expression to be related curvilinearly to
two out of seven criteria (cooperation, and timeliness of work) in a sample of 43
accountants. Specifically, moderate scorers on impulse expression tended to
have higher performance ratings on the specified criteria because high scorers
tended to speak or act without deliberation, and avoided and disliked routine,
and low scorers were fearful and apprehensive, neat and systematic, rigid and
exacting Â± characteristics that were not congruent with the nature of the
effective accountant role.
In an investigation of nonlinear relationships between several personality
variables (i.e. ambition, prudence, adjustment, likeability, sociability, and
intellectance) and task and contextual performance, Sinclair and Lyne (1997)
obtained several practically significant effects of nonlinearity between these
variables. Robins (1995) presented evidence supporting a nonlinear relation
between emotional stability and job performance such that performance was
higher for individuals scoring on either end of the emotional stability range but
surprisingly lower for those scoring in the intermediate range. Scarborough
(1996) compared the performance of several linear regression models to a
nonlinear model of the relation between performance and a number of
personality-based predictors and found that the nonlinear model was
significantly better than the linear model. In contrast to the other studies, Robie
and Ryan (1998) failed to obtain any statistically significant nonlinear
relationships between conscientiousness and job performance.
We recognize that there are many studies that have investigated and
reported linear relationships between personality variables and job
performance. In fact there have been enough of these to permit their
quantitative summary in a couple of meta-analyses (i.e. Barrick and Mount,
1991; Tett et al., 1991). However, given the recent volume of research on
relationships between personality and job performance, the paucity of research
investigating nonlinear effects is quite surprising, especially given the
relatively weak obtained relationships between personality variables and job
performance. For instance, the largest estimated mean overall operational
validity reported by Barrick and Mount (1991) was for conscientiousness
(Â» Ë† 0:22), a rather weak effect (Cohen, 1992). Consequently, it is plausible
that these generally weak personality/performance relationships may be
partially explained by a failure to investigate or test for nonlinear effects or
Differential self-selection effects in personality and ability in
Both researchers and theorists have long recognized that personality can
influence the choices people make about which situations to enter or to avoid
(Allport, 1937; Caspi et al., 1989; Ickes et al., 1997; Snyder and Ickes, 1985). On
any Friday night more extraverts than introverts will choose to be at parties,
and the reverse is probably true for university libraries. Certainly self-selection
based on abilities and aptitude is not an uncommon or unexpected process in
selection contexts. The applicant pool for a chemist position in an industrial
research and development group is not likely to have many low cognitive
ability candidates. We posit that self-selection on the basis of personality is
likely to be just as common (Holland, 1997). The idea that personality is related
to career choice and subsequent performance in these careers has a long history
in vocational psychology (Borgen and Harmon, 1996; Schneider, 1987; Tokar
et al., 1998). Indeed the notion that there are different patterns of, and/or mean
differences on specified personality variables among occupational groups
is well known and drives the literature on vocational and career choice,
counseling, and adjustment (e.g. Hollandâ€™s (1997) theory). One explanation for
this is that often, as in the case of the job of police officer for example, it may
be much easier to form an implicit theory of the personality characteristics
required than the ability and aptitude requirements. Furthermore, individuals
are more likely to have a reasonably accurate perception of their temperament
and interests than of their abilities and aptitudes. From an attribution
perspective it is much less threatening (and thus, more likely) for an individual
to decide that they do not have the temperament or interests required to be a
police officer as opposed to not having the ability for the job (Paulhus and John,
Let us assume that a personnel selection team decided to assess both ability
and personality based on evidence that successful chemists tend to have
narrower interests than do other professionals, and are more introverted
(Campbell, 1971, p. 224). So to the extent that self-selection into the chemistry
profession led to fewer extraverts than introverts in the pool of chemist
applicants, the variability on the extraversion dimension will be restricted.
661This restriction of range will in turn limit the ability of the extraversion
dimension to predict job performance. From a scientific point of view, we could
certainly correct for this attenuation based on the variability on the
extraversion dimension found in the general population and thus, get a picture
of the “trueâ€™â€™ relationship between extraversion and performance. From a
practical application perspective, however, given that the limited variability
is characteristic of the population of professional chemists, the utility of
extraversion as a predictor would still be quite limited. Furthermore, if
extraversion occurs more frequently in combination with other personality
attributes like agreeableness (see next section), then these attributes may also
be restricted in range, and the prediction picture will be obscured still further.
