Emotional Intelligence Leads to Good Moods and Creativity in the Workplace

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology, 2015
Article: Regulating and Facilitating: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Maintaining and Using Positive Affect for Creativity
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Emotional intelligence is good for influencing many workplace outcomes, but can it really lead to creativity in the workplace? Some past researchers believed that the two had nothing to do with each other. They said that emotional intelligence was about figuring out the single best way to handle an emotional situation and creativity was about brainstorming many different ways of doing things. These almost sound like opposite strategies. But new research (Parke, Seo, Sherf, 2015) has found that skills and strategies associated with emotional intelligence can ultimately lead to more creativity in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence refers to the way that people effectively manage their emotions and successfully navigate emotional situations. The study focused on two different things that people with emotional intelligence do, emotional regulation and emotional facilitation. People who are good at emotional regulation can manage their own emotions, or the emotions of other people. For example, during a rough day, they probably have some good strategies for making sure that the potential negative emotions do not ruin the workday. Similarly, they might have ways to deal with the negative emotions of coworkers or supervisors, and make sure that their own emotions remain positive. Emotional facilitation refers to the ability to use emotions toward productive thinking and sound decision making.



This study was conducted on young business professionals and used elaborate data collection techniques that included different sources of data (for example, self-report and managerial ratings) and different ways of collecting the data (for example, both tests and surveys).

The first major finding of the study is that emotional regulation oftentimes leads to improved mood. The researchers found that work environments which call for a low degree of creativity or a high degree of “information processing” (work based on monitoring or using specific information) can prevent many employees from maintaining good moods. This is not surprising; sometimes boring work just gets you down. However, employees who are better at emotional regulation will find strategies that help them deal with more monotonous work. These people will be able to achieve and maintain good moods despite their work responsibilities.

The second major finding in this study is that people who are good at emotional facilitation will be better equipped to turn good moods into workplace creativity. These people will recognize that a good mood provides the perfect boost for doing work that requires persistence, like idea generation or other creative endeavors. On the other hand, people who are not good at emotional facilitation—in other words they are poor at using emotions to do better work—might use their good mood to convince themselves that minimal effort is actually good enough and that they have already achieved success.



This study shows two ways that emotional intelligence can improve the workplace, especially in regards to creativity. Emotional regulation can lead to better moods, and emotional facilitation can help translate better moods into creative output. The authors say that this has several implications for the workplaces that want to foster creativity among their employees. The first is that organizations who require creativity may want to consider hiring employees who have emotional intelligence abilities.

The second implication is based on the fact that the emotional intelligence factors in the study are not merely traits that people are born with, but instead the authors refer to them as abilities that can be trained. While some people might naturally possess higher degrees of emotional intelligence, the rest of us can use various strategies that can maximize our ability to be emotionally intelligent. As an example, the authors mention cognitive reframing, which is a strategy used by emotionally intelligent people that involves “looking on the bright side”. A difficult task might be seen as a challenge or opportunity for growth instead of an annoyance. Organizations can help train their employees to use similar strategies which will help them become more emotionally intelligent, and as this study concludes, more likely to come up with the next big creative idea.

Which Type of Personality Leads to Workplace Safety?

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: A Meta-Analysis of Personality and Workplace Safety: Addressing Unanswered Questions
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Workplace safety is a major concern for organizations. Accidents involving employees can jeopardize the safety of everyone at work, and be enormously costly for employers, in terms of lawsuits, insurance, and lost productivity. Research has long extolled the virtues of creating a safety climate, which means setting organizational policy to reflect the fact that safe behavior is important, expected, and will be rewarded. But there is another way to make sure that employees engage in safe practices on the job. We can hire “safer” people in the first place. The authors of the current study (Beus, Dhanani, & McCord, 2015) wanted to identify the personality traits that are associated with safe behavior.



