Novelty tee shirts for I/O Psychologists

A couple of weeks ago I found myself wandering through one of those stores that sells all kinds of novelty tee shirts with pithy, snarky, rude, and otherwise clever sayings. Silly stuff like “I’m with Stupid” or “Bikini Inspector.” And I got to thinking that there’s a market here that’s not being served. Where are the novelty tee shirts for Industrial/Organizational Psychologists? It’s a wonder we bother to get dressed at all!
To remedy this, I came up with a list of slogans suitable for tee shirts or maybe the occasional bumper sticker.

Shirts for Everyone

  • I’m with low g →
  • I neither agree nor disagree
  • Subject matter expert
  • Meta analytic evidence suggests that you should just shut up
  • Low emotional stability
  • You’ve got a criterion problem
  • More research is required
  • Mom says I’m a Type II Error
  • I cause adverse impact

Snarky Shirts for Single Women Out at Bars

  • Your confidence interval is too wide
  • You have a skills gap
  • “Stupid” seems to be one of your core competencies
  • Sorry, that position has been filled and I’m not recruiting at this time

Snarky Shirts for Single Men Out at Bars

  • Beer: increasing measurement error since 1935
  • Rejected like H0
  • Unit weighted
  • I have high reliability

Shirts for Babies

  • p > .05 …MUCH greater
  • I’m significant at alpha = .05
  • Corrected for shrinkage

Now, if you laughed at any of those, congratulations –you’re a dork! Join the club and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section.

Germans demand that workers be happy, invade Poland

Alternative title for this post: “Ve Haf Vays of Making You Smile.” According to this story on Fox News, a German company has instituted a policy requiring employees to not be grumpy while at work.

“We made the ban on moaning and grumpiness at work official after one female employee refused to subscribe to the company’s philosophy of always smiling,” office manager Thomas Kuwatsch told The Australian.

“She used to moan so much that other employees complained about her complaining. Once it was part of the contract, however, our employees really started to think positively,” he told the paper.

“Mood is an important factor in productivity and everyone here works hard and is happy,” Kuwatsch told The Australian.

It kind of reminds me of that one episode of the Twilight Zone where that kid with god powers could read anyone’s mind and would do awful things if they thought unhappy thoughts. Except with more Germans.
Joking aside, attitude really is important and often relates to what researchers call “extra-role behaviors” or “organizational citizenship behaviors” or “contextual performance.” Pretty much all the same thing, people just haven’t settled on a name yet. I like “contextual performance” myself. One aspect of this is how pleasant a person is to work with and how well he/she gets along with co-workers.
Personality seems like a natural place to start if you want to test people on this kind of thing. Well, more natural than making them sign a contract agreeing to be happy. And indeed, there are relationships between certain personality variables and contextual performance.