This analysis is not intended to imply that personality should not be
assessed, or even that personality constructs are not related to the performance
of industrial chemists. This analysis suggests that prediction models involving
both personality and ability can be attenuated when situational self-selection is
not recognized. There are many reasons, however, to expect that the degree of
self-selection will be just as great for personality variables as it is for ability
variables. Self-selection and choices about situations involving personality
could conceivably be more difficult to recognize and anticipate a priori than are
corresponding choices involving ability, but this is ultimately a matter for
explicit empirical resolution. (See Snyder (1987) regarding empirical research
linking personality differences to occupation choice, and Tokar et al. (1998) for
a selective review of the personality and vocational choice literature.)
The multi-dimensionality of personality and generating a
“compositeâ€™â€™ personality score
Much of the Big Five literature treats the dimensions of personality structure as
five independent entities. Recently, however, several teams of personality
researchers have emphasized the need to take secondary factor loadings into
account, usually in the form of circumplex models (e.g. DeRaad et al., 1994;
Goldberg, 1993; Johnson and Ostendorf, 1993; Wiggins and Trapnell, 1997).
The abridged big-five circumplex model (AB5C) presented by Hofstee and his
colleagues (Hofstee and DeRaad (1991) cited in DeRaad et al. (1994); and Hofstee
et al. (1992)) consists of the ten two-dimensional circumplexes that are produced
by taking all possible pairs of the Big Five factors as coordinates. The trait
variables are represented in terms of their two highest loadings. For example,
Figure 1 (adapted from DeRaad et al., 1994, p. 95.) presents a circumplex for
extraversion and agreeableness. DeRaad et al. (1994) showed that trait terms
are not randomly or even proportionally distributed across the big five
dimensions. Some cells contain many terms, whereas other cells are virtually
empty. For example, there are many words for describing a person high in both
extraversion and agreeableness (I â€¡ IIâ€¡), but no trait words for describing a
low extraverted, high agreeable (I Â¡ IIâ€¡) person.
In expanding these circumplexes past the two dimensions illustrated in
Figure 1 to other FFM dimensions, high agreeable, low conscientious (II â€¡ IIIÂ¡)
would represent another empty cell. There are also few words to describe a
high extravert, low intellect (I â€¡ VÂ¡) configuration. These data suggest that
global, broad-brush dimensions like those assessed by the five-factor approach
contain meaningful sub-groups that cross dimensional boundaries, and these
may differ in important ways. That natural language generates distinctive
terms for such sub-groups of personality suggests that at least some of these
differences are regarded as important for predicting and understanding
behavior (e.g. Goldberg, 1981; Hogan, 1983; cf. Block, 1995).
The AB5C is still a project in development, and many uncertainties remain.
Nevertheless, enough is known now to see some implications. At the least,
precision is lost when we rely on simple-structure factor analyses of personality
structure. With this loss of precision comes error in prediction. In terms of
job performance, an agreeable extravert (I â€¡ IIâ€¡) may be a very different
person from an agreeable, conscientious person (II â€¡ IIIâ€¡). If this conjecture is
valid, then the typical practice of examining the validity of isolated, individual
personality variables, such as conscientiousness, in isolation from other
personality components is ill advised (Hogan, 1991; cf. Arthur and Graziano,
1996; for a somewhat different perspective, see Chaplin, 1997).
Another stream of research that highlights the importance of considering
configurations and interactions among personality variables is the
extraversion-neuroticism-mood states literature. Larsen and Ketelaar (1991)
apparently provide support for the argument that the extraversion/positive
affect and neuroticism/negative affect relationships are independent (see Costa
and McCrae, 1980) by using mood induction procedures to demonstrate that
extraversion was significantly related to positive affect, but not to negative
The AB5C partitioning
of the big five
663affect and that neuroticism was significantly related to negative affect, but not
to positive affect. They failed, however, to include interaction terms in their
analyses. In contrast, Hotard et al. (1989) described significant extraversion/
neuroticism interactions in predicting subjective well-being. Their results
indicated that extraversion was a strong predictor of subjective well-being
only for individuals high on neuroticism. Similarly, McFatter (1994) found
significant extraversion/neuroticism interactions such that both positive affect
and negative affect were strongly related to extraversion only among neurotic
individuals. In their totality, these findings add to the evidence that the
interpretation of marginal relations among personality constructs and outcome
measures can be misleading.
