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Psychological Measurement in Industry. What Do Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Do?. Industrial-organizational psychologists study organizations and seek ways to improve the functioning and human benefits of business. Psychology at Work.

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What Do Industrial-Organizational Psychologists Do?

Industrial-organizational psychologists study organizations and seek ways to improve the functioning and human benefits of business.

psychology at work
Psychology at Work
  • I/O Psychologist Improve Organizational Functioning by:
  • Recruiting people that best fit your organization
  • Selecting the best people
  • Retaining the best people
  • Developing fair, legal, and efficient hiring procedures
  • Improving the skills of the people
  • Creating a diverse, qualified workforce
selection process
Selection Process
  • Measure applicants’ qualifications
  • Select the best applicant to hire
  • For each selection method:
    • Describe the selection method
    • Rate the validity of the selection method:
      • Poor: validity coefficient = r ≈ .00
      • Moderate: validity coefficient = r ≈ .25
      • Good: validity coefficient = r ≈ .50
      • Great: validity coefficient = r ≈ .75
  • Evaluation of process
workplace testing settings
Workplace Testing Settings
  • The government & the military
    • 90% tested for federal jobs
    • 80% tested for state, county, local government
    • Largest amount of testing in military
    • Over 1 mil. per year take ASVAB
    • Military: emphasis on placement not selection
workplace testing settings cont
Workplace testing settings (cont.)
  • Testing for professional licensing
    • Over 2,000 occupations require licensing
    • In some states 25% of workforce is licensed
    • Require written & oral examinations
    • Tests prepared by licensing boards (local & national)
    • National exams better than local
    • “State of near chaos”
    • For the same job – diff’t exams, diff’t requirements
    • Little overlap between states
workplace testing settings cont7
Workplace testing settings (cont.)
  • Private organizations
    • Frequency of testing varies
    • Growing interest in testing w/ ease of web-based testing
      • Applicants are administered tests online
      • Info goes directly to hiring manager, no feedback to test-taker
      • E.g., Target, Blockbuster
approach for examining selection methods
Approach for Examining Selection Methods
  • Describe the selection device and the information that can be collected about applicants
  • Describe how to develop and use the device appropriately
  • Describe the frequency of use, reliability, validity, costs, adverse impact, and face validity (applicant reactions) of each device
  • Depth and breadth of selection plan
    • Costs, who is involved, time frame, which jobs
    • Internal vs. external selection
selection methods
Ability Tests

Job Knowledge Tests

Performance Tests and Work Samples

Personality Tests

Integrity Tests

Structured Interviews

Assessment Center

Selection Methods
application blanks r sum s
Application Blanks & Résumés
  • Routinely used
  • Focuses on basic factual information:
    • Education, training, work history, skills, accomplishments, etc.
  • Used to screen out applicants who don’t meet minimum qualifications in terms of education, experience, etc.
application blanks
Application Blanks
  • Validity: poor (typically r < .20)
    • Why?
  • Problems:
    • Lack of agreement what to look for
    • Possible discrimination
    • Need to cross validate
    • Keys are not stable over time, need to update
biodata questionnaires
Biodata Questionnaires
  • Questionnaire on applicant’s life experiences
    • Example questions:
      • Did you ever build a model airplane that flew?
      • When you were a child, did you collect stamps?
      • Do you ever repair mechanical things in your home?
    • Answers are scored according to a scoring key
  • Validity: moderate (r ≈ .30)
experience accomplishments questionnaires
Experience & Accomplishments Questionnaires
  • Questionnaire focuses on applicant’s job-related experiences & accomplishments
    • Example questions:
      • For an Information Systems Analyst position:
        • Describe the types of IT systems problems you have encountered.
        • Describe your experience in testing hardware, software, or systems.
    • Validity: moderate (typically content validity)
employment interviews
Employment Interviews
  • Universal selection procedure
  • Strong effect on selection decisions
  • Preferred by managers
  • Psychometric problems:
    • No consistency of questions
    • Questions unrelated to jobs
    • No objective scoring system
    • No interviewer training
  • Overall, the more standardized the interview, the better
interviews can
Assess Certain Characteristics

