Most popular selection methods

In this assignment the two most popular selection methods i.e., Panel Interviews & Assessment centres, will be discussed as both of them are widely used and are quite efficient methods of selection. The limitations of each selection method will be discussed and their role in the formation of psychological contract will also be defined. Later on, towards the second half of this assignment there will be a comparison in between different views that the selection methods just perform predictivist objectives & the view that they can help in the formation of a viable psychological contract. In the end there will be a conclusion, which would discuss the inference drawn from the study of selection methods & their contribution in formation of a psychological contract.

I have chosen this assignment as being a master’s student of H.R & employee relations, it is very important to have a deep understanding of the first step or base of H.R, which is employee selection. This study will help me in understanding the drawbacks & shortcomings of the selection methods & would also help me in understanding the Psychological Contract’s formation and its implications. If the psychological contract is well understood & if it is transparent, then I think most of the issues related to H.R & employee relations will be dealt with & there would be no absconding by staff, no strikes, no clashes in between management & employees & no problems in the functioning of the organisation which would further lead to profit maximisation, employee satisfaction & would make work place a better place to be in.

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Definition of psychological contract:

The psychological contract can be defined as the exchange relationship that exists in between the individual employee and their organisation. It is not a formal written contract on a paper but a relationship based on mutual contributions (Rousseau,1985 cited in Muchinsky,1999). Psychological contracts are of two types, Transactional contracts are short term contracts which are explicit & have an economic focus. Relational contracts are long term contracts which are implicit & have a socio-emotional focus(Rosseau,19



Selection method is not a gate that must be crossed to form a relationship with the organisation, but it in itself is the part of that relationship. It helps applicants know how the organisations deal with people once they’re hired, how they view their social responsibilities, and how worthy their products & employees are to them. This process gives both the candidates & the organisation, their first opportunity to craft a deal between themselves (Davenport,1999). Personnel assessment and selection is one of the most important ways available to organisations to ensure that they have efficient workforces (Smith &Robertson, 1993).


Panel Interviews are widely used method for the selection of candidates. For the candidates it presents an opportunity to show their ability in front of the assessors, to seek answers for their questions, to know how the organisation is structured and managed, its organization chart, current initiatives etc. Such questions help the candidates in fitting himself in the picture of the organisation; this in fact is the first step in the formation of the psychological contract (Tolley&wood,2010).

For interviewers it gives an opportunity to assess the candidate on the basis of work values which are: achievement, honesty, fairness and concern for others. Recruiters carry with them criteria based on which they decide a candidate’s employability and match it with the organizational values. Interviewers in panel interviews get a chance to convey the broad outlines of the organisation’s psychological contract (Davenport,1999).

In general, three interviewers are there as panel members (including line manager) who are seated right in front of the candidates vision, so that the candidates feel exposed and vulnerable. It is done to see if the candidates can deal with pressure, on the assumption that they will be able to transfer that ability to the workplace, as dealing with pressure is a major criterion of the organisation’s psychological contract. In such interviews one person asks the candidates questions around an area of competence, another one probes into some aspect of their CV such as their previous work experience, qualifications, interests. Similarly, candidates can ask what an organisation produces or what services it provides; its origins and history, the place on the training course that is on offer (Tolley&Wood,2010).

There are behavioural & situational variety of questions asked that help the organization in creating psychological contract (Redman & Wilinson,2006) for e.g.

Past experience questions (Situational)

Many interviewers ask candidates to tell them about their previous job challenges in other organization & also ask them to cite an example wherein they handled a difficult situation & the outcome of that situation.

It helps the organisation in knowing the calibre of the candidate and ensuring that he wouldn’t be a misfit as per their psychological contract

Hypothetical question (Behavioural)

The interviewer describes a situation to the candidates and asks them what they would do in those circumstances. For e.g. How would they deal with an irate customer? Such kinds of questions help in determining the situation handling skills of employee & foretell whether the candidate has managerial traits or not (Tolley&Wood,2010)

Contribution of Panel Interviews towards creating psychological contract by the candidate (this part is entirely based on general knowledge & personal experiences)

Panel interviews contribute the most towards the formation of psychological contract on the end of the candidate as the candidate has the maximum opportunity of asking questions to the management, other types of selection methods like bio data, presentations, group activities don’t encourage the candidate to ask questions.

Certain questions that the candidates use in forming psychological contract are:

Q: What is the hierarchy in the organisation?