Standard multiple regression methodology certainly provides a viable tool
for examining the effect of multiple predictors along with the interactions
among them. Yet, a PsychINFO search of the 1990-2000 abstracts of the extant
literature identified only 65 studies out of 248 (26 percent) that used two or
more personality variables in combination when predicting job performance.
One plausible explanation for the failure to use a combination of multiple
personality variables in the prediction of performance may have to do with the
difficulty in deciding which constructs to use. There is certainly no dearth of
speculation on the nomological net and interrelationships among various
personality constructs, as in the work on the AB5C, outlined previously.
Nevertheless, this issue and works such as those reviewed above have failed to
influence the applied personnel psychology literature. One reason may be that
the complexity of these conceptualizations precludes (or at least greatly
reduces) their applicability. Certainly one of the strengths of the I/O psychology
literature is the concern with theory implementation and applicability. Still,
it may be unwise to implement an overly simplistic conceptualization of
personality simply for the sake of applicability (cf. Chaplin, 1997).
Another domain where the use of the totality of personality instead of
single facets or variables is particularly relevant is the person-organization fit
literature. Person-organization fit refers to the compatibility between people
and organizations (Kristof, 1996). One operationalization of this fit is the match
between the characteristics of individual personality and organizational
climate Â± sometimes referred to as organizational personality (e.g. Bowen et al., 1991). In selection contexts, various assessment tools, including standardized
personality measures, may be used to select individuals whose personalities are
compatible with the organizational culture, climate, goals, and norms. By its
very nature then, the person-organization fit framework would seem to require
the use of the totality of an applicantâ€™s personality (i.e. multiple personality
variables or dimensions) in making these assessments.
As previously noted, when criteria are available, multiple regression
procedures can be used to combine multiple personality variables in a
prediction model. In the absence of criterion data, however, the options for
combining multiple personality variables appear to be limited to profile
matching or profile similarity indices which typically involve trying to match
applicant personality profiles with known group profiles. Thus, the use of
profile/pattern matching or profile similarity indices (which are applied
extensively with measures such as the Guilford-Zimmerman temperament
survey (GZTS) (Guilford et al., 1978), are an attempt to combine two sets of
multiple personality dimensions (e.g. profiles) representing, for example, an
applicant and “idealâ€™â€™ employee, into a single score or index to obtain
information on the degree of congruence, similarity, or match between the two
Profile similarity indices used in congruence research can be classified into
one of two categories Â± those representing the correlation between the two
profiles and those based on the sum of differences between profile elements (i.e.
personality variables/dimensions) (Edwards, 1993). Edwards (1993) presents
a detailed description and review of specific indices of these two types of
profile similarity indices along with a discussion of methodological problems
associated with their use in congruence research including discarding
information regarding the absolute level of the profiles along with the direction
of their difference, and with correlations, the magnitude of the difference as
well. He also notes that profile similarity indices mask which elements are
responsible for the differences between the profiles. Given these methodological
problems, Edwards (1993) recommends polynomial regression procedures and
shows how they may be used to avoid the problems with profile similarity
indices while capturing the underlying relationships profile similarity indices
are intended to represent. (The reader is referred to Edwards (1993) for a more
in-depth, detailed coverage of these issues. Also see Kristof (1996) for additional
discussion of these issues and some limitations associated with polynomial
Let us offer a summary of the multidimensionality issue. On the positive
side, recent structural analyses in personality theory recognizes the complexity
and interconnection among personality dimensions. Researchers in the
personality area like Goldberg, Hofstee, DeRaad, and others show a genuine
appreciation for the complexity of personality structure as an integrated
adaptation among the diverse elements that compose a total personality (see
Sarason et al., 1996). On the negative side, complex models of personality
structure like the AB5C may be more attractive to academics than to applied
professionals; these models will be nearly impossible to use in applied settings
until there are corresponding advances in prediction models and methods. As
I/O psychologists and HRM professionals have known for years, precise
description does not translate easily into precise prediction. Nevertheless, the
importance of using configurations and the totality of personality, as opposed
to single dimensions, is highlighted by Hogan et al. (1996, p. 470), who offered
the following example:
. . . persons with high scores on a measure of integrity will follow rules and be easy to
supervise, but may be poor service providers because they tend to be inflexible in following
rules. Similarly, persons with high scores on measures of service orientation will be tolerant,
patient, and friendly, but they may not work very hard.
