How Do Job Applicants React to Various Selection Tests?

While organizations should certainly be concerned about the ability of their selection tools to predict future performance on the job, they should also be concerned with job applicants’ perceptions of their experience during the hiring process. For example, for organizations whose job applicants are also potential customers, it is vital that candidates who do not get hired have a positive experience, especially considering most of them will not get hired. This is also a particularly important issue for multinational organizations because there has been speculation that applicants in different cultures may react very differently to the same hiring tool.


This current article (Anderson et al., 2010) conducts a meta-analysis (or statistical combination of many past studies) on job applicant reactions to selection tools. The study reveals that, overall, job applicants tend to react most favorably to interviews and work samples (when candidates are evaluated on their performance in a job-related activity). Notably, these hiring tools are often viewed as the most job-relevant and “face valid,” meaning they seem to measure what they intend to measure.

Less popular than these tools, but still favorably rated by applicants overall, were cognitive tests, personality inventories, biographical data, references, and resumes. The least favored selection tools were personal contacts, honesty tests, and hand writing analysis.

Perhaps most importantly, this pattern of results was relatively consistent across different countries. In fact, the authors found that despite the vast differences between the 17 countries included in their study, applicants tended to react similarly to these different hiring tools. Their findings also reveal that applicants’ preferences for various hiring tools are related to the validity of the tools. In other words, those hiring tools that applicants respond most favorably to (e.g., work samples, interviews, cognitive tests, personality inventories) tend to predict job performance better than those tools that applicants favored least (e.g., graphology, personal contacts).


Contrary to the belief that applicants’ reactions to certain hiring tools may differ dramatically across countries, this actually may not be the case. However, the researchers warn that their findings cannot generalize to other selection tools beyond those investigated in this study.


Anderson, N., Salgado, J.F., & Hulsheger, U.R. (2010). Applicant reactions in selection: Comprehensive meta-analysis into reaction generalization versus situational specificity. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18(3), 291-304.