In this study, the authors didn’t just consider workplace accidents as an outcome. It’s because accidents can be caused by a variety of factors that are beyond an employee’s control. For example, perhaps a machine was built with a fatal flaw that only became known after an accident. Or perhaps an employee was following the proper protocol leading up to an accident, but the people who designed the training made an error. For this reason, it makes more sense to study the safe or unsafe behavior itself, in addition to the outcomes. Which people were more likely to engage in workplace behavior that is defined as safe, and stay away from behavior that is considered unsafe?

The authors conducted a meta-analysis, which means compiling results from many different previous studies. The logic here is that results are more reflective of the truth when they are averaged across many different scenarios. They first ascertained the relationship between safety behavior and the “big five” broad personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

People who had higher amounts of extraversion and neuroticism had higher levels of unsafe behavior. The authors say that extraverted people have a need to “get ahead” and achieve higher status, and may compromise safety in order to accomplish this. They say that neurotic people have a propensity to be consumed with worry and anxiety, and they may become distracted as a result. They also are more likely to let anger lead to impulsive and irrational choices, which can easily be problematic when safety protocols need to be followed carefully.

On the other hand, people with higher levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness had less unsafe behavior. The authors say that agreeable people are more cooperative and more easily see the need to benefit the team as a whole. For this reason, they refrain from unsafe behavior which may compromise the safety and productivity of the entire organization. Conscientious people are naturally meticulous about following rules, and also understand that compromises in safety will not improve the organization’s likelihood to achieve in the long run. That makes them more likely to avoid risky or unsafe behavior.

Openness to experience is the need to be adventurous and individualistic. Interestingly, it was not found to be related to unsafe behavior. This was the case despite the authors’ prediction that it would lead to more unsafe behavior.



This study shows that certain types of people are safer than others. If that’s the case, organizations can design selection systems to identify these safe people and hire them instead of the unsafe people. In short, four of the five major personality traits seem to predict safety-related behavior. In direct comparison, it was agreeableness and conscientiousness that had the strongest ability to predict (these are the safe people), whereas extraversion and neuroticism had a somewhat weaker ability to predict (these are the unsafe people). That being said, organizations should primarily look for people who are conscientious and agreeable if they want to cut down on workplace accidents. In addition, avoiding extraverted or neurotic people may also help a little bit.

Another finding from this study was that the effects of a safety climate (or the organizational practices) were more influential in predicting behavior than the personality traits, although the personality traits did still matter. This means that organizations are not resigned to firing all of their unsafe employees and starting over. By showing that the organization values safe behavior through training, feedback, and rewards, an organization establishes a safety climate, which is actually the biggest predictor of a safe workplace.

The Strange Story Behind Situational Judgment Tests: What Do They Really Measure?

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: How “Situational” Is Judgment in Situational Judgment Tests?
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Situational judgment tests are often used during employee selection. They present the job applicant with a series of situations that may be encountered on the job. For example, one situation might include an anecdote about a co-worker encouraging you to steal. For each situation, several different responses are listed. Applicants simply choose the response that seems most appropriate. Because these tests are (hopefully) designed by I-O psychologists or other highly trained experts, certain answers are designed to reflect behavior that is consistent with good job performance. The more the applicant choses these “good” answers, the more certain we are that the applicant will succeed on the job if hired.


The theory behind situational judgment tests is that applicants who score well are better equipped with knowledge that is very specific to the job. It’s not that the high scoring applicant is necessarily smarter, or has greater social tact. Instead, we believe that the high-scoring applicant has a certain kind of knowledge or skill that is useful for succeeding at the very specific situations that will be encountered on the job. However, new research (Krumm et al., 2015) showed that our assumptions about situational judgment tests may be wrong.



The researchers presented scenarios from real situational judgment tests, and investigated what would happen if they left out the situational anecdote and simply offered the behavioral responses. They wanted to know if people could identify the best answer without even knowing the question. As an example, here’s one that I just made up off the top of my head for my fictional new company:


Which would you do?

  1. Calmly reassure my boss that I would continue to work hard for the company and not let my disappointment interfere with my effectiveness on the job.
  2. Firmly grab my boss by his shoulders and scream in his face, reminding him that I am the very best employee and will absolutely not tolerate being marginalized in any conceivable way.
  3. Lay down on the floor in the fetal position and start crying.