665We do not deny that in predicting performance in a particular job, some
dimensions may be either irrelevant or less relevant than others. Given the
framework of the five-factor model, however, it is highly unlikely that only one
dimension will be important for successful performance and even more
unlikely that simple main effects will provide a complete picture.
Thus, although it has been repeatedly demonstrated in multiple primary
studies (see Hogan and Ones (1997) for a review) and meta-analyses (e.g.
Barrick and Mount, 1991; Tett et al., 1991) that conscientiousness is a valid
predictor of job performance across many different jobs, the amount of
variance explained has been relatively small Â± only about 5 percent.
Furthermore, even some of the work on integrity tests suggests that multiple
dimensions of the FFM operate in the prediction of various criteria. For
instance, Ones et al. (1993) note that personality-based integrity measures
typically represent composite measures of personality dimensions such as
conscientiousness, sociability, adjustment, and trustworthiness.
The detection of faking and the use of top-down selection models
In the older personality research, one method used to detect response
distortions in self-reports on measures was the inclusion of “lieâ€™â€™ and “social
desirabilityâ€™â€™ scales in personality inventories (Paulhus, 1991; Verma, 1977).
The early versions of “lieâ€™â€™ scales, which have been synonymously referred to as
“social desirabilityâ€™â€™, “motivational distortionâ€™â€™, “virtueâ€™â€™, “fakingâ€™â€™, and “response
validityâ€™â€™ scales, have been included in several widely used personality
inventories such as GZTS (Guilford et al., 1978); the California personality
inventory (CPI) (Gough, 1996); the personality research form (PRF) (Jackson,
1967); the Hogan personality inventory (HPI) (Hogan and Hogan, 1992); the
occupational personality questionnaire (OPQ) (Saville and Holdsworth, 1992);
the Manchester Personality questionnaire (MPQ) (CIM-Test-Publishers, 1996);
and even the NEO-FFI (Costa and McCrae, 1991), which uses a single item
(“Have you responded accurately and honestly? Yes or noâ€™â€™) to assess the extent
of response distortion. Researchers and practitioners examine respondentsâ€™
scores on these lie scales to determine if the inventory has been answered
honestly. If a predetermined score on the scale is exceeded, it is inferred that the
respondent may not have answered other items on the inventory truthfully.
In more recent work, however, personality researchers have recognized that
some forms of dissimulation may be systematically related to other aspects of
personality. In particular, work by Delroy Paulhus and his colleagues (Paulhus,
1986, 1991; see also Paulhus et al., 1997; Paulhus and John, 1998) has
demonstrated differences among two major kinds of dissimulation, which
Paulhus labels “impression managementâ€™â€™ and “self-deceptionâ€™â€™, respectively.
Some of the older measures of social desirability responding (e.g. MarloweCrowne scale (Crowne and Marlowe, 1960); Snyderâ€™s (1974) self-monitoring
scale) do not clearly differentiate between these two processes in their
assessments. In part, Paulhusâ€™s distinction is related to a test-takerâ€™s presumed
conscious strategy for dissimulation. In impression management (e.g. Snyder,
1974), a test takerâ€™s self-report may be based on active attempts to create an
image as a hard-working, conscientious, industrious, punctual person, knowing
full well that she is typically none of these things. Here impression
management is in the service of pleasing a prospective employer, and the selfdescription could change depending on the perceived desires of another
prospective employer. In self-deception, a test-taker may be less aware of the
motivational processes leading to distortions, but distortions may be apparent
to expert and peer raters. Defensiveness is more closely related to self-deception
than to impression management (Paulhus, 1991; Paulhus et al., 1997).