By asking this the candidate does not want to know who does what but he is interested in knowing the time required to reach the next level so that he can know when can he reach the next level if selected & this is a common part of every candidates psychological contract i.e. promotion..

Apart from asking indirect questions the employee can bluntly ask questions that can help him in forming the psychological contract. For e.g. what is the career progression plan in the organisation? Or How often is the appraisal done for an employee? Or What are the added benefits of working with the organisation? Such questions are the best questions that put forward clear picture of the organisation & if a candidate asks such direct questions, instances of psychological contract breach will be minimized.

Critical Analysis of Panel Interviews:

In spite of the evidence for the great predictive validity of panel interviews, organisations still largely prefer unstructured or one-on-one interviews (Graves & Karen, 1996, cited in Hough & Oswald, 2000). It is because of the management’s reliance on intuition to make decisions (Beach, 1990; Dawes, 1988, cited in Dipboye, 1997) and a tendency for interviewers to have faith in the accuracy of their own judgements. A panel interview has been viewed as deskilling the role and reducing it to merely a monotonous exercise (Dipboye, 1997); less structured interviews appears to be more attractive to managers because it gives them great authority (Torrington et al, 1991). Applicants generally prefer one-on-one interviews over panel interviews because they give them more control over the situation (Schuler, 1993, Latham & Finnegan, 1993, cited in Dipboye, 1997). Panel Interview has a limited usage and is generally used in business & government sectors (Milia,2004). In the 1970s and 1980s, it was common for management selection to depend on the assessment of candidates made by interviews but a research found interviewer decision to be doubtful of reliability and validity (Keenan,1975, 1977). Moreover, in interviews candidates can use impression management technique to form an influential bias which can undermine the accuracy of interviewer outcome decisions(Anderson,1992).


As seen in The Advertiser, when employers are judging a candidate for a job, they are looking for more than just a resume and the interview process, hence, the need for assessment centres developed(Jinarek,2004). An assessment centre, also called the Rolls-Royce of selection methods, gives the candidates unusual care, hence they start forming a psychological contract thinking that an employer who takes pains to find the right people will take equal pains in their training and career development (Schofield,1998). Assessment centres use a range of selection techniques to test candidate’s intellectual, interpersonal, intrapersonal skills(which cannot be identified using other techniques). Candidates are asked to undertake a series of assessments that have been designed to reveal to the assessors if the candidate can: work effectively in the relevant job; benefit from a further training opportunity; or cope with the demands of an education programme (in short, forming psychological contract). The assessment process can take anything from a few hours to a couple of days. In the latter case, both the candidates and the assessors are likely to be in residence at the same place. Assessment centres generally includes: an aptitude (ability) test; a personality questionnaire; a group discussion; perhaps a case study; an in-tray/in-basket exercise & interviews(Tolley & Wood,2010).

Personality questionnaires

Personality questionnaires are designed to measure personal characteristics or traits such as candidate’s motivation to work or how candidates handle their emotions.

Contribution to Formation of Psychological contract:

It helps the organisation in knowing how candidate’s personality is likely to affect their future performance. It checks whether the candidate can stay calm but alert in the conditions that prevail in a particular workplace, or have the ability to adapt to the culture of their organization (Tolley & Wood,2010).

Group discussion (GD):

In GD candidates are given an open-ended or philosophical topic. All candidates join in a half-hour discussion & are observed by the assessment panel.

Contribution to Formation of Psychological contract:

It helps assessors to notice candidates who take the lead, redirect the discussion, and contribute, this pro activeness shown in GD’s is very essential ingredient in the organization’s psychological contract (Lynn Et. al,1998).

Case study

It aims to test the ability to analyse information; think logically & clearly; and make decisions based on the data provided. For example, candidates could be asked to read a business proposal or a set of documents & present their analysis (Sunday Tribune,2007).

Contribution to Formation of Psychological contract:

It helps in checking the clarity of thought of candidates. If the candidate can think clearly in dealing with such problems he/she can definitely handle problems at workplace, it will give him confidence in accepting the job role & forming the psychological contract.

In-tray/in-basket exercises: In it the candidate is required to respond to & organize materials typically found in a manager’s in-basket like letters, memos, phone messages etc (Smither,1997).

Contribution to Formation of Psychological contract:

It helps in boosting the confidence of employees and the organisation can be sure that they are hiring someone who will fit in their psychological contract (Tolley&Wood,2010).

