Monday, January 24, 2011

January, 2011 J.A.P.: Interests, trainability tests, interns, and personality tests

The January issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology is out with some great content, so let's jump right in.

First up, an intriguing study by Van Iddekinge, et al. on an interest inventory. Even though many suspect vocational interest plays a part in motivating work behavior, historically the published relationship between interest and job performance has not been strong. The authors of this study created a new measure of interest and using a decent sample size (418) found surprisingly high (corrected) correlation values between scores and various criteria, including job knowledge, job performance, and continuance intentions (mean R = .31). Scores also predicted additional variance beyond cognitive ability and measures of the Big 5 personality dimensions. Could we be on the cusp of a revolution in measures of interest? This could help bridge the gap between KSAs and discretionary effort.

Next, Roth et al. with an update on trainability tests--their predictive validity as well as Black-White score differences. As a refresher, trainability tests are a sub-category of work sample tests that involve a structured period of learning for applicants and are designed to measure how well they can learn a new skill. Previous (limited) research indicated they predict training performance fairly well but job performance less so, and this decreases over time. However, the authors of the current study show using data from a recent video-based trainability exam that the validity may be higher than we thought. Unfortunately it also showed a high level of mean differences between Black and White applicants, matching or exceeding that typically found for cognitive ability (which the test correlated highly with).

Did someone say personality testing? (no, but you knew it was coming) Le et al. are up next with an update on the curvilinear relationship between personality scores and job performance. Using two different samples, the authors found not only the hypothesized curvilinear relationship but that the inflection point (after which the relationship disappears) occurs later in jobs that are more complex--similar to the relationship between experience and performance. So for example, scores on Conscientiousness may correlate with job performance (and OCBs, and CWBs) for higher scores than, say, a retail clerk. Important for anyone making assumptions about what personality inventory scores imply.

Next up is your second personality test article, this time by Landers et al., who provide a warning about faking. The authors noticed a new trend in responses, which they label "blatant extreme responding" (BER; not listed as an X Games sport), indicated by answering all "1"s or "5"s on an inventory. They hypothesize that this is due to a coaching rumor, which seems to have been supported by the fact that internal retesters showed a higher prevalence of BER than the general sample. On the plus side, an interactive warning seems to have reduced the spread. Hard to tell if this is anything new, since we know faking does indeed occur--the debate is over its impact on validity.

Last but not least, Zhao and Liden write about internship programs and the impression management that occurs on the part of interns as well as the organizations. Not surprisingly, interns that wished to get hired by the organization were more likely to use self-promotion and ingratiation, which increased the likelihood of receiving a job offer. Perhaps more interesting is the finding that organizations wishing to hire the interns permanently exhibited more openness to creativity on the part of the interns, which in turn increased the likelihood that interns would apply. Lesson? If you have a good intern that you want to bring on full-time, solicit and be open to their suggestions.


Richard N. Landers said...

Nice to see a year of work summarized in 4 sentences. ;) I just wanted to point out that your statement that "we know faking does indeed occur" is not quite as agreed-upon as your statement implies, at least in applicant samples. The body of empirical evidence supporting the idea that job applicants DO fake (contrasted with the many studies that show college students CAN fake) is actually surprisingly small.

BryanB said...

Thanks for the follow up, and your work on this!