The older literature seemed to have been concerned with conscious
dissimulation, and thus may have been more likely to assess impression
management processes than defensive and self-deceptive processes. For
example, research that asks participants to fake a response assumes that
participants can consciously alter their responses in the service of the
requirements of the experiment. Nevertheless, such research can provide useful
information. There is evidence that intercorrelations among personality
dimensions and lie scales increase under instructions to fake (e.g. Michaelis
and Eysenck, 1971). In a meta-analysis, Stanush (1996) demonstrated that when
respondents were instructed to fake, there was a stronger relationship between
lie scales and other personality inventory scales (r Ë† 0:34), compared to
respondents instructed to answer truthfully (r Ë† 0:09). Furthermore,
instructions to fake resulted in elevated scores on both social desirability
scales (d Ë† 0:82) and scores on the Big Five personality factors (d Ë† 0:29, 0.53,
0.29, 0.36, and 0.28, for agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion,
emotional stability, and openness, respectively). For the FFM dimensions,
conscientiousness demonstrated the highest elevation in scores.
To summarize, the extant literature demonstrates that although the
tendency to respond favorably is correlated with stable personality traits (Ones
et al., 1996; Paulhus et al., 1997), faking can also be situationally induced by
either the motivation of the participant (applicant) to present him/herself in a
favorable light or by the experimental instructions to do so (Douglas et al., 1996; Hough et al., 1990). Consequently, in the realm of personality research and
measurement, extremely high scores on specified constructs of interest are
typically considered to be indicative of faking or otherwise responding in some
sort of socially desirable or biased manner. These elevated scores are presumed
to be produced by some kind of response bias. Therefore, a common practice,
again in personality research, is to eliminate individuals with elevated scores
from the sample or otherwise statistically control for this response bias.
Douglas et al. (1996) highlight the conceptual and empirical basis for this by
demonstrating that under conditions of faking, the coefficient alphas of a
measure of conscientiousness and agreeableness increased. However, the
construct-related and criterion-related validities of the scales decreased. Similar
results were reported by Stanush (1996); the sample-weighted mean criterionrelated validity for honest conditions was 0.35 compared to 0.09 for faking
conditions. (These meta-analyses were based on 15 data points for each
667condition and the sample sizes were 1,368 and 1,312 for the honest and faking
A common practice in I/O psychology and HRM is the use of top-down
selection models which call for the ranking of test takers on their test scores
and selecting those with the highest scores until all the openings are filled. This
method of selection produces the highest overall selection utility (Murphy et al., 1995; Sackett and Wilk, 1994; Schmidt, 1991). An issue of relevance here, in the
context of personality assessment, is the extent to which deliberate distortion
or faking occurs on the personality measures, the effect of faking on the
criterion-related validity and utility of these measures, and the effect of faking
on who gets hired. The evidence is clear that people can fake when instructed to
do so by a researcher. It is also reasonably well documented that in applicant
and other employment situations where the individual is motivated to obtain a
valued outcome such as employment or promotion, response distortion can
and often does occur (Bass, 1957; Christiansen et al., 1994; Mahar et al., 1995).
However, the magnitude of distortion is not as large in real-life contexts/
settings as it is in experimentally, instructionally-induced situations (Stanush,
1996). Several writers have demonstrated that criterion-related validities of
personality measures in real-life employment situations are not seriously
affected by faking or response distortion (e.g. Hough, 1998; Hough et al., 1990;
Ones et al., 1996), but legitimate concerns still remain. For instance, in a recent
field study using the NEO-PI-R, Rosse et al. (1998) showed that faking among
job applicants was much greater than that among job incumbents, that there
were significant individual differences in faking, and that faking among job
applicants had a significant effect on who was hired. Christiansen et al. (1999)
in a study of police academy recruits found that the positive relationship
between a personality composite score and performance found for the total
sample (n Ë† 442, Â» Ë† 0:18) was near zero in the upper half of the personality
score distribution (n Ë† 214, Â» Ë† 0:02) and was actually negative among the top
53 scorers (Â» Ë† Â¡0:80). On the other hand, the relationship between the
personality composite and social desirability was stronger in the upper half
(n Ë† 214, Â» Ë† 0:37) and much stronger among the top scorers (n Ë† 53,
Â» Ë† 0:77). The correlation between social desirability and the personality
composite in the total sample (n Ë† 442) was 0.31. (Christiansen et al.â€™s (1999)
correlations were corrected for range restriction in the personality composite
(Â») using the total sample to estimate the unrestricted variance.)