Assess Organisational & Team Fit

Satisfy Social Exchange Function

High Face Validly

employment interview
Employment Interview
  • Validity as typically done: poor (r < .20)
  • Types of employment interviews:
    • Unstructured: few (if any) pre-planned questions; commonly used; poor validity
    • Semi-structured: some pre-planned questions, but with flexibility to pursue lots of follow-ups; moderate validity
    • Structured: all questions are pre-planned; every applicant gets the same interview; some follow-up probes; answers are evaluated using numeric rating scales; good validity
structured interviews
Structured Interviews
  • Standardized method of asking same job related questions of all applicants
  • Carefully planned and constructed based on job analysis
  • Responses are numerically evaluated
  • Detailed notes are taken
example of structured interviews
Example of Structured Interviews
  • Situational:
    • Hypothetical scenarios
    • A sign of how they will behave
    • How would the interviewee behave in a critical situation?
  • Behavioral:
    • Past incidents
    • A sample of work behavior – better predictor
    • How did the interviewee behave in a specific job situation in the past?
  • Multiple raters
  • Composite ratings used to make decisions
problems with interviews
Unstructured & Unplanned

Untrained & Biased Interviewers

Same Sex Bias

Structured Means Standardised or Artificial & Inflexible

why interviews are often not valid assessments
Why Interviews are Often not Valid Assessments
  • Poor wording of questions
    • No systematic scoring system used by interviewers—very subjective
    • Applicants have been trained to give the appropriate responses to such open-ended questions
    • Interviewer has no way to verify this information in short period of time of interview
attempts to improve the interview
Attempts to Improve the Interview
  • Training Interviewers
  • Development of Appropriate Techniques:
    • Situational Interview
    • Behavior Description Interview
central issues in interview training programs
Creating an open-communication atmosphere

Delivering questions consistently

Maintaining control of the interview

Developing good speech behavior

Learning listening skills

Taking appropriate notes

Keeping the conversation flowing and avoiding leading or intimidating the interviewee

Interpreting, ignoring, or controlling the nonverbal cues of the interview

Central Issues in Interview Training Programs
evaluation of the interview
Evaluation of the Interview
  • Unstructured interviews used frequently; structured ones used less frequently
  • More structured, more reliable and valid
  • Structured interviews are highly correlated with cognitive ability tests
  • Mixed adverse impact
  • Structured interviews are costly to develop and use
  • Might be appropriate for measuring person/organization fit
ability tests
Ability Tests
  • Measure what a person has learned up to that point in time (achievement)
  • Measure one’s innate potential capacity (aptitude)
  • Up to 50% of companies use some ability testing
ability tests26
Ability Tests
  • Mental (Cognitive) Ability Tests
  • Mechanical Ability Tests
  • Clerical Ability Tests
  • Physical Ability Tests
cognitive ability tests
Cognitive Ability Tests
  • Main purpose: to determine one’s level of “g” or aptitudes depending on setting
  • Measure aptitudes relevant to the job
  • short, group administration
  • excellent predictor of job and training performance
typical cognitive abilities
Memory Span