So, which is it? If you want to work for my company, you’d need to have chosen ‘A’. I’m guessing that you knew that, even without the paragraph-long situational scenario asking you how you’d respond after your boss informs you that there will be no holiday bonus this year. Although this example sounds silly, it’s not that different from what the researchers were able to discover.


The researchers conducted several studies using real situational judgment tests. They found that in 43-71% of all scenarios (across different studies), it did not matter if the applicants were given the situational scenarios or not. They had an equal chance of getting the item correct whether or not the items were presented with the situational scenarios or by themselves.


What does this mean? The authors explain that many items from these situational judgment tests are not measuring knowledge that is specific to the job, but are instead measuring broader knowledge or abilities that might work on any job, such as social-skills or intelligence. The authors did find two scenarios in which applicants benefited from having the situational scenarios instead of just the behavioral answers. The first is when the items measured skills or abilities that specifically related to the job in question, and the second is when the behavioral options or answers included actions that were very specific to the given scenario, and not just generally good or bad behavior.



This research shows that around half of all items on situational judgment tests are not measuring knowledge or skills that are needed for a specific job context. Instead, these rogue items seem to be measuring broader traits applicable to many jobs. Why does this matter?


Organizations typically invest time and money into developing a situational judgment test that reveals which employees are best suited to a specific job. They usually convene a panel of subject-matter experts (SMEs) to rigorously develop the scenarios and behavioral possibilities for these tests. If the organization is content with measuring broad general traits useful for employees, they may be able to use generic “off-the-shelf” tests that have already been developed, instead of investing the resources into developing a situational judgment test for the specific job. The authors say that this may be the case for entry-level or other low-complexity jobs.


Another alternative is to design a test that is specific to a job and simply omit the situational scenarios, providing the behavioral responses alone (like in my example above). This could also save the organization time and money, because the developmental process would be shorter.


Finally, if organizations really want to have a situational judgment test tailor-made for a job, they can do themselves a favor and make sure that the questions really are specific to the job. Make sure that the items measure job-specific information, and make sure that the behavioral response options are very specific to the scenario. This will ensure that the situational judgment test is measuring what it intends to measure.

Intelligence Testing in Selection: New Developments

Publication: Human Resource Management Review
Article: Implications of modern intelligence research for assessing intelligence in the workplace
Reviewed by: Lia Engelsted


Intelligence testing in selection is often critical because intelligence allows employees to innovate and problem solve. This article (Agnello, Ryan, & Yusko, 2015) reviews the most up-to-date perspectives for conceptualizing and measuring intelligence.



According to the most traditional theory of intelligence, there is a single “general” factor behind intelligence that underlies “all branches of intellectual activity.” More recent approaches to measuring intelligence include the dynamic model of intelligence, which suggests that different cognitive processes grow and become dependent on one another as people develop. Likewise, research suggests that general intelligence may be synonymous with working memory. If that is the case, we can train people to become more intelligent just like we can train them to improve their memory. Another psychometric theory of intelligence is the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory, which depicts key dimensions of intelligence at three different levels, based on how broad or specific the dimension is. Overall, the outcomes of these new developments provide a greater theoretical understanding of intelligence and a new focus on developing theoretically sound intelligence tests.



One of the best examples of intelligence developments based on cognitive processes is the Planning, Attention-Arousal, Simultaneous and Successive (PASS) theory of intelligence. The PASS theory conceptualizes mental ability as though it is built from different functions in the brain. The PASS theory focuses on four information processing factors:


  1. Planning includes problem-solving, goal striving, strategy formation, utilization of knowledge, and control of the other three processes.
  2. Attention includes focus, selective attention, and continuation of attention to specific things.
  3. Simultaneous processing includes organizing things into coherent patterns and perceiving relationships between things.
  4. Successive processing includes integrating information into a sequential order as well as the use of ordered information.


