Maximizing the Predictive Power of Personality Measures

Topic: Assessment, Personality
Publication: International Journal of Selection
and Assessment (JUN)
Article: Improving prediction of work
performance through frame-of-reference consistency: Empirical evidence using
openness to experience
Authors: V.L. Pace and M.T. Brannick
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Although measures of personality are fairly common in employee selection and assessment contexts, research suggests that measures of various personality characteristics tend to be less predictive of job performance than other common selection go-to’s (e.g., cognitive ability tests, technical work sample tests). Typically, items on personality measures ask job applicants/employees to report on how they are/act in general, across many different contexts (e.g., home, work, school).

But, Pace and Brannick recently found that by simply framing personality items to fit the work context, one can improve the predictive power of the personality measure.  In their study, Pace and Brannick selected the personality characteristic of openness to experience which is not as commonly studied in selection and assessment contexts as personality characteristics such as conscientiousness.  Nevertheless, openness to experience may be very important for jobs that require high levels of creativity and novel problem solving.

Using a sample of 83 employees from various industries, Pace and Brannick compared the predictive power of a common openness to experience measure (NEO PI-R) and one that they created which specifically addresses employees’ tendencies at work.  Their results suggest that their work-focused measure of openness to experience was much more strongly related to supervisor ratings of employees’ creative performance than the general measure.

Pace and Brannick’s findings suggest personality measures that focus specifically on the workplace may predict work performance better than more general measures of personality for which the frame-of-reference is “all the time” as opposed to “at work”.  From a practical perspective, this makes sense since how we generally behave or are at work can be quite different from how we behave or tend to be in other contexts.
Pace, V.L. & Brannick, M.T. (2010). Improving prediction of work performance through
frame-of-reference consistency: Empirical evidence using openness to
experience. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 18(2), 230-235.