From an I/O psychology/HRM perspective, findings such as Christiansen
et al.â€™s (1999) are an important concern because those individuals who distort
their responses will be at the top of the distribution, and with a top-down
selection strategy, are the ones who will be hired first. In fact, as noted by
Hough (1998, p. 212), “. . . [i]n a situation where only the top 5% or 10% are
hired, it is possible that only those applicants who seriously distorted their selfdescriptions are the ones hiredâ€™â€™, raising grave concerns about the construct
validity of the test. Alternately, they may not have high true scores on the
construct being measured, but applying the personality practice of eliminating
high scorers as fakers would suggest that we exclude “highâ€™â€™ performers.
This issue is even more salient with the use of integrity tests that often
contain “admissionsâ€™â€™ sub-scales, which are, essentially self-report measures of
participantsâ€™ honesty. On these scales, individuals who report that they are
dishonest receive lower scores than those who report that they are generally
honest. However, many of the tests also penalize individuals who report
extreme honesty. For instance, answering “trueâ€™â€™ to the statement “I have never
stolen anythingâ€™â€™ is assumed by some tests to be indicative of lying or response
distortion. Although the use of “lie scalesâ€™â€™ may help to control for response
distortion among low-integrity test takers it may also screen out extremely
high-integrity test takers. In fact, Lilienfeld et al. (1995) argue that integrity
tests may erroneously screen out highly religious and/or ethical persons. Thus,
the implications of the conflict arising from these two positions (i.e. applying
top-down selection rules and selecting a lot of “fakersâ€™â€™ or rejecting high scorers
as “fakersâ€™â€™) are obvious.
Legal implications of personality assessment in employment
The legal implications associated with the use of personality tests in
employment contexts is by definition going to be country-specific simply
because of differences in employment-related legislation. Specifically, antidiscrimination laws and their enforcement differ widely across countries. An
excellent summary of discrimination prohibitions in a selected group of 12
countries is provided by Pincus and Belohlav (1996) and we encourage the
reader to consult their article for more details. We discuss the legal implications
of employment-related testing within the context of the USA; however, we
think the basic underlying conceptual issues should be of general broad
interest and relevance.
In the USA, one of the commonly touted advantages of the use of personality
testing in employment contexts is that these constructs and associated tests are
less likely to display the levels of adverse impact against protected groups that
are typically obtained with measures of other constructs like cognitive ability
(Hogan, 1991), subsequently reducing potential legal problems (cf. Ryan et al., 1998). In fact, Hogan et al. (1996, p. 475) go as far as to state that:
. . .we want to suggest in the strongest possible terms that the use of well-constructed measures of normal personality in preemployment screening will be a force for equal
employment opportunity, social justice, and increased productivity.
In spite of statements such as these, there are a number of unresolved legal
issues associated with personality assessment and testing in employment
contexts. First, there are certainly legal implications associated with rejecting
high scorers as “fakersâ€™â€™. Rejecting a job applicant because they scored too high
on a selection test would seem very unusual to most people, especially when the
selection system is based on a linear, top-down model.
669Second, the often touted absence-of-adverse-impact advantage of personality
tests and variables may be one that is limited to race. For instance, although the
Black-White difference on integrity tests, in terms of d, is typically 0.0, the
male-female difference on measures of dominance is typically 0.5 (Sackett and
Ellingson, 1997; Sackett and Wilk, 1994). Table 2 in the Sackett and Wilk (1994)
paper presents additional male-female differences on various personality
measures commonly used in personnel selection including the CPI, GZTS, PRF,
and the 16 personality factor questionnaire (16PF). The authors note that the
findings are mixed, but for some personality variables, the differences are quite
sizeable. For example, for masculinity-femininity scales (which were explicitly
designed to differentiate between males and females), standardized mean
differences (i.e. d) on the CPI and the GZTS were 1.95 and 2.08, respectively.
Although relatively smaller in magnitude, there are some male-female
differences on the five factors of the NEO-FFI. Specifically, these differences are Â¡0:39 on neuroticism, Â¡0:16 on extraversion, 0.07 on openness, 0.37 on
agreeableness, and Â± 0.16 on conscientiousness.