One test that is administered in an educational setting based on the four factors of PASS is the Cognitive Assessment System (CAS). The CAS includes twelve subtests which focus on cognitive processes, such as decision making, task performance, and spatial memory. The CAS is different from other intelligence tests because it uses novel tasks that focus on cognitive functioning. While still in its early stages, the CAS is promising, because it is capable of predicting performance in school, and differences between races are smaller than in other methods of testing for intelligence. It is not currently used for selection, but it could be adapted for this use in the future.



The neuropsychological approach studies how the brain relates to behavior. Neuropsychological assessments examine which parts of the frontal lobes are activated when participants complete certain behaviors, which include a variety of verbal and non-verbal tasks associated with memory and attention. These tests are generally shown to be valid through high-tech biological or neuroimaging techniques. Preliminary research on these tasks for work outcomes is promising. However, one limitation of the neuropsychological approach is that the brain regions activated during assessments may differ from person to person.



In addition to the theoretical advances of intelligence, the authors discuss developments associated with using intelligence tests. There are two particular practices that are most relevant to HR professionals. First, it is important to make sure that tests are culturally fair to people of all backgrounds. Previous knowledge of some content may vary by background (e.g., race, gender, culture). Research demonstrates that performance can suffer when an individual is not familiar with the cultural content of the test. Users of intelligence tests should be cognizant of the degree to which intelligence tests contain culturally-specific content that is not relevant to measuring intelligence. Practitioners should make sure not to use tests which have compromised fairness standards. Second, there is an advantage of using “non-entrenched-tasks.” These tasks remove any acquired knowledge from a task so that all examinees are left on equal footing. In the HR context, these tasks may be especially useful for culturally diverse groups since they decrease the culture-dependent content.



The authors warn that HR professionals should proceed with caution before selecting intelligence tests to make employment decisions. However, there are numerous benefits to applying modern intelligence theories to HR practices, including the ability to predict successful job performance. Additionally, modern intelligence tests may be able to predict performance while also promoting racial diversity in the workforce, as modern intelligence tests reveal smaller score differences between different cultural or ethnic groups.

The Role of Storytelling in Effective Structured Job Interviews

Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology
Article: Storytelling in the selection interview? How applicants respond to past behavior questions
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

It’s no surprise that I-O psychologists recommend using structured job interviews when selecting someone for a position. This is because structured interviews are far better predictors of performance than are informal, unstructured interviews. As part of a structured interview, two types of questions may be asked – situational questions (e.g., “What would you do if you disagreed with your supervisor?”) or behavioral questions (e.g., “Tell me about a time that you disagreed with your supervisor”).


Storytelling is an important aspect of answering behavioral interview questions because the interviewee needs to be able to tell a story about what happened. But how good are applicants at telling stories? Are there any general characteristics that make some people better storytellers than others? And does skill in storytelling impact interview outcomes? In a recent study, Bangerter, Corvalan, and Cavin (2014) set out to answer these questions.


A typical conversation has a collaborative aspect (or at least it should). Even if one person is telling a story, the other person will usually nod or give some sort of verbal acknowledgement. However, in a job interview, storytelling will differ somewhat from storytelling in a normal conversation. There isn’t the back-and-forth of a typical conversation, and the reactions from the interviewer may change the course of the story. If the interviewer seems bored or judgmental, that could change the applicant’s storytelling. Likewise, if the interviewer is smiling and engaged, that could also encourage the applicant. The reactions of the interviewer could therefore even have implications for reliability, or the extent to which the interview is capable of consistently assessing applicants. In addition, people have differing levels of storytelling skill. Apart from work experience, applicants have different amounts of experience with storytelling; the more behavioral interviews an applicant has participated in, the more experience s/he will have with telling stories in an interview situation.


To answer their questions about storytelling in the job interview, the researchers analyzed transcripts from 72 actual job interviews. Applicants answered four behavioral questions that assessed communication, persuasion, organization, and stress management. The most frequent type of a response was a pseudo-story, which is more general and abstract than a story. A pseudo-story describes a generic situation or set of similar situations, as opposed to one specific event. Less than one in four applicants told an actual story. Applicants also talked more about situations than about tasks, actions they took, or results. Applicants with higher intelligence told more pseudo-stories, applicants who were more conscientious voiced their values and opinions more, and men told proportionally more stories than women did. Men, extraverted people, and those who told more stories and pseudo-stories received more hiring recommendations. On the opposite side, applicants who told more self-descriptions (e.g., “I’m good at managing my stress”) were less likely to get a hiring recommendation.


