How Do Organizations Choose Employee Selection Tests?

3 women in a meeting

Organizations often use selection methods that are not supported by research. This is unfortunate, considering that research supports many selection methods that can effectively predict employee performance and success. For example, researchers find peril in using unstructured interviews, while nearly a century of research has shown intelligence testing to be the single best predictor of employee performance.

Although this trend is well-established, relatively little is known about the factors that contribute to this science-practice gap. However, a new study (Mann & Chowhan, 2011) takes a step towards increasing our understanding in this area.


The authors used data from a large number of employees in a wide array of Canadian organizations. They investigated the role that organizational and situational characteristics have in determining which selection methods organizations decided to use (personality test, job-related knowledge test, or an interview).

Among their findings, the authors found that having an in-house HR department was a significant predictor for all three selection methods. The authors also found that nonprofit organizations were more likely to use an interview, while for-profit organizations were more likely to use a personality test. They also found that the application process for permanent (as opposed to temporary) positions was more likely to contain an interview. On the other hand, the number of employees that an organization had did not predict use of any of the three selection methods.


While the results of this study were generated using only Canadian employees, the employees came from a wide range of occupations and organizational settings; as such, it is likely that the authors’ findings should generalize to other countries and organizations. Practitioners might use the results of this study to better understand the organizations that would be particularly likely to incorporate effective tests into their selection practice, such as those organizations with an in-house HR department and those with unionized employees.

Mann, S. L., & Chowhan, J. (2011). Selection practices in Canadian firms: An empirical investigation. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 19, 435-437.