Examples such as those presented above, are the reasons why the use of subgroup norms and interpretation tables are standard and common practices in
personality assessment and theory in nonemployment contexts (e.g. in the
fields of personality, clinical, and social psychology). In these domains, it is
theoretically recognized that sex differences exist on a number of personality
dimensions (e.g. aggression, nurturance, agreeableness, masculinityfemininity). In these domains, the theoretical rationale is that a given score has
different psychological meaning from one group to the next. Consequently, the
most appropriate way to interpret an individualâ€™s score is within the context of
their group. The masculinity-femininity dimension is an illustrative exemplar
of this perspective. For example, masculinity-femininity typically represent the
poles of a single dimension such that for females, a low score would receive a
“favorableâ€™â€™ interpretation and a high would receive an “unfavorableâ€™â€™
interpretation. The converse would be true for males. This illustrates that from
the test developersâ€™ perspective, the only meaningful way to interpret scores on
this dimension is in terms of oneâ€™s standing within oneâ€™s sex-group. On the
basis of this perspective, the scoring of personality measures using sex-specific
norms is fairly common in personality research. As noted by Sackett and Wilk
(1994), this may reflect the fact that most personality tests were developed for
the purposes of describing the individual rather than the prediction of future
job or employment performance.
However, in the context of title I of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1991 in the
USA, the implementation of this perspective in employment settings raises a
number of interesting issues. Specifically, Section 106 of the CRA of 1991 states
that it is unlawful practice for an employer:
. . . in connection with the selection or referral of applicants or candidates for employment or promotion to adjust the scores of, use different cutoffs for, or otherwise alter the results of
employmentrelated tests on the basis of race, color,religion, sex, or national origin.
Sackett and Wilk (1994) note that this:
. . . ban on score adjustment was a direct response to the USES GATB [US Employment
Service General Aptitude Test Battery] system [i.e. within-group norming]. There is no
evidence that there was broader consideration of the implications of the Act for any other
setting [tests] than the use of cognitive ability testing. (p. 943; text in brackets added).
As previously noted, the problem is that in personality research it is standard
practice to report separate normative data for males and females (for example
see test manuals for the GZTS, CPI, and NEO-FFI). Furthermore, some widely
used measures like the GTZS and CPI have masculinity-femininity scales
which are interpreted very differently for males and females. In the parlance of
the CRA of 1991, different cutoff scores are being used, and test scores are
being adjusted on the basis of sex; these are practices that are explicitly stated
as being unlawful.
This issue suggests a conflict between law and science. In personality
research the practice of using separate normative data to interpret the scores of
males and females has a sound theoretical and conceptual basis and is not done
either capriciously or casually. However, it appears to have been caught up in
an oversight in a piece of legislation whose primary intent was to prohibit race
norming on ability and aptitude tests like the general aptitude test battery
(GATB). How are test developers addressing this issue? One way is by simply
aggregating their male and female normative data to generate sex-neutral
norms (for example, see the NEO-FFI test manual). This practice may meet the
legal stipulations of the CRA of 1991, but it flies in the face of personality
theory and measurement. Another approach to addressing this issue is Sackett
and Wilkâ€™s (1994, p. 952):
. . . recommended interpretation of the act: Section 106 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 should
be interpreted as prohibiting after-the-fact score adjustments undertaken solely to reduce or eliminate adverse impact. Taking group membership into accountis permitted if doing so can
be shown to increase accuracy of measurement or accuracy of prediction without increasing
the adverse impact of the test..
In short Sackett and Wilk (1994) appear to be taking the position that the CRA
of 1991 does not prohibit within-group norming within the context of
personality testing since it is not done solely to reduce adverse impact; instead,
the use of group membership to adjust or interpret scores on personality
dimensions is done in order to increase the accuracy of prediction of job or
employment performance. It should be noted that this is Sackett and Wilkâ€™s
interpretation and that this position has not been tested in any court cases of
which we are aware.
Two other related legal issues are those pertaining to invasion of privacy
and the Americans with disabilities act (ADA). These issues are neither
unresolved or in the case of privacy issues, particularly unique to personality
testing. However, they are briefly discussed here because they have received
some attention in the recent literature. In the context of personality testing for
personnel selection or employment-related decision making, invasion of
671privacy is an issue only to the extent that test items are non-job-related (e.g.
those pertaining to religious preferences or sexual orientation). This issue is
also more germane to clinical tools like the MMPI which were developed for
diagnostic and not selection or other employment-related decision making
purposes (Brown, 1996; Sackett and Wanek, 1996).
