Personnel Psychology: Criteria for Decision-Making

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  • 0:03 What is Personnel Psychology?
  • 0:49 Quantitative Criteria
  • 2:02 Qualitative Criteria
  • 3:15 5 Steps in Criterion…
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

Personnel psychology guides human resource officers in their search for new employees. This lesson reviews how to develop criteria for decision-making in new hire selection processes.

What Is Personnel Psychology?

While the field of psychology is huge and encompasses every aspect of human interaction, personnel psychology is a specific field of psychology under the industrial or organization psychology umbrella that seeks to support the decision-making processes involved in hiring, recruitment, and evaluation of employees. Interpersonal aspects of the workplace, like morale, job satisfaction, and coworker relationships, also fall under the personnel psychology field.

In this lesson, we will focus on the aspects of personnel psychology that speak to new employee selection. What types of criteria are optimal? Is there any structure or format that is preferable when developing a selection procedure? What does personnel psychology say about criteria for decision-making purposes?

Quantitative Criteria

Consider a human resources office attempting to fill a vacant secretarial position: what criteria would officers need for selection decisions? Is typing an important part of the job? How do you know that one person is a better typist than another? Well, the best way to tell if one person is better at typing than another would be to test each applicant (or ask for test results to be submitted with the application). In this way, reviewers can compare the test scores and rank applicants based on their numerical scores. This is an example of hard criteria because it is quantitative, or objectively measurable.

Anything that can be measured and results in verifiable data is considered quantitative. Hiring criteria that are measurable and verifiable are considered hard. For example, if two reviewers compare two candidates' scores, they will rank them identically because there is no personal interpretation involved. They simply use the raw data and measurable information to make a ranking decision when it comes to job candidates.

Some examples of hard criteria that could be used in a selection decision-making process are:

  • Goal completion reports
  • Proficiency tests for software packages
  • Language proficiency
  • Years at previous positions
  • Personality inventories

Qualitative Criteria

Proficiency is important for secretarial work, but it isn't everything. A professional persona is an important criterion for a secretarial position. What test could be used to compare applicants on this criterion? Interviews and discussions with past employers work well, but how can you compare the results?

If a past employer states that an applicant was ''good'' at her professional duties, one reviewer may interpret that statement as a mediocre response, while another may score it as high praise. This is an example of a qualitative measure because the results are subjective and determined by the viewer (or reviewer in this case). No two people will come to the exact same conclusion based on these results because they are not objectively measured. It is likely, with training and discussion, that all reviewers in a single human resources department will assign generally similar scores to similar wording, but it is not guaranteed.

Any test or selection criterion that requires subjective measurement is considered a soft criterion. Some soft criteria are:

  • Interviews
  • Past performance reviews (depending on the metrics used to create the performance summary)
  • Job satisfaction

Great selection procedures use quantitative and qualitative measures as well as hard and soft criteria to compare applicants.

Five Steps in Criterion Development

While understanding different types of criteria and their strengths and weaknesses is important, how can a hiring committee know what criteria to review in the selection decision-making process? There are five steps to follow when developing criteria for a selection process:

  1. Basic information about the position
  2. Purpose of the position
  3. The position's necessary functions
  4. Minimum requirements for the position
  5. Preferred position qualifications

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