Closer Look Personnel Selection in Other Cultures

At a recent meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), there was a panel discussion of issues in cross-national employee selection, chaired by psychologists from Hogan Assessment Systems. The discussion focused on how, as corporations shift from domestic to global markets, the frequency of interactions across borders and countries expands. Knowledge of international business practices and employment laws become important, as do basic principles in employee selection. Some companies facing the issue of selecting employees in new countries have simply translated their selection test from English into the required language, and started using it in the new country in which they were setting up business. However, people from different cultures do not just speak a different language. Many of their customs and traditions differ, as do their styles of interacting, the expectations they have for each other, and even their basic concepts, such as what is consid ered just and right, may differ. We cannot assume that American concepts and theories about personality and work can be transported and applied to new cultures without modification. As Triandis (1994) said over a decade ago, "much more needs to be done to examine how people and cultural variables affect management systems or job designs" (p. 156).

Research is just getting started on understanding how employment selection tools developed in one culture can be applied in another culture. Ryan et al. (1999) surveyed international business organizations about how they implement selection procedures when transporting them to new countries. The most successful ones modified their selection procedures based on a careful scrutiny of the local cultural standards. It is clear that cultural values permeate business organizations. For example, in America our culture values individualism, and we admire people who work hard to achieve individual success. However, in many Eastern cultures individualism is frowned upon, and even punished in the workplace, where the valued behavior is not individual success, but helping the group or team succeed. It is quite possible that a personality test that predicts occupational achievement in America will not predict that outcome in a different culture.

The panel discussion concluded that globalization is opening an important new frontier for research on how culture affects employment selection. The panel acknowledged that the issue is complicated by many variables, including differences between countries in terms of employment law, politics, or the existence of different kinds of discrimination from culture to culture. Nevertheless, the most successful companies are likely to be those who pay attention to cultural norms as they set up business in a new country. This also represents exciting employment opportunities for future psychologists interested in personality and culture.

tests do the job equally well. Clearly those assessment systems with a strong scientifi base, grounded in an accepted theory of personality , with acceptable reliability and strong evidence of validity relative to the needs of the company , will have the best potential for helping business users achieve positive results.


This chapter described some important issues and concepts that the various trait theories have in common. The hallmark of the trait perspective is an emphasis on differences between people. Trait psychology focuses on the study of dif ferences, the classification of di ferences, and the analysis of the consequences of dif ferences between people. Trait psychology assumes that people will be relatively consistent over time in their behavior because of the various traits they possess. Trait psychologists also assume a degree of cross-situational consistency for traits. Psychologists assume that people will be more or less consistent in their behavior , depending on the particular trait being studied and the situations in which it is observed. Nevertheless, some situations are very strong in terms of their influenc on behavior. Some situations are so strong that they overpower the influence of per sonality traits. One important lesson is that traits are more likely to influence a per son's behavior when situations are weak and ambiguous and don' t push for conformity from all people.

Most trait psychologists agree that personality trait scores refer primarily to average tendencies in behavior . A score on a trait measure refers to how a person is likely to behave, on average, over a number of occasions and situations. Trait psychologists are better at predicting average tendencies in behavior than specifi acts on specific occasions. For example, from a person s high score on a measure of trait hostility , a personality psychologist could not predict whether this person was likely to get into a fight tomorro . However, the psychologist could confidentl predict that such a person was more likely to be in more fights in the next few year than a person with a lower score on hostility . Traits represent average tendencies in behavior.

Trait psychologists are also interested in the accuracy of measurement. More than any other personality perspective, trait psychology has occupied itself with efforts to improve the measurement of traits, particularly through self-report questionnaire measures. Psychologists who devise questionnaires work hard at making them less susceptible to lying, faking, and careless responding.

A particularly important measurement issue is social desirability , or the tendency to exaggerate the positivity of one's personality. Currently, trait psychologists hold that one motive for socially desirable responding is the test taker' s desire to convey a certain impression (usually positive). This behavior is sometimes referred to as impression management. Many psychologists worry about social desirability as a response set, thinking that it lowers the validity of the trait measure. However , another view on social desirability is that socially desirable responding is a valid response by some people who simply view themselves as better or more desirable than most, or who actually have deceived themselves into thinking they are better off psychologically than they probably are. As is typical, trait psychologists have devised measures to identify and distinguish between these two types of socially desirable responding.

Finally, their interest in measurement and prediction has led trait psychologists to apply these skills to the selection and screening of job applicants and other situations in which personality might make a dif ference. There are legal issues employers must keep in mind when using trait measures as a basis for making important hiring or promotion decisions. For example, tests must not discriminate unfairly against protected groups, such as women and certain minorities. In addition, the tests must be shown to be related to important real-life variables, such as job performance. We considered a number of important legal cases in employment law that are relevant to personality testing. We also considered two specific instruments that are popular i employment selection settings. One instrument, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is widely used but also widely criticized in the scientific literature for its low levels o measurement reliability and unproven validity . The other instrument, the Hogan Personality Inventory, can be considered a "best practice" case when it comes to the use of personality in employee selection.


Differential Psychology 97 Consistency 98 Rank Order 99 Situationism 101 Person-Situation Interaction 101 Aggregation 101 Situational Specificit 102 Strong Situation 103 Situational Selection 103 Evocation 106 Manipulation 106 Average Tendencies 108 Infrequency Scale 109 Faking 110 False Negative 110

False Positive 110 Response Sets 111 Noncontent Responding 111 Acquiescence 111 Extreme Responding 111 Social Desirability 111 Forced-Choice Questionnaire 113 Integrity Tests 115 Barnum Statements 116 Personnel Selection 118 Negligent Hiring 119 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of

1964 119 Griggs v. Duke Power 119

Uniform Guidelines on Employee

Selection Procedures 119 Ward s Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio 120 Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins 120 Disparate Impact 121 Race or Gender Norming 122 Americans with Disabilities Act

(ADA) 122 Right to Privacy 123 Job Analysis 124 Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

(MBTI) 125 Psychological Types 126 Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI) 130

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