Here at Brave Starts, our frustration with recruiters, the recruitment industry, and the attitudes of both to older workers has been bubbling over for quite a while. We know that good people get screened out of the job recruitment process for no good reason – despite sometimes extraordinarily lengthy recruitment procedures that involve all manner of selection procedures.

Here’s the thing though, do most recruiters even know the validity of the selection methods they employ if their aim is to identify someone who is likely to be the best in the available pool of people to do the job they are recruiting for? Or do they even care? When the recruiter says, “No!” how much of a good reason is behind their decision?

The idea of being able to predict the job performance of someone by assessing their performance against some kind of observable criteria has been around for a while. Three thousand years ago, the Emperor of China used a ‘keju’ examination to evaluate candidates for government office in the “6 Arts” of music, archery, horsemanship, writing, arithmetic, and ceremonial rites. Today’s western public service selection process might use observations of a candidate’s performance in leaderless group discussions, presentations, problem analysis, and role plays.

In 1998, Frank Schmidt and John Hunter published their seminal paper on the validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology. This reviewed the practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. They cited the conclusion that, “…for hiring employees without previous experience in the job the most valid predictor of future performance and learning is general mental ability (GMA), i.e., intelligence…”.

Schmidt and Hunter’s 1998 paper went further to examine the strongest predictors of job performance when 18 other selection tests were paired with GMA. The top three predictors were, GMA plus a work sample test, GMA plus an integrity test, and GMA plus a structured interview. GMA pairings with job knowledge, job try-out procedure and peer ratings also scored highly.

Readers of Brave Starts’ last Research Focus blog, ‘LinkedIn or LockedOut’ will note how recruiters have been looking to LinkedIn profiles to try to establish the personality of job candidates as part of selection procedures.

Well, there did seem to be some correlation between a LinkedIn profile and some aspects of the profile holder’s personality – researchers found links between indicators and the profile holders self-reported scores for extraversion and conscientiousness. So what?

Although the study of Schmidt and Hunter and others established that, of the personality traits, conscientiousness was the strongest predictor of job performance, it is not, and neither is personality per se, a strong predictor of job performance – not even when conscientiousness is paired with GMA.

Employers like to think of personality as an indicator of ‘cultural fit’ within an organisation and therefore some kind of predictor of harmonious and productive working with colleagues. However, even the value of ‘cultural fit’ in its intended sense is challenged in an article by Tomas Chamorrow-Premuzic – sameness can be the enemy of creativity, and there is no evidence to show that ‘cultural fit’ improves job performance meaningfully.

In their article, Schmidt and Hunter are clear, “…from the point of view of practical value, the most important property of a personnel assessment method is predictive validity: the ability to predict future job performance, job-related learning…and other criteria. The predictive validity coefficient is directly proportional to the practical economic value (utility) of the assessment method…Use of hiring methods with increased predictive validity leads to substantial increases in employee performance as measured in percentage increases in output, increased monetary value of output, and increased learning of job-related skills…”.

Schmidt and Hunter are clear, but are recruiters?

When ‘recruiter says no’, who knows whether any of the assessment methods they’ve used have predictive validity. They should have. Without it there is no fair process, poor service for clients and injustice for job candidates. That needs to stop.


Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, V124(2), p.p.262–274.

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