If you’re a job applicant, try to give detailed stories during a job interview. Before going into the interview, think about ways that you can frame some events from your past as stories that you can talk about. If you are an interviewer, try to elicit stories from applicants. Encourage them to provide more details, and be aware that applicants might not naturally provide the kind of stories you’re looking for. Implementing these interview tips will help ensure that job interviews remain fair and effective.

Can Proctored Internet-Based Selection Tests Really Stop Cheating?

Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology
Article: Cheating, reactions, and performance in remotely proctored testing: An exploratory experimental study
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin


In order to curb potential cheating, many organizations have started using remotely proctored internet tests. But do they actually work? And could they have unintended consequences?



Numerous methods can be used to administer proctored internet testing. One common method is real-time webcam monitoring, and another is real-time screen sharing. Some proctored testing software keeps other programs or applications from working while the test is going on. It can prevent screenshots, copy and paste, and more. It appears that remote proctored testing may be a good idea to prevent cheating in employment tests, but little research has been conducted on it.



In this study, Karim, Kaminsky, and Behrend (2014) used a sample of people who were playing the role of test-takers, and they motivated the test-takers to perform well by using an extra monetary incentive. Half of participants were told to use a webcam to record themselves taking the test, while the other half were not asked to record themselves. All participants completed two tests: a quantitative test that included practice GRE questions that were easily searchable online, and a logical reasoning test whose answers could not be found online.



Participants in the proctored exam had a higher sense of pressure and more concerns about privacy. In addition, more participants withdrew from the proctored test than from the non-proctored test. On a positive note, proctoring did seem to decrease cheating, as proctored participants scored worse on the test that was searchable but not the test that was non-searchable. However, this decrease was very small. Gender and numerous individual differences did not have an effect on how proctoring affected scores.



This study suggests that although proctored internet tests (specifically, using a webcam) may slightly decrease cheating without affecting performance, it may also have a negative effect on applicant reactions. In addition, it’s important to consider privacy concerns and keep any recorded videos in a safe and secure location, and to delete them after they are no longer needed. The authors encourage being very cautious if you plan to use remote proctoring in your organization due to its potential for negative applicant reactions, which can lead to good applicants dropping out of the hiring process and applicants being less likely to recommend your organization to others.

How to Design a Resume That Will Get You Hired

Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology
Article: Effects of applicant personality on resume evaluations
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin


When writing your resume, you probably thought about how potential employers might perceive you. Many articles and books give advice regarding what to include and how to design a resume, but many of those authors don’t actually agree on what method works best. A recent exploratory study discovered what personality traits people attribute to different parts of your resume, and how hirable they might make you appear.



This probably comes as no surprise, but past research suggests that people viewing your resume will make personal judgments about you based on what they see on your resume. In addition, parts of your resume are related to individual differences, like extraversion or conscientiousness. However, there is little research that has been conducted to understand what aspects of your resume lead to certain judgments.



In this paper, Burns et al. (2014) attempted to extend the previous research to better understand specific resume cues and how they are perceived. They actually conducted two related studies. In the first, they had participants view resume cues (e.g., GPA, job titles, extracurricular activities) and link them with personality adjectives (e.g., hardworking, creative). Participants also rated each cue regarding its importance in determining hirability. Not surprisingly, the majority of the cues that participants rated as being important to hirability came from the experience section of the resume. Participants also seemed to easily link cues to personality traits, especially conscientiousness.



In the second study, the researchers had actual HR professionals evaluate real resumes and give their impressions regarding the applicants’ personality and hirability. The HR professionals had low levels of agreement about hiring recommendations. The applicants’ self-ratings of personality only contributed slightly to the hiring recommendations, but the HR professionals’ ratings of the applicants’ personalities was a major contributor to the hiring recommendations. In other words, what the HR professionals thought about the applicants’ personalities was very influential in their hiring recommendations.



