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Effective Employee Selection Methods

Why would we ever want to use something like social media profiles to inform selection decisions when there are much much more accurate ways to evaluate applicant skills and fit?  One reason, we thought, might be due to the overwhelming number and type of  selection tests available.  The purpose of this article is to help deal with that clutter by presenting three of the most effective and universal employee selection tools along with the outcomes and specific requirements that you can expect when implementing each.  Although no method will ever be without drawbacks, the key is to find the one that best fits your hiring strategy and can most easily be aligned with your existing processes and procedures.

The of the most effective, valid methods of employee selection will be described below in detail.  They include:

  1. General Mental Ability
  2. Structured Interviews
  3. Situational Judgment Tests


GMA (a.k.a., cognitive ability or g) is possibly the single most effective tool for selection.  In fact, this approach is effective at predicting future performance in every type of job, at all job levels (from entry-level to CEO) and in every industry.  GMA can be assessed in a variety of ways, from 30 minute paper and pencil tests like the Wonderlic, to more expensive online computer adaptive tests.  Both computer and paper & pencil tests are equally valid, allowing organizations to select the approach that fits best.



  1. Cognitive ability is universally related to performance across all jobs and levels, from manufacturing to executive directing, agriculture to zoology
  2. GMA tests need little to no customization when used for different jobs
  3. Tests are affordable, quick, and easy 
  4. No special training is needed to administer tests (although expert guidance is usually required to build GMA testing into an organization’s selection system)


  1. It is very important to track demographics, scores, and hiring decisions because GMA tests can have an adverse impact on the selection of certain groups.  Adverse Impact occurs when a selection procedure leads to substantial disadvantage for members of a minority group.


The effects of adverse impact can be mitigated in several ways:

  1. by combining GMA tests with other selection tools
  2. by avoiding tests that require advanced English language skills
  3. by using “banding” to establish scoring clusters
  4. by using tests shown to have LOW adverse impact, such as the Wonderlic and Raven’s Progressive Matrices


Additional Information on GMA: 


These are not your standard interviews that start with “So tell me about yourself…”  In structured or behaviorally-based interviews, applicants are asked a series of specific, predetermined, job-related questions while their responses are scored using detailed criteria (often presented in a scoring guide that provides detailed descriptions on what constitutes each rating).  An “interview panel” approach is often used, where 2-3 trained managers ask the questions and score each response separately.  After the interview, their ratings are compared to determine the consistency or interrater reliability.  When responses are scored inconsistently, interviewers discuss their rationale and come to consensus.



  1. Structured interviews are extremely good at predicting performance when applied properly
  2. Scoring guides reduce the effects of personal biases from interviewing managers
  3. Applicants can be evaluated on organizational/cultural and job specific dimensions
  4. Existing competencies can be integrated into structured interviews
  5. They can be used for any type of job and at any job level
  6. They easily replace regular interviews as the final selection hurdle (and are almost 2x better at helping select high performers!)
  7. Once a structured interview process has been created, it can be used again and again
  1. Developing interview questions and scoring guidelines requires the guidance of a selection expert (e.g., conduct job analyses, interview current job incumbents to identify critical incidents)
  2. Interviewing managers must have a firm understanding of the process of structured interviewing, which may require a 1/2 day training
 Additional Information on Structured Interviews: 


These tests have been described as the multiple-choice equivalent to structured interviews.  In SJTs, applicants are asked to choose how they would respond to a variety of hypothetical situations that are relevant to the target job.  Results indicate how that particular applicant will behave when faced with particular situations and decisions.  The ability of this method to predict how applicants will respond to complicated decisions makes SJTs one of the best approaches for managerial and technical positions.



  1. Among managerial-level positions, SJTs are more accurate than any other method for predicting future performance
  2. It can be given as a paper and pencil or computer test and is relatively easy to administer
  3. Responses give you a good idea of how applicants would respond in a variety of situations
  4. Responses can provide targeted interview questions (for applicants)
  5. Results can identify areas for growth & development (when given to current employees)
  6. Once developed, a single SJT can be used again and again for applicants in the same position
  1. Because SJTs must be designed in-house through conducting a thorough job analysis, they can be costly and time consuming to create
  2. SJTs usually cannot be applied universally – they are often specific to one job (e.g., an SJT developed for a branch manager would not be valid for other positions)


YES!  It is important to note that combining more than one instrument or method can greatly improve the predictive validity of your hiring process.  For example, combining GMA tests with structured interviews will be much more effective than using either of them alone.   Also, using any of these three methods would be better than evaluating applicant resumes and giving unstructured interviews or non-validated off-the-shelf tests.


There are countless tools, methods, and approaches to making good selection decisions.  However, according to decades of applied organizational research the ones described above are the most successful, accessible methods for finding those diamonds in the rough.  It is important to note that other valid methods were intentionally left out:  Assessment Centers were not described because they are not a realistic approach for many jobs and organizations.

We have designed, developed, and validated selection processes for numerous public and private clients over the years.  To leave you, reader, with a final thought, we have found that when job analyses are used a foundation to develop (or select appropriate off-the-shelf) selection tests, they pay off big in terms of improved performance, productivity, environment, and retention.


Other articles on employee selection:

  • Christian, M. S., Edwards, B. D., & Bradley, J. C. (2010). Situational judgment tests: Constructs assessed and a meta-analysis of their criterion-related validities. Personnel Psychology, 63, 83-117.
  • Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J.E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 262-274.
  • Gatewood, R. D., Feild, H. S., & Barrick, M. (2011).  Human Resource Selection (7th ed.), South-Western Publishing.


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2 Responses to “Effective Employee Selection Methods”

  1. Robert Bullock August 27, 2012 at 12:44 am #

    Note from the author: The above list is meant to be far from exhaustive, so does anybody else have a favorite selection method or specific tool they swear by? If so, leave a comment to this blog and describe it! We might even evaluate it using current applied research and write a new article on it, giving credit to you for the idea of course.
    Happy Hiring!


  1. Personality and Job Performance | Scontrino-Powell - April 4, 2014

    […] Also, because each job can be seen as a different pie, the best selection process is always one that uses rigorous job analysis to identify the best set of predictors (which pieces are relevant for this job?) and their relative importance (how much weight do we assign each piece?), then creates a solution that evaluates applicants using multiple (>2) valid tools and techniques (e.g., reference check + cognitive ability test + personality assessment + structured interview).  To learn more about the most effective selection tools, read this article. […]

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