Attitudes Towards Personnel Selection Methods

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Blackwell Oxford, Applied APPS 0269-994X October 0 1 4 52 Original ATTITUDES MARCUS 00 International UK Psychology: Article 2003 Publishing TOWARDS Association an LtdInternational SELECTION for Applied Review METHODS Psychology, 2003

Attitudes Towards Personnel Selection Methods: A Partial Replication and Extension in a German SampleBernd Marcus*Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany

Cette recherche qui fait appel un chantillon de 213 tudiants allemands porte sur les attitudes envers un ensemble de mthodes utilises dans la slection professionnelle. Son but premier tait dapporter un nouvel clairage sur les diffrences culturelles qui marquent les ractions des candidats devant les techniques de slection en reconstituant partiellement une tude de Steiner & Gilliland (1996) qui recueillirent des valuations de lacceptation du processus pour dix procdures diffrentes auprs dtudiants franais et amricains. Des divergences signicatives sont apparues au niveau des moyennes, mais aucune structure sous-jacente ne put rendre compte de ces diffrences. En gnral, les sujets des trois nations ont note les plus favorablement les mthodes rpandues (lentretien et le C.V.), ainsi que les procdures en rapport vident avec le travail (les tests dchantillon de travail), puis les tests papier-crayon, tandis que les contacts personnels et la graphologie taient ngativement apprcis. Autre objectif important: prouver la validit des courtes descriptions des instruments de slection gnralement utilises dans les tudes comparatives portant sur ce thme. On a valu deux fois les attitudes envers quatre types de tests imprims, une premire fois aprs la prsentation de la description et une seconde fois lissue de la passation du test. La convergence prtestposttest, de basse moyenne, met en vidence de srieux problmes en ce qui concerne ces descriptions des tests papier-crayon. On aborde aussi les leons en tirer quant aux jugements sur les pratiques de slection du point de vue des candidats et pour les recherches venir.

* Address for correspondence: Bernd Marcus, Department of Psychology, Chemnitz University of Technology, Wilhelm-Raabe-Str. 43, D-09107 Chemnitz, Germany. Email: Formerly at the University of Tbingen, Germany. This research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SCHU 422/9-2; granted to Heinz Schuler) and by a doctoral scholarship, granted by the Bundesland Baden-Wuerttemberg. I am grateful to Dick Weissert and Stefan Hft for many helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and to Dirk Steiner and Stephen Gilliland for their permission to reprint parts of their original results. I also wish to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for many insightful suggestions International Association for Applied Psychology, 2003. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.



This research examined attitudes towards a variety of personnel selection methods in a German student sample (N = 213). Its rst objective was to shed further light on cultural differences in applicant reactions to selection techniques by partially replicating a study by Steiner and Gilliland (1996), who obtained ratings of process favorability for ten different procedures from two groups of French and American students. Results indicated a number of signicant mean discrepancies but no systematic pattern appeared to underlie these differences. In general, subjects in all three nations rated widespread methods (e.g. interview, rsums) or obviously job-related procedures (work sample tests) most favorably, followed by paper-and-pencil tests, whereas personal contacts and graphology appeared in the negative range. A second major objective was to examine the validity of the brief descriptions of selection instruments often used in comparative studies on this topic. Attitudes towards four different types of written tests were assessed twice for this purpose, once after presenting descriptive information, and a second time after actual test administration. Low to moderate pretestposttest convergence pointed to serious problems with these descriptions for paper-and-pencil tests. Implications for current evaluations of selection practices from the applicants perspective and for future research are discussed.

