Screening Job Applicants with Biodata

One of the most difficult processes is for any company or organization to hire the appropriate people.   In today’s job market, with so many new technological requirements in the workplace, hiring has become more complicated than ever.   It costs companies a great deal of money to hire someone, train and integrate them into the company or organization.  

Therefore, human resource professionals prefer to try and ‘get it right’ the first time.   In a recent article, W. Bridges (1994) “wrote about the “end of the job,” how increasingly work will not be packaged in familiar envelopes we call jobs. Organizations that used to have a structure of jobs now have “fields of work.” As mentioned above, people are increasingly on project teams that exist only as long as the project lasts, at which time they move to another project” (Borman, Hanson & Hedge 1997).   Thus, as the nature of work itself is changing, the way in which people are screened and hired is changing too.  

An ever-increasing pattern in the hiring of new employees is seeking out individuals who are adaptable.   Due to the fact that technology is constantly changing and people are expected to be ‘multi-taskers’, companies are seeking highly adaptable workers who can learn new skills quickly and keep adapting to changing circumstances in the workplace.   The use of biodata, or extensive biographical information is a means of screening out employees who organizations feel are just not a good fit.   Some would suggest that using biodata “[…] may capture dispositional elements associated with person-organization fit, internal cultural socialization, preference for group attachments, and achievement-oriented pursuits” (Borman, Hanson & Hedge 1997).  

According to Rudner (1992), the development of biodata banks have also been developed in order to assist employers find the right fit for their available positions.   However, Rudner also cautions that no matter what types of screening assessments employers use, they must be fair and consistent. “Biodata Banks involve the weighted scoring of a wide range of background items that have been empirically shown to relate to performance[…]The questions asked must be job-related and serve legitimate business objectives. In examining hiring practices, employers should consider the potential of professionally developed and validated assessment procedures. Such properly designed instruments can lead to increased productivity, reduced turn-over, and greater employee satisfaction. Properly implemented, such instruments can withstand legal challenges.”

One of the advantages of using biodata is that it can be developed to collect and measure almost any aspect of information and relevant information.   These can include work habits, personal goals, leadership abilities, social and cognitive abilities and life experiences and their influence on the individual.   According to some, biodata can actually help to predict whether or not an individual will ultimately be successful in their job.   Hough and Oswald (2000) opine that “Biodata theory relies heavily on the principle that past behavior is the best predictor of future job performance (i.e. the “consistency” principle).”   The authors point out however, that not everyone agrees about the consistency and reliability of biodata. “Conclusions about the effectiveness of rational, empirical-keying, and factor-analytic biodata scale development strategies are inconsistent. Rational scales have predicted sales performance at least as well as empirically keyed and factor-analytic scales (Stokes & Searcy 1999). Factor-analytic and rational scales have predicted several customer service criteria much better than empirical keying […].”

Hough and Oswald (2000) quote numerous studies on the subject of biodata, some of which point out serious problems. “Rational biodata scales may produce inadequate levels of validity for separate racial/ethnic groups, but empirical item analysis can be used to produce a scale valid across groups (Schmitt & Pulakos 1998) Whitney & Schmitt (1997) discovered differential item functioning between racial subgroups in about one quarter of the biodata items they examined.” Thus it is possible that while biodata can produce valuable and valid data on an individual, there are cautionary tones about how widely applicable the use of this assessment process can be.  

Nelson (1997) feels that the use of biodata is not only relevant but important in the screening process.   “Biodata is the use of life history data that entails a sophisticated understanding of values, attitudes, motivational forces, and experiential bases. Theoretically, people seek opportunities and experiences to maximize long-term adaptation to their environment; and given satisfactory outcomes, people will actively seek out similar situations in the future, resulting in coherent patterns of behavior.” Therefore, one of the premises for using biodata is that not only does it provide valuable information on potential employees, but it may also serve as a predictor (in some circumstances) for the kinds of people who seek out particular work environments and hopefully, ones they are best suited to.  

One of the reasons many employers see the advantage of using biodata is to assist them in creating not only a hard-working employee but someone who fits in with their vision of the type of workplace they want to create.   Ultimately, they may see specific qualities as being desirable and leading to a harmonious workplace.   However, an important question here is, ‘when managers hire certain kinds of employees, does this not lead to the possibility of a rather stale workforce?’   In other words, might employees be so much like one another that the level of creativity in the company decreases all for the sake of hiring employees with ‘certain qualities’?

This issue itself leads to the question of how important is homogeneity in the workplace?   Are too many employers seeking a group of employees that will be so much alike that there is a lack of distinctiveness in their workforce?   Or, are they simply looking to hire people who reflect the core values of their organization?   Again according to Nelson (1997 “It may be that just as the organization needs different skill sets to accomplish a unified performance goal, organizations need different traits and worker characteristics to accomplish the longer-term goal of survival (Schneider 1987). However, worker heterogeneity does not necessarily preclude the selection of homogeneous traits that primarily serve to reinforce core values and pivotal norms. More research is needed to build theory and enhance practitioner success in recruiting and selecting workers for boundaryless organizations.”

Employers today face a myriad of challenges in terms of screening and hiring employees. First, employers are under pressure to ensure they hire a diversified workforce.   In fact, diversity is not only important but desirable.   A diversified workforce brings a great deal of talent, perceptions, insights and unique perspectives which a company might otherwise not have.   Second, there is the ADA and employers must begin to utilize screening and hiring practices which do not, in any way, unfairly target persons with disabilities.   Employers must understand the ways in which the ADA does, or does not affect them, their responsibility to create an integrated and accessible worksite and creating equal opportunities for anyone who is qualified to be hired.  

The workplace is a microcosm of the society in which it exists. Therefore, it must honor and reflect that society to the best of its ability.   Using biodata may be a way to assess not only who is best for the workplace, but the best way to create a viable workforce for a particular company.   It provides a way of understanding potential employees to a much greater degree than simply reading a resume and using the standard interview.   Biodata opens up opportunities for employers to understand potential employees on a much deeper level.   Yet, there is the danger that using this biodata might also create too much of a homogenous workