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Types of Selection Methods
Selection methods or screening devices include application blanks, employment interviews, aptitude tests, and personality test.

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Application Forms

Application forms are a means of collecting written information about an applicant's education, work and non-work experiences, both past and present. Almost all organizations request applicants to complete an application form of some type. Application forms typically request information on an applicant's home address, last employer, previous work experience, education, military service, and other information pertinent to employment, such as names and addresses of references. The application form also serves as a guide for the employment interview.

Employment Interviews

The employment interview is a vehicle for information exchange between applicant and interviewer regarding an applicant's suitability and interest in a job the employer seeks to fill. Information provided in an applicant's application for employment can be probed more deeply in the interview, and other information relevant to an applicant's qualifications can be elicited. Since interviews can be rather flexible, any missing pieces of information about an applicant can be collected at this time.

Interview problems.
As a selection method, interviews are problematic. Research shows that interviews have good test-retest reliability (same interviewer twice) and good internal consistency reliability, but low inter-rater reliability (between different raters). The reason for low inter-rater reliability is that interviews are apt to be unstructured and subjective. A number of problems result from the unstructured nature of employment interviews. These include: (1) rater error; (2) talkative interviewer hampers collection of job-related information; (3) variance in questions asked of applicants during interview; 4) interviewer asks "trick" questions; (5) interviewer asks inappropriate questions relating to an applicant's race, religion, sex, national origin, and age.

Rater Error in Interviewing
Central tendency errors result in most applicants being rated as average. Leniency and strictness errors, on the other hand, result in most applicants being given either uniformly high or uniformly low ratings. The halo effect has the result of an applicant being seen as generally good or bad because one characteristic of the applicant overshadows all others. Contrast effects may occur if an average applicant is rated more highly than he or she deserves because he or she is interviewed after several poor applicants. Stereotyping is the tendency to compare applicants with one's stereotype of the "ideal" applicant.

Improving employment interviews.
The value of the employment interview as a selection method will increase if these guidelines are followed:

1. A structured interview guide containing questions for applicants should be used to increase the reliability of interviews.

2. Interviewers should be given complete job descriptions and job specifications for each job for which they are interviewing. This tends to reduce interviewer bias because actual requirements are spelled out in detail.

3. Interviewers should be trained in interviewing and know how to avoid errors such as talking too much and making hasty judgments.

4. Interviewers should be trained to deal with all applicants, regardless of level of qualifications, since the interview is also a public relations vehicle.

5. Interviewers should receive special instructions in properly and legally interviewing women and minorities.

Tests of Abilities, Aptitudes, and Skills

Tests used for screening applicants on the basis of skills, abilities, and aptitudes can be classified as either paper and pencil tests or job sample tests. Both kinds are scored, and minimum scores are established to screen applicants. The "cut-off" score can be raised or lowered depending on the number of applicants. If selection ratios are low, the cut-off score can be raised, thereby increasing the odds of hiring well-qualified employees.

Tests should be selected only after thorough and careful job analysis. For example, examination of a job description for an auto mechanic would probably show that manipulation of parts and pieces relative to one another and the ability to perceive geometric relationships between physical objects were required. These abilities are a part of a construct called mechanical aptitude. Various parts of mechanical aptitude can be measured using either paper and pencil or job sample tests.

Job sample tests, which require applicants to demonstrate specific job duties, can also be used to measure mechanical ability. For example, applicants for a mechanic's job could be asked to locate and fix a number of things wrong with a car or truck. Organizations can develop their own job sample tests. Closely related to job sample tests are job simulation exercises that place an applicant in a simulated job situation to see how well he or she can cope.

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Personality Test

People often believe that certain jobs require unique personalities or temperaments. For example, an accountant may be thought of as conservative, meticulous, and quiet, while a used-car salesman may be pictured as aggressive, flashy, and smooth talking. While it is probably true that some "types" of people occupy certain jobs, there is little evidence that people must have a specific personality type to be successful at a particular type of job. It is more common that the job itself shapes the job holder's behavior, and people stereotype others by their job behavior.

Nonetheless, there are two general types of personality test which are sometimes used in selection decisions. These are self-report personality tests and projective techniques. These personality measures have been used most often in the selection of candidates for managerial positions. They are also frequently used as part of assessment centers, which are a popular method of identifying potential managerial talent.

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Personality measures are not likely to be useful selection instruments for a number of reasons. First, it is difficult to demonstrate that personality characteristics are job relevant. Job specifications usually focus on skills and abilities needed for a job rather than on personality traits. Personality measures are designed to measure specific personality constructs, not typical behavior patterns associated with a job. Second, personality tests are generally less reliable than ability tests. Although an applicant's low ability may allow an interviewer to conclude with certainty that the applicant could not perform a job, one can almost never reach such a conclusion based on a low score on a personality measure.

Thomas H. Stone, Understanding Personnel Management, Dryden Press.
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