The link between blinking, speed dating, and speed hiring

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

I talked a while back about the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, mainly how the author’s concept of “thin slicing” is essentially the old, well researched concept of decision-making under uncertainty. That was on the basis of just reading a book review of Blink, though, and I finally got around to reading the whole thing myself. It’s great and got all kinds of ideas kicking around in my head.
For example, in one section Gladwell talks about speed dating, which is an organized dating event where singles meet in a large group and then meet with a prospective partner for just a few minutes –typically eight minutes or less. After that, a bell rings and the men scoot down the line and repeat the meeting with the next person. Participants each have a rating sheet where they indicate how much they like each person they met with. If any given pair of people make favorable ratings about each other, they are given each other’s contact information so they can arrange a more traditional date.
This is interesting to me, not because I want to participate in speed dating (I doubt my wife or daughter would approve), but because people say that it works. Gladwell reports how people can usually tell within a few minutes if not seconds whether or not they like a person. Speed dating just takes the inefficiencies out of traditional dating. You don’t need to spend days or weeks or months getting to know a person to judge whether or not she’ll fit in with your life. You just need 30 to 60 seconds of casual conversation. And maybe a criminal background check.
The natural association that came to me while reading this section of the book, of course, was doing the same thing with prospective employees. Well, not deciding whether or not to date them, but deciding whether or not to hire them. I think most of us have met a prospective co-worker and within a very short period of time if we would really like working with this person or if we wouldn’t be able to stand him. Or maybe it gets even more sophisticated than that and we get a whiff of whether or not the person has similar values, goals, and attitudes as we do or whether or not the person will “fit in” with our company’s culture. How is that different than speed dating? It’s not, and I’m even willing to say that our this thin slicing, to use Gladwell’s term, is usually right about those things.
So why aren’t staffing gurus (you know who you are) recommending speed hiring sessions where we rotate a bunch of candidates in front of us and talk to them for five minutes each? Because hiring someone isn’t the same as dating someone. For one, hiring is a more permanent decision that’s harder to break off than a date for Friday night. If we were talking about “speed marriage” it might be closer to parity. But more importantly, picking the right person for a job requires not just choosing someone who fits with the culture of your department or the company overall, it involves someone who can do the dang job. We’ve all probably known the “pleasant idiot” who people like, but who also always screws things up or never gets anything done. You’ve got to assess the requirements of the job and the degree to which the candidate can fulfill those requirements. Then you start thinking about other things.
Not only that, but I developed other concerns about the whole speed dating system once I thought about it. It seems to me that it’s susceptible to the same kinds of decision-making quirks that we have to watch out for in employment selection. Sure, dating has different rules and it’s completely acceptable to have biases that would be unacceptable in the employment field. “I’m only interested in people that share my religion” or “He’s too old for me” seem pretty acceptable in dating, but are generally disastrous in employment. Still, I can see biases like the self-fulfilling prophecy taking hold of any given speed dating session. If the man who sits down across from you for some reason gives the initial impression of having no sense of humor, that may affect how you treat him and how the conversation goes. You may not joke with him or you may not consider his jokes to be as funny as you would otherwise. Same with the contrast effect –some average gal may seem like a knockout if you meet her right after talking with a mean-spirited hag with poor hygiene.
And indeed, Gladwell admits some of these issues in a roundabout way. He often touches on “the dark side of thin slicing” where he discusses how this cognitive gift can also be a curse when it leads us astray. So listen to your gut on some things like deciding what brand of jelly to buy at the store or even deciding whether or not to ask someone out on a date. But do better when it comes to the more important stuff.

December 2005 issue of Personnel Psychology

Personality Psychology

And while we’re talking about new journal issues, the December 2005 issue of Personnel Psychology is out and up. It’s really the Cadillac of I/O Psychology journals. I don’t subscribe to it myself (this website doesn’t generate that kind of cash, or any kind of cash really), but the abstracts are available online where you can buy electronic versions of the entire article. Let’s take a look at the selection-related one.

An Examination of Impression Management Use and Effectiveness Across Assessment Center Exercises: The Role of Competency Demands

We report 2 studies that examine how promotional candidates use verbal and nonverbal impression management (IM) tactics across several structured assessment center exercises that differ in the competency demands they place on candidates. Based on the competency-demand hypothesis (Shoda, Mischel, & Wright, 1993a, 1993b), it was predicted that IM use would occur most frequently and have the strongest effects on assessor evaluations in exercises that place greater demands on candidates’ interpersonal skills than in exercises that depend primarily on technical skills. In both studies, IM tactics were generally used more frequently and there was more variability in IM use for those exercises requiring candidates to display interpersonal competencies (i.e., the role-plays and mock presentation) relative to the exercise that did not (i.e., the tactical exercise). The relationship between IM use and assessor evaluations was also influenced by the competencies assessed by the exercises, and IM use related to both interpersonal and noninterpersonal ratings of performance.

Okay, so people use impression management when they have people to impress. Ever tried to use impression management on a paper and pencil test? Not easy.

