Personnel selection

Personnel selection

Personnel selection is the process used to hire (or, less commonly, promote) individuals. Although the term can apply to all aspects of the process (recruitment, selection, hiring, acculturation, etc.) the most common meaning focuses on the selection of workers.


The professional standards of industrial psychologists require that any selection system be based on a job analysis to ensure that the selection criteria are job-related. The requirements for a selection system are knowledge, skills, ability, and other characteristics, known as KSAO's. U.S. law also recognizes bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs) which are KSAOs which are truly required for successful performance (as opposed to requirements that are included maliciously or through incompetence and which adversely discriminate against a protected demographic group (men, women, people of color, etc.)).

The goal of personnel selection, as all business processes, is to ensure an adequate return on investment. In the case of selection, this entails assurances that the productivity of the new hires produce more value than the costs of recruiting, selecting, and training them. Within industrial psychology, the area of utility analysis specifically addresses this issue.

Several screening methods exist that may be used in personnel selection. Examples include the use of minimum or desired qualifications, resume/application review, scored biodata instruments, oral interviews, work performance measures (e.g., writing samples), and tests (cognitive ability, personality, job knowledge).

History and development

Selection into organizations has as ancient a history as organizations themselves. Chinese civil servant exams, which were established in 605, may be the first documented, modern selection tests. As a scientific and scholarly field, personnel selection owes much to psychometric theory and the art of integrating selection systems falls to human resource professionals.

Much of the US research on selection is conducted by members of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) Research topics include:

  • The reliability and validity of various forms of selection procedures
  • Methods for demonstrating return on investment for selection systems
  • Assessing fairness and making selection systems as fair as possible
  • Legal issues and compliance with laws
  • The generalizability of validity across different work contexts
  • Alternative methods of demonstrating validity, such as synthetic validity
  • The predictive validity of non-traditional measures, such as personality

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