The Psychology of Personnel Selection

Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas and Furnham, Adrian. 2010. The Psychology of Personnel Selection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521687874 [Book]

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Abstract or Description

Since the beginning of time, individuals have had to make ‘people decisions’: who to marry, to employ, to fight. In recent decades, sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have suggested that many of these apparently (quasilogical) decisions are based on powerful people markers that we respond to, but are unaware that we are doing so. We assess people on a daily basis. There is, however, in every culture, a rich and interesting history of the techniques groups have favoured in making people decisions. Many of these techniques have quietly passed into history but others remain in use despite being rigorously tested and found wanting.

It appears that there have always been schools of thought with their ingenious methods that assess and reveal the ‘true nature’ of individuals, specifically their qualities, abilities, traits and motives. It is patently obvious that people are complex, capricious and quixotic. They are difficult to actually read, to understand and therefore to predict. Neither their virtues or values nor their potential for disaster are easily apparent. People are deceptive, both in the impression management and self-delusional sense. Some are self-aware: they know their strengths, limitations, even what really motivates them; they may even be able to report their condition. Many others are not.

Charlatans, snake-oil salesmen and their ilk find easy pickings among those who feel they need to evaluate or assess others for work purposes. The odd thing is that many of these disproved, pre-scientific, worthless and misleading systems still exist. They have advocates who still ply their trade despite lack of evidence that their systems actually work in the sense of providing reliable and valid assessments (see Section 2.6 and Figure 2.7 for an explanation of the technical meaning of ‘reliability’ and ‘validity’, which are the two main psychometric requirements that accurate instruments ought to fulfil). We shall consider some of these. These are essentially pre-scientific methods that pre-date the beginning of the twentieth century. Most have been thoroughly investigated and shown to be both unreliable and invalid. That is, there is ample evidence to suggest it is very unwise to use these methods in selection. However, they continue to be used. One reason for this is that scientific methods are often based on more common sense than these pre-scientific, counterintuitive approaches are. Ironically, counterintuitive methods and approaches have wider appeal than simple, logical methods. In that sense employers and companies are fooled by non-qualified consultants because, like Oscar Wilde, they ‘believe anything as long as it is incredible’. Some of these discredited but still used methods are reviewed in this chapter.

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January 2010

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14 Feb 2011 14:48

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06 Jun 2016 15:37


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