Retest Effects in Operational Selection Settings: Development And Test of a Framework

This study proposes a framework for examining the effects of retaking tests in operational selection settings. A central feature of this framework is the distinction between within-person and between-person retest effects. This framework is used to develop hypotheses about retest effects for exemplars of 3 types of tests (knowledge tests, cognitive ability tests, and situational judgment tests) and to test these hypotheses in a high stakes selection setting (admission to medical studies in Belgium). Analyses of within-person retest effects showed that mean scores of repeat test takers were one-third of a standard deviation higher for the knowledge test and situational judgment test and one-half of a standard deviation higher for the cognitive ability test. The validity coefficients for the knowledge test differed significantly depending on whether examinees’ test scores on the first versus second administration were used, with the latter being more valid. Analyses of between-person retest effects on the prediction of academic performance showed that the same test score led to higher levels of performance for those passing on the first attempt than for those passing on the second attempt. The implications of these results are discussed in light of extant retesting practice.

Interesting that the restest scores were more valid than the first-timer scores. More variance? At any rate, it suggests that worrying about “practice effects” from retesting isn’t as big a deal as we may think. I wonder if the same thing happens with alternate forms that are of equal difficulty but have different items?

A Meta-Analysis of Work Sample Test Validity: Updating and Integrating Some Classic Literature

Work sample tests have been used in applied psychology for decades as important predictors of job performance, and they have been suggested to be among the most valid predictors of job performance. As we examined classic work sample literature, we found the narrative review by Asher and Sciarrino (1974) to be plagued by many methodological problems. Further, it is possible that data used in this study may have influenced the results (e.g., r= .54) reported by Hunter and Hunter in their seminal work in 1984. After integrating all of the relevant data, we found an observed mean correlation between work sample tests and measures of job performance of .26. This value increased to .33 when measures of job performance (e.g., supervisory ratings) were corrected for attenuation. Our results suggest that the level of the validity for work sample tests may not be as large as previously thought (i.e., approximately one third less than previously thought). Further, our work also summarizes the relationship of work sample exams to measures of general cognitive ability. We found that work sample tests were associated with an observed correlation of .32 with tests of general cognitive ability.

So work sample tests are valid after all. Hooray! Good for a citation in my next validity study of a work sample test, I guess. Before I …you know, validate a specific test, which is what’s really most important in that situation.

“Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees”

Let’s just call this week here on Selection Matters, because they’ve apparently decided to make it week there. Point: the latest article on “Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees” published in a 1943 trade publication magazine. And apparently, it’s true. Well, that is to say the article in question is not a hoax. The recommendations, as you might expect, are so absurd they’re almost cute. Here’s some of my favorites:

3. While there are exceptions, of course, to this rule, general experience indicates that “husky” girls — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are likely to be more even-tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

That’s a win for husky women everywhere. So …yay?

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination — one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit but also reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job. Transit companies that follow this practice report a surprising number of women turned down for nervous disorders.

Okay, this is just …what? I’ve taken 10th grade biology and even had my parents sign that permission slip for the sex ed class, but I’m still not sure what they’re talking about here.

5. In breaking in women who haven’t previously done outside work, stress at the outset the importance of time — the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

This one just kind of makes me chuckle not only for the notion that women need to be “broken in,” but my wife when she sets her mind to it is one of the most fastidious schedule-followers I’ve ever known.

6. Give the female employee in garage or office a definite day-long schedule of duties so that she’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

Apparently women in 1943 would just stand there slack jawed and agape once their assigned duties were performed.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husband or father may swear vociferously, she’ll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

Well, at least they were prescient about one thing. Just models of women’s lib, aren’t they?

Scamming job seekers out of money

One of my favorite websites,, has a story up about how overzealous job seekers are getting fleeced out of their money. Here, see this quote from Snopes:

The scam is simple: Newspaper ads offering high-paying travel-related positions are simultaneously run in a number of cities, or such job postings are listed online. Whoever answers these ads is told he will be interviewed in a distant city for his dream job. Almost as an afterthought, he will be informed the company requires him to wire money to cover a portion of his airfare, this being the corporation’s way of ensuring it isn’t wasting its resources on candidates that don’t bother to show up. The job prospect is given the promise of this sum’s being returned to him at his interview, making it seem to the pigeon that he will merely be out of pocket for a few days rather than lose the money permanently. All the while, the about-to-be-gulled is blinded with ongoing patter about fat pay checks, exotic locales, first-class accommodations, and life among the beautiful people.

