Reaction to Selection Tests Can Affect Job Performance

Ideally, when we test prospective employees, we gather valuable information that will help us determine if a candidate is suitable for a given job. But that’s not all. We also create an impression in the candidate’s mind about our company, its culture, and its values. Research has found that candidates’ reactions to selection testing do affect their attitudes. For example, candidates may react anxiously or perceive unjust treatment. These reactions can influence a candidate’s view of an organization, as well as determine whether they would recommend it to others. New research (McCarthy et al., 2013) explores the possibility that selections tests could also be influencing subsequent job performance.


The authors conducted four different experiments in a variety of settings. They found that reactions to selection tests did relate to job performance. However, they go on to explain that this connection is nothing to be concerned about. Many of the same personal characteristics that influence reactions to testing also influence job performance, so we’d naturally expect a relationship between the two. Similarly, reactions to testing may also have an effect on test scores, and test scores themselves are (hopefully) related to job performance. Additionally, the major finding of the study was that candidate reactions to testing did not diminish the usefulness of selection tests. That is to say, it makes little difference if some candidates feel discouraged by the testing, while others feel elated. Either way, the selection test will have the same ability to predict performance fairly.

The authors caution that these findings should not give an organization the go-ahead to completely disregard a candidate’s attitude. It is logical to expect that many benefits occur when candidates feel they are treated fairly. A company’s reputation is, in part, determined by word of mouth, and a sense of fair play may result in favorable attitudes toward the organization that are subsequently communicated to others.


This study is important because it demonstrates that organizations need not make positive or negative feelings of candidates a primary objective when designing selection tests. Simply build a fair test that follows best practices. No matter how the candidates feel, we can be confident that a properly designed selection test is gathering the valuable information needed to hire the right employee for the job.


McCarthy, J. M., Van Iddekinge, C. H., Lievens, F., Kung, M.-C., Sinar, E. F., & Campion, M. A. (2013). Do candidate reactions relate to job performance or affect criterion-related validity? A multistudy investigation of relations among reactions, selection test scores, and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(5), 701–719.