INTRODUCTIONApplicant reactions to various selection procedures have received considerable attention by I/O psychology in recent years. One reason for this emerging trend is that the rst personal contact between an employer and a prospective employee is usually established through the selection process which might affect an applicants attitudes towards the organisation and inuence his or her decision to accept a job offer (Rynes, 1993). Another cause is the growing interest in the applicants perspective on selection situations relative to that of the employer, a perspective Schuler (1993; Schuler & Stehle, 1983) labeled social validity in contrast to the more organisationcentered criterion-related validity of selection devices. According to Schuler and Stehle, applicants evaluate the selection process and the instruments applied therein on the basis of four distinguishable aspects: (1) how informative they are with respect to job requirements, (2) the degree to which it is possible to participate in the selection process and control its outcomes, (3) how transparent the methods are, and (4) whether an acceptable feedback is provided. A more recent yet highly inuential contribution is Gillilands (1993) application of justice theory to the selection process, in which he distinguished between the dimensions of procedural and distributive justice to develop a formal model of the antecedents, rules, and outcomes of applicants perceptions of the fairness of selection systems. As a consequence of these and other developments, dozens of empirical studies were conducted in the past decade to investigate the favorability of attitudes towards specic instruments, compare their relative acceptability, International Association for Applied Psychology, 2003.



and explore the bases of these evaluations (e.g. Gilliland, 1994; Harland, Rauzi, & Biasotto, 1995; Kravitz, Stinson, & Chavez, 1996; Macan, Avedon, Paese, & Smith, 1994; Ryan, Greguras, & Ployhart, 1996; Smither, Reilly, Millsap, Pearlman, & Stoffey, 1993; Whitney, Diaz, Mineghino, & Powers, 1999, to quote only a few). Among the more generalisable results from these studies are the nding that certain types of selection procedures (e.g. interviews, work sample tests) are viewed most favorably while others (e.g. graphology, polygraphs) are almost uniformly rejected, and the observation that theoretically different facets of fairness are often highly intercorrelated empirically, with face validity or perceived job relatedness playing a particularly crucial role for overall evaluations. The purpose of the present study is twofold. First, it is intended to add another piece of evidence on the relative fairness of selection procedures, as perceived by test takers, with the emphasis on cultural differences. Crossnational surveys (e.g. Lvy-Leboyer, 1994; Ryan, McFarland, Baron, & Page, 1999; Schuler, Frier, & Kauffmann, 1993; Shackleton & Newell, 1994) consistently demonstrated that the extensiveness of method use differs substantially across nations. For example, written ability and personality tests are much more extensively employed in North America than in Germany (e.g. Schuler et al., 1993, found that intelligence tests are almost exclusively used for selecting apprentices in Germany, and the usage rates of personality tests are 10 per cent or less for all job categories). Graphology as a selection device seems to be extensively used in France and the French-speaking part of Belgium (Lvy-Leboyer, 1994; Schuler et al., 1993; Shackleton & Newell, 1994), and is also employed by many Spanish companies (Schuler et al., 1993), but is very rarely used in other nations (see the above cited sources). Such differences may affect favorability, for example via mere exposure effects (Zajonc, 1968). Findings from previous investigations on test takers attitudes, mostly conducted with US samples, may therefore not generalise to other countries. The only study to date that directly compared test takers attitudes from two different nations was that by Steiner and Gilliland (1996) who had two groups of French and American students rate ten different selection methods. In the present research, one part of their study examining relative process favorability is replicated with a German sample, using the same measures and procedures as Steiner and Gilliland to provide directly comparable results. The second purpose of this paper is to highlight some methodological problems with current research on test takers attitudes. Surveys in general can only be reliable when participants are familiar with the object of attitude, that is, they know what they are talking about. Because laypeople often have a very limited knowledge of many selection procedures, this suggests the importance of administering the tests in question rst and then assessing favorability. On the other hand, it is most informative to compare ratings for a wide variety of selection methods collected from International Association for Applied Psychology, 2003.



the same sample. There is an obvious tradeoff between these two goals, since it is usually not possible in a cost-effective way to administer a large number of instruments in one study. As a consequence, most comparative studies on this topic (e.g. Fruhner, Schuler, Funke, & Moser, 1991; Kravitz et al., 1996