Numerical Fluency

Verbal Comprehension

Spatial Orientation


Figural Identification

Mechanical Ability

Conceptual Classification

Sematic Relations

General Reasoning

Intuitive Reasoning

Logical Evaluation


Typical Cognitive Abilities
example of ability tests
Example of Ability Tests
  • Wonderlic Personnel Test (measures “g”)
    • 50 items, 12 minutes
    • multiple choice
    • Items cover verbal, math, pictorial, analytical material
    • Highly reliable (alternate forms > .90)
    • Correlated with job performance measures
    • Correlated with WAIS
examples of other frequently used mental ability tests
Examples of Other Frequently Used Mental Ability Tests
  • Otis-Lennon Mental Ability Test
  • General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) used by the US Employment Service
  • Employee Aptitude Survey (EAS)
advantages of cognitive ability tests
Advantages of Cognitive Ability Tests
  • Efficient
  • Useful across all jobs
  • Excellent levels of reliability and validity (.40 - .50)
    • Highest levels than any other tests
    • Estimated validity:
      • .58 for professional/managerial jobs
      • .56 for technical jobs
      • .40 for semi-skilled jobs
      • .23 for unskilled jobs
    • More complex job = higher validity
disadvantages of cognitive ability tests
Disadvantages of Cognitive Ability Tests
  • Lead to more adverse impact
  • May lack face validity
    • Questions aren’t necessarily related to job
  • May predict short-term performance better than long-term
    • can do vs. will do
frequently used general mechanical ability tests
Frequently Used General Mechanical Ability Tests
  • Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Tests
  • MacQuarrie Test for Mechanical Ability
  • What they generally measure:
    • Spatial visualization
    • Perceptual speed and accuracy
    • Mechanical information
tests of mechanical comprehension
Tests of Mechanical Comprehension
  • better than “g” for blue-collar jobs
  • Good face validity
  • Criterion validity w/ mech. job performance
  • E.g., Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test
    • 68 items
    • 30 minutes
    • Principles of physics & mechanics
    • Operations of common machines, tools, & vehicles
    • High internal consistency
    • Good criterion validity w/ job proficiency & training
clerical ability tests
Clerical Ability Tests

Predominately measures perceptual speed and accuracy in processing verbal and numerical data


  • Minnesota Clerical Test
  • Office Skills Test
clerical tests
Clerical Tests
  • 2/3 of companies use written tests to hire & promote
  • 60-80% of tests are clerical
  • Specific vs. general
  • E.g., Minnesota Clerical Test
    • 2 subtests: number comparison & name comparison
    • Long lists of pairs of numbers/names (decide if same)
    • Strict time limit
    • Reliable & valid for perceptual speed & accuracy
    • Good face validity
physical ability tests
Physical Ability Tests
  • Most measure muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, and movement quality
  • Areas of concern:
    • Female applicants
    • Disabled applicants
    • Reduction of

work-related injuries

ability tests and discrimination
Ability Tests and Discrimination
  • Differential Validity
    • Are employment tests less valid for minority group members than non-minorities?
    • Research has found that

differential validity

does not exist

comparison of mental ability tests and other selection instruments
Comparison of Mental Ability Tests and Other Selection Instruments

Mental ability tests have

high validity and low costs

compared to other methods

Biodata, structured interviews, trainability tests, work samples, and assessment centers have equal validity, less adverse impact, and more fairness to the applicant, but cost more