Critical analysis of Assessment centres:

As per Kleinmann (1993) candidates can fashion their behaviour to impress assessors, especially when candidates are aware that their performance is being evaluated. So assessment methods may at times lead to selection of wrong candidate. Klimoski & Strickland (1977) proposed that since assessors & supervisors hold common stereotypes of the ideal employee, they may hire candidates who look like good company people, hence eventually the organisation will be filled with people who are mirror images of each other & not with creative people who can go out of the way to innovate(Muchinsky,2003).

Some candidates find assessment centres to be quite stressful, because they think that they are being assessed all the time, even during informal breaks in the proceedings.

The use of tests in assessment centres is based on the assumption that there are stable job-related differences between candidates, which can be measured. The ability tests chosen for use are generalised and do not take into factor that every individual is different. Lastly, small companies cannot afford the expense involved for using different techniques in assessment centres (Tolley & Wood,2010).

SELECTION METHODS: Perform predictivist objectives Or form psychological contract

Selection methods are they Predictivist: As per this approach the job is viewed as a stable entity into which the most suitable candidates need to be recruited. Person-job fit is of most importance (Cook,1993 cited in Chimel,2000) and the entire power lies in the hands of the recruiting organization (Anderson & Cunningham cited in Chimel,2000). Predictive validity means the extent to which a selection method can predict the subsequent job performance (Smith et al, 1993) such as error rate, production rate, appraisal scores, absence rate, or other criterions important to the organisation (Feathers,2000).

The predictivist approach is inappropriate because of its assumptions that individual differences can be assessed accurately and because it ignores the criteria for translating the decision into action. Successful performance on the job is dependent on ability & motivation as well. An ideal person selected for a job but given no training or development opportunities is more likely to fail than a moderately suitable person who is given such opportunities (Redman & Wilkinson, 2006).

In the 1920s it was realised that different studies conducted on the same selection method gave different results. Predictive validity results for the same method and same job were very different for different studies. Later in the 1930s and 1940s the belief developed that this variation resulted because of certain differences between jobs that were difficult for job analysts and job analysis methods to predict. Therefore, researchers concluded that the validity of a given procedure was different in different settings for what appeared to be the same job, and that the conflicting findings in validity studies were just reflecting this fact of reality (Schmidt & Hunter, 1977; Schmidt, Hunter, Pearlman, & Share, 1979 cited in Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

This led to the formation of view that selection methods help both the parties in forming a psychological contract, which keeps on getting evolved.

Selection methods form viable psychological contract: As per Herriot(1989) during the selection process, expectations of the organization & potential employee both build up & they both use it to construct a viable psychological contract .Nowadays job roles are becoming flexible and organisations have become aware that they need to compete for best candidates. As per this approach selection consists of a series of social episodes providing an opportunity to both the organisation & candidates to explore whether a future working relationship would be possible. Selection process provides an opportunity for information exchange and development of mutual expectations & obligations. Hence selection not only aims at person-job fit but also at person-organisation fit & person -team fit (Anderson &Cunningham cited in chimel, 2000). The selection process provides information for decisions to both the employer and the potential employee (Torrington & Hall, 1991). However, because of the predicted skill shortages and the fact that selection is also concerned with the future life plans of individuals, the predictive validity of selection methods is not valid anymore both for organisations and for individuals(Meijer, 1998 cited in Feathers,2000).

Thesis to prove that Selection methods not just serve predictivist role but form a viable psychological contract:

A thesis was done on the psychological contracts formed by higher education lecturers in a University Business School in the UK. Interviews were undertaken which allowed participants to provide life history accounts and the data suggested that each individual had analysed the extent to which a new employment context would deliver transactional, relational, and ideological reward and thus had formed their psychological contract. The notion that selection methods just perform predictivist role was not supported & it was found that they help in the formation of psychological contract in higher education (Gammie,2006).


It can thus be seen that selection is a crucial step that leads to the formation of a psychological contract between the candidate & the organization, however it is very important to use the correct selection method that would give maximum chance of interaction in between the management & the candidate. By the use of correct selection methods like assessment centres & panel interviews a viable psychological contract can be formed as in these selection methods both the parties are at each other’s display, asking questions & setting expectations. It has also been seen that the thinking that selection methods just perform predictivist role has become obsolete & because of the shortage of skilled labour & approaches like person-organization fit selection methods serve the purpose of forming a viable psychological contract both for the employer & the employee.

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