The researchers gave several important recommendations for job seekers based on the results of these studies. First, job seekers should provide detailed information about their education and be sure to include honors and awards. Second, job seekers should use a school email address (or other formal email address) instead of a personal email address, and they shouldn’t use any unusual fonts or formats. Third, job seekers should put their educational information before their past job information, and include any information about leadership roles or ways they financially benefited an organization. Finally, it seems to be good to include extracurricular or volunteer experiences. Following these tips will make sure that your resume gives you the best chance to land the new job.

Intelligence Testing: Is It Always the Smartest Thing to Do?

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between General Mental Ability and Nontask Performance
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

Smart employees tend to be better at doing their jobs. This is considered one of the most important findings in the history of I-O research. Meta-analysis, which is a method of compiling results from many different researchers and studies, has shown that intelligence (or general mental ability) is associated with better job performance for basically any job. But there are other important components that make organizations successful besides narrowly-defined task performance (parts of a job that are in the job description). New research (Gonzalez-Mulé, Mount, & Oh, 2014) investigates whether intelligence can also predict other measures of workplace success.

Intelligence Testing: CWB vs. OCB

The authors conducted a meta-analysis to determine if intelligence is related to two major measures that are important to organizations:

  • Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) is anything that employees do that breaks organizational norms or expectations. This behavior can be directed at a coworker (i.e. bullying or harassment) or at the organization (i.e. stealing from the employer or unnecessary absences).
  • Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) refers to anything that employees do that is not formally recognized in their job description. For example, helping out a coworker or suggesting a new way of doing things that can help the organization save resources.

The Results: Intelligence Associated More with OCBs

The meta-analysis found that intelligence was associated with more OCBs, meaning that smarter employees also went beyond their job descriptions more frequently. The authors explain that smarter people are typically better at seeing the big picture, for example they may understand that helping a coworker has benefits for the organization in the long run. Also, smarter employees may sometimes have greater capacity to help out others. They may be the only ones who are capable of devising a solution to a problem that eventually helps out the organization.

However, when it came to CWBs, there was no real relationship with intelligence. The authors had predicted that smarter employees would engage in less bad behavior because they are more readily capable of seeing the dangerous outcomes such as harming the company or harming themselves by getting caught. But the data didn’t support this conclusion.

Intelligence Testing vs. Personality Testing

The authors also compared intelligence testing with personality testing to see which was generally more useful for predicting success on the job. As predicted, intelligence testing predicted better than personality testing when the outcome was task performance, or the parts of a job that are listed in a job description. When using the other outcomes of job success (OCBs and CWBs), the authors found a different story. First, when it came to organizational citizenship behavior, intelligence and personality were about equally useful in predicting which employees will go above and beyond. When it came to counterproductive work behavior, personality was actually a better predictor than intelligence.

What Does This Mean for Organizations?

This study supports the idea that the best predictor of job success is general intelligence, specifically because it has the ability to predict good old fashioned task-performance. It pays to hire smart employees, but that’s not the entire story. The conclusions here also indicate that intelligence isn’t the be-all and end-all of how to hire employees. Organizations should also have the foresight to care about extra effort and misbehavior at work. If you want employees who strive to make the workplace better for everyone, intelligence testing may still help, but it is not any better than personality testing. But if you want employees who don’t misbehave, personality testing may be the way to go.

Specific Cognitive Abilities Can Benefit Selection Programs

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Examining the incremental validity and relative importance of specific cognitive abilities in a training context.
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris


Organizations oftentimes use specific cognitive abilities to help select people for jobs. Selection itself is important because organizations can sometimes waste millions of dollars in training people who don’t have the right aptitude, aren’t motivated, or who don’t fit minimum requirements for the job. When an organization selects employees, it often uses an assessment process to try and find the “right people.” This assessment often involves tests of general cognitive ability, which is basically what we’d consider overall intelligence. What if organizations could fine tune these processes so that they were more successful in identifying those who may succeed in a training context or in a job? Recent research findings offer a possible way to do this.