work sample tests
Work Sample Tests
  • How do you perform job-relevant tasks?
  • 2 characteristics:
    • Puts applicant in a situation similar to a work situation – measures performance on tasks similar to real job tasks.
    • Is it a test of maximal vs. typical performance?
  • Range from simple to complex
work sample tests41
Work Sample Tests
  • Examples:
    • For telephone sales job, have applicants make simulated cold calls
    • For a construction job, have applicants locate errors in blueprints
work sample tests42
Work Sample Tests
  • Advantages:
    • Highest validity levels (r = .50s)
    • High face validity
    • Easy to demonstrate job-relatedness
  • Disadvantages:
    • Not appropriate for all jobs
    • Time-consuming to set up and administer
    • More predictive in short-term
    • Cannot use if applicant is not expected to know job before being hired
measuring personality
Measuring Personality
  • Early research showed no validity
  • Recent research: 3 of Big 5 are predictive
  • Criterion validity: .15 - .25 (less than “g”)
  • Susceptible to faking – does not affect validity in predicting
  • Useful when dependability, integrity, responsibility are determinants of job success
myers briggs type indicator mbti
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
  • Dimensions of personality:
      • Introversion  Extroversion: source of energy
      • Intuition  Sensation: innovation vs. practical
      • Thinking  Feeling: impersonal principles vs. personal relationships
      • Judging  Perceiving: closure vs. open options
    • Validity: poor for selection; might be okay, if carefully used, to help a team work better together
the big 5 personality dimensions
The Big 5 Personality Dimensions
  • Validity: typically moderate for selection (r ≈ .25 with measures of overall job performance)
  • But, validity of personality inventories is hard to generalize
    • Some dimensions of personality may correlate more strongly with particular aspects of a particular job
    • Extraversion → success in sales
    • High conscientiousness & high openness to experience → success in job training
    • Low agreeableness, low conscientiousness, & low adjustment → more likely to engage in counterproductive work behaviors (e.g., abuse sick leave, break rules, drug abuse, workplace violence)
advantages of personality inventories
Advantages of Personality Inventories
  • Intuitively appealing to managers (e.g., MBTI)
  • No adverse impact
    • Don’t show rates of differential selection
  • Efficient
  • Moderate reliability and validity
    • Validity = .20 - .30
disadvantages of personality inventories
Disadvantages of Personality Inventories
  • Response sets
    • Lie or socially desirable responding
  • All traits not equally valid for all jobs
integrity testing
Integrity Testing
  • Why do it?
    • Employee theft estimated between $15 and $50 billion in 1990’s
    • Employee theft rate by industry: 5 to 58%
    • 2% to 5% of each sales dollar charged to customers to offset theft losses
integrity testing49
Integrity Testing
  • Purpose:
    • theft is expensive
    • also want to avoid laziness, violence, gossip
    • Honesty may not be a stable trait
    • Honesty testing is controversial
    • May depend on the situation (perceived unfairness)
    • Viewed as coercive and inaccurate
    • Honesty is a strong value in our society
honesty integrity tests
Honesty & Integrity Tests
  • Employee Polygraph Act (1988) prohibits (with some exceptions) the use of polygraph tests of applicants or employees
  • Replaced by paper-and-pencil tests:
    • Overt integrity tests: measures attitudes about dishonest behavior
      • Question: “Everyone will steal if given the chance.”
      • Examples:
        • Pearson Reid London House: Personnel Selection Inventory (PSI)
disadvantages of honesty integrity tests
Disadvantages of Honesty & Integrity Tests
  • Fakable
  • High rates of false positives
  • Some states (e.g., Massachusetts) ban it
evaluation of integrity tests
Evaluation of Integrity Tests
  • False positives: 40 to 70%, especially if cutoff scores are set high
  • Validity: difficult to determine criteria to validate against (estimates ~.13 to .55)
  • Usefulness depends on the base rate of theft occurring in particular industries (estimates range from 5% to 58%)
  • Faking: not a major issue, but probably more so for overt tests
  • Applicant reactions are usually negative
assessment center
Assessment Center

A procedure for measuring performance with a group of individuals (usually 12 to 24) that uses a series of devices, many of which are verbal performance tests

behavioral dimensions frequently measured in assessment centers
Oral Communication

Planning and Organizing


Control and Monitoring



Tolerance for stress



Behavioral Dimensions Frequently Measured in Assessment Centers
assessment centres
Work-sample test for manager positions

Measures: leadership, communication, decisiveness, organizing & planning, etc.

Developed for WW2 Officer Selection Board

Simulation Exercises Measure Competencies

Various Techniques, Candidates, Assessors & Competencies

frequently used performance tests in assessment centers
Frequently Used Performance Tests in Assessment Centers
  • In-Basket
  • Role Plays
  • Leaderless Group Discussion
  • Case Analysis
evaluation of assessment centers
Evaluation of Assessment Centers
  • Adverse Impact: not much
  • Validity: .36 and .54 (performance tests)
  • Acceptance to applicants: High
  • Costly to develop and run
disadvantages of assessment centres
Poorly Defined Competencies & Exercises

Poor Training & Selection of Assessors

Poor Selection & Briefing of Candidates


360 Degree Instruments

When a 360 makes sense

  • It is the best method to measure external behaviors. Things that are best observed and judged by others.

Problems With 360 Degree Instruments

Problems with using a 360:

  • Honesty
  • Knowledge:
    • observer’s biases and perceptions influence ratings
    • abilities can be hidden
the importance of validity
Face Validity

The method looks plausible

Content Validity

The method looks plausible to experts

Criterion Validity

The method predicts performance

Construct Validity

The method measures something meaningful

personnel selection which are most predictive



.38 to .54



.38 to .51



.41 to .50



.41 to .49



.24 to .35



.15 to .38



.15 to .31



.14 to .26



.13 to .15



.10 to .15



.00 to .10



.00 to .10



.-.01 to .00

Personnel Selection: Which are Most Predictive?


predictive validity selection tests
Combinations of methods

“g” + work samples = .63

“g” + structured interview = .63

“g” + integrity tests = .65