Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Resume <> Personality
I don't know about you, but one of my least favorite forms of assessment is pouring through resumes. They're not standardized, they leave out important details, and often provide way too many details about things we don't care about. But most importantly, it just doesn't feel like a very valid way of making inferences about candidates.
There are good reasons to dislike this activity. Not only are there rampant self-inflation problems, the inferences recruiters tend to make about applicant personality are erroneous, according to a recent study. After looking at responses from 244 recruiters, the authors found several important results:
1) Low interrater reliability -- in other words, the recruiters didn't agree with each other very often about what the resume said about an applicant's personality.
2) When correlations were made between recruiters' inferences of personality with actual Big 5 scores from the applicants, low levels of validity were found (slightly better for conscientiousness and openness to experience).
3) Despite the two findings above, rater perception of extraversion, oppenness to experience, and conscientiousness predicted their assessment of employability of the applicants.
Lesson? Be very careful what you imply from a resume. Think carefully about the facts you're using to infer personality. If you must use them, screen out only those who lack the basic qualifications to do the job. Follow up the resume screen with a number of much more valid assessments--work sample tests, structured interviews, in-depth reference checks, etc.