I imagine this kind of thing isn’t new, but the rise of the Internet has made it more common and easier to find out about. People wiser than me taught me to never send money to strangers and never to expect something for nothing. I’ve had prospective employers drag their feet about reimbursing me for travel expenses accumulated during an interview trip, but I don’t see how any sensible person would send money ahead of themselves to someone they’ve only talked to on the phone. Maybe the scammers are more persuasive than I give them credit for. But if you fall for this kind of scam, you may also want to be on the lookout for a certain Prince in Nigeria, too.

New issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

The new issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is out and available for perusal. While children of all ages may love it, this isn’t necessarily one of my favorite journals given that it doesn’t usually have a whole lot related to selection and assessment. But given that it deals largely with personality research there’s usually one or two pieces that wander into that territory. Such is the case this month.
In fact, one article entitled “Personality profiles of cultures: Aggregate personality traits” one sounds kind of interesting, but ultimately not that useful:

Personality profiles of cultures can be operationalized as the mean trait levels of culture members. College students from 51 cultures rated an individual from their country whom they knew well (N=12,156). Aggregate scores on Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) scales generalized across age and sex groups, approximated the individual-level 5-factor model, and correlated with aggregate self-report personality scores and other culture-level variables. Results were not attributable to national differences in economic development or to acquiescence. Geographical differences in scale variances and mean levels were replicated, with Europeans and Americans generally scoring higher in Extraversion than Asians and Africans. Findings support the rough scalar equivalence of NEO-PI-R factors and facets across cultures and suggest that aggregate personality profiles provide insight into cultural differences.

There may be something interesting going on here from a research methods point of view and it may be valuable in contexts outside of selection, but ultimately the knowledge of a culture’s “average” personality profile is about as useful as knowing the average shoe size for an army. I’m not hiring a culture, I’m hiring an individual.
There was also an article entitled “Don’t worry, be happy? Neuroticism, trait-consistent affect regulation, and performance” (hey, a descriptive and relatively simple title, go figure) that deals with one of the personality variables that has been found to have some generalizable validity for work performance:

People regulate their affect either to feel good or to achieve instrumental success. The present experiments show that when driven by performance goals, people can be motivated to experience unpleasant affect when it is trait-consistent, because of its instrumental benefits (e.g., M. Tamir & M. D. Robinson, 2004). In 4 studies, individuals high in neuroticism were more likely than those low in neuroticism to choose to increase their level of worry, as indicated by self-reported preferences (Study 1) and by behavioral choices in experimental settings (Studies 2-4). As predicted, such preferences were evident when expecting to perform demanding tasks but not when expecting an undemanding task (Study 2). Study 4 suggests that such preferences for short-term unpleasant affect may be beneficial to performance.

Interesting, as it suggests one of the reasons why this trait may relate to job performance and contextual performance. I love that kind of construct-oriented research.

Wal-Mart internal HR memo has surprising recommendations

After reading this article on CNN Money I keep hearing those Wal-Mart greeters saying “Welcome to Wal-Mart. Check out my MASSIVE PECTORAL MUSCLES!”
The story, if that wasn’t enough to induce you to read it, is about a memo from Wal-Mart’s HR department. The memo largely talks about how to hack away at benefits costs to (presumably) further increase the company’s profits. One part, for example, complains about how more senior employees get paid more than new employees, despite the fact that they’re no more productive.
The part that caused my eyebrows to arch, though, was this bit from the CNN Money article:

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, the paper said, Chambers suggests Wal-Mart arrange for “all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering),”

Yikes. That kind of thing sounds pretty likely to result in hiring fewer people with disabilities and possibly fewer older people. Could they defend that as being a core part of the job? The thing is, though, that the law (at least in the U.S., and maybe other places) requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. I could see a judge looking at the “all cashiers must do cart-gathering” scenario and saying “Not doing cart-gathering would be a reasonable accommodation for people physically incapable of doing that part of the job.” So maybe that’s how they’d deal with that potential problem: make the physical activity the norm but make accommodations when needed.