In reference to ADA, measures of normal personality are not considered to
be medical exams and, therefore, are not covered by ADA (Brown, 1996; Hogan
et al., 1996). On the other hand, as with the invasion of privacy issue, the use of
clinical diagnostic measures like the MMPI are precluded because the current
interpretation of ADA based on recent legal developments considers tests
originally designed to detect mental illness to be medical examinations even if
the employer is currently using them for other purposes (Sackett and Wanek,
1996). Finally, Sackett and Wanek (1996) in their review of the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ADA enforcement guidance (EEOC,
1994, 1995) note that although a test may not be a medical examination (as
noted previously), the presence of individual items on the test dealing with the
existence of a disability (e.g. extent of prior illegal drug use or current or prior
alcohol use) may call for an item-level review.
In summary, legal concerns pertaining to issues of privacy and ADA are less
germane when dealing with tests of normal personality. Thus, in contrast to the
MMPI for example, these are tests that were not developed for clinical or
diagnostic purposes, but instead were designed for the assessment of normal
personality. This is the focus of modern personality psychology which is
concerned with the dynamics of everyday behavior and is, consequently, more
relevant to I/O psychology and HRM. So the message to the researcher and
practitioner in employment-related contexts is that in order to avoid the ADA
restrictions imposed on medical examinations, one should use measures of
normal personality instead of those developed for clinical and diagnostic
Personality differences are receiving increasing attention from professionals
concerned with employment-related decision making. This attention is justified
in part by research showing that personality variables are related to job
performance, and in part by consensus on the aspects of personality worthy of
such attention. In a sense the new interest in personality variables is an
extension of the traditional interest of employment professionals in individual
difference predictors. However, this paper suggests that caution must be
exercised in the way personality variables are conceptualized and used in
employment settings. Several distinctive characteristics of personality testing
raise important conceptual, methodological, and practical questions. A general
implication is that personality assessment and testing in employment contexts
is more complicated than it would appear. Practitioners and researchers must
be cognizant of these issues in the application of personality tests to
employment decision making.
The five issues raised here are interrelated. Each of these issues is important,
but it will be more useful in the long run to confront the issues as a set rather
than separately. For employment professionals, a top priority is utility.
Assessments must be efficiently deployed, with a reasonable prospect for a
profit on the costs of personality assessment. Efficient or not, assessments
must be aligned with legal requirements. Efficient assessments must not be
purchased at the price of inaccurate measurement of individuals. For example,
we might recognize that personality structure is better seen as a configuration
than as a series of quasi-independent dimensions. Configural approaches to
personality structure such as the AB5C may provide more realistic models than
simple, global, “main effectsâ€™â€™ approaches, but do not lend themselves easily to
current linear modeling procedures; the point being that we must carefully
tread the fine line between scientific rigor and practical application. At the
same time, however, those focusing on the practical utility of personality for
personnel decisions must be careful not to limit this utility by fixating on
“typicalâ€™â€™ selection practices. It is likely that the maximum impact in this area
will not stem solely from utilizing personality variables in selection practices,
but from the expansion of selection practices to meet the requirements of
The complexity of these issues and the import of their implications are
daunting, but the problems are not insurmountable. At the same time, as the
issues are debated and considered, personality assessment should be done by
professionals with appropriate training, and not treated with cookbook
approaches that include the rendering and delegation of administration,
scoring, and use of personality to clerical functions.
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- Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
- Subject-relevant academic writer
- Adherence to paper instructions
- Ability to tackle bulk assignments
- Reasonable prices
- 24/7 Customer Support
- Get superb grades consistently
Online Academic Help With Different Subjects
Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.
Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.
While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.
Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.
In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.
Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.
We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!
We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.
Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.
What discipline/subjects do you deal in?
We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.
Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?
Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.
What if I don’t like the paper?
There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.
- When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
- We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.
In the event that you don’t like your paper:
- The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
- We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
- Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.
Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?
Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.
What if the paper is plagiarized?
We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.
When will I get my paper?
You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.
Will anyone find out that I used your services?
We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.
How our Assignment Help Service Works
1. Place an order
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
2. Pay for the order
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
3. Track the progress
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
4. Download the paper
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.