Many researchers adhere to the view that intelligence is made up of a single “general” factor, also called general mental ability. This view explains that there is an underlying single-dimension of mental ability that underlies numerous different types of learning and performance abilities. However, researchers debate about whether including specific abilities of intelligence can provide just a little bit of extra predictive power for organizations. Some believe that these specific abilities can help predict beyond what general mental ability alone can offer when it comes to selecting individuals for the job.



The researchers investigated the importance of using general mental ability and also specific abilities in a training context, specifically military personnel learning a foreign language. The researchers examined the predictive ability of general mental ability and the specific abilities within the trainee group by using different approaches to measuring cognitive ability. Results showed that if the specific mental abilities of the applicants aligned with what was being assessed, then using the specific abilities would add predictive value for the organization. For example, in testing learning of a foreign language, the specific ability of foreign language aptitude would be more useful than numerical ability.



These findings challenge many assessment and selection practices within hiring and training. In some cases, testing for general mental ability may be sufficient, but in other cases, managers should not underestimate the role that specific abilities may play in helping organizations predict who will succeed at training and on the job. This would require testing for specific abilities that are either closely aligned with job responsibilities, or are a requirement in a training program. Specific abilities should not be used when these responsibilities are not clearly defined or if there is a mismatch with actual job requirements.

When specific abilities match what is needed for either training or job success, then specific abilities can provide extra predictive power over merely assessing general intelligence in candidates. It is important to note that even a small incremental advantage in prediction for large selection programs could have a profound influence on return on investment figures.

Avoiding Adverse Impact: Selection Procedures That Increase Organizational Diversity

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: More Than g: Selection Quality and Adverse Impact Implications of Considering Second-Stratum Cognitive Abilities
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris


Using cognitive tests as part of an employee selection process will generally help more than various other methods (such as interviews) to ensure the selection of better performing individuals. There are some methods that are slightly better predictors of performance, but cognitive tests have proven to be a mainstay.

Unfortunately, the use of such tests can lead to discriminatory hiring practices against minority groups, who often score below their white counterparts due to a variety of factors.

Different strategies have been proposed to counteract this adverse impact in selection procedures in order to ensure a fairer hiring process and encourage greater diversity within the workplace. The research reviewed here investigated one such strategy.



Adverse Impact is a means of measuring this type of discrimination. It is calculated by dividing the selection ratio from the lower scoring group of applicants (a minority group) by the selection ratio of the higher scoring comparison group (historically, more privileged groups).

Adverse Impact towards the minority group has occurred if the result of these calculations is less than 4/5ths. This is a way of guarding against discriminatory selection practices and ensuring a more diverse and representative workforce.

When cognitive tests are used for selection procedures, it is perceived that the organization now has to make a trade-off between selection criteria related to work performance and selecting for diversity by adhering to the Adverse Impact ratio.



One strategy for overcoming Adverse Impact is to weigh cognitive and non-cognitive tests differently. The researchers investigated the use of this weighting strategy on cognitive sub-tests, which represented the second-order stratum of cognitive ability.

Second-order cognitive abilities are not specific individual abilities, but rather a broader constellation of related abilities, yet still more refined than a measure of general cognitive ability (known as g). For example, measuring acquired knowledge in reading and writing (stratum II) would include relationships across vocabulary, reading comprehension, and analogy tests.

The researchers hypothesized that, although general cognitive ability may be a fairly good predictor of later performance, the stratum II abilities may be better predictors when a job requires that specific ability. By using a sophisticated weighing technique with varying values for specific abilities related to a job, the researchers found that this method could improve minority hiring, but not at the expense of selection quality if a test of general cognitive ability was used.



This research is particularly interesting for managers and recruiters because it provides a clear way forward in decreasing the possible Adverse Impact of company selection procedures, which helps to create a more diverse workforce.

Workplace diversity has been shown to have multiple benefits in terms of organizational outcomes. But you can also rest assured that using such weighted methods won’t decrease the quality of hires if the abilities are shown to relate to the job.