Fewer applicants – greater challenges

As long as there are considerably more applicants than positions to be filled, the selection process does not pose great technical challenges. In such a case, you simply rank the applicants based on their fit for the position by using proven metrics, and then make your final selection from among the shortlisted applicants. This method can be based on general validation studies carried out with conventional scientific methods that do not have to be related to specific industries or positions.

However, if there are only a few applicants, or in extreme cases even far fewer applicants than positions to be filled, you need to make absolute predictions about proficiency, since you cannot rely on relative rankings. The question is not if one candidate is a better fit for the position than another, but instead if the available candidate is a good enough fit, or if the position had better be left unfilled if that is not the case. This core issue requires far more specific analysis, which we support in our contacts with organizations.

Legal compliance and business sense

Recent years have brought a large number of legal changes relevant to personnel selection, not just under Germany’s General Act on Equal Treatment. The effects of the new German Federal Data Protection Act now in preparation are bound to be far more severe, as are those of the expected new EU Data Protection Directive, which will have even stricter provisions, because contrary to the Equal Treatment Act, they are likely to be in contradiction to scientifically based methods such as those covered by the German standard DIN 33430.

In cooperation with professors of labour law, we published forecasts a while ago on how these new provisions are likely to affect the processes that have so far been customary in proficiency assessment, and on the ensuing consequences for appropriate codetermination by employee organizations and staff councils. (Cf. e.g. Maties, Martin & Wottawa, Heinrich (2012). Einsatz psychologischer Testverfahren. Arbeitsrecht im Betrieb, 7-8/2012,462-466. For more information on this topic, please see our list of publications.) In the context of the entry into force of the new legislation described, we want to step up these efforts and look forward to contributions by researchers from all related disciplines.

International recruiting: New challenges for fair proficiency assessment

More and more job applicants, and not just in large organizations, come from different cultural backgrounds. The consequences of this diversity are currently taken into account primarily in individualized processes such as interviews or assessments, since this is where language differences are also apparent. Many scientific publications have been written on the topic, but they mostly tend to just point out that there are issues with fairness, without proposing potential solutions. We have demonstrated that sadly, even in simple screening processes based on CVs (grade point averages, practical experience, duration of studies etc.), there are massive differences between the various countries. Equal treatment in the sense of using the same cut-off points for all applicants is obviously unfair, but making allowances or applying handicaps for applicants on a country basis may violate EU law.

Because this issue is becoming ever more important, we are seeking to cooperate with researchers to develop solutions that will prove useful in practice. In this field, too, we can contribute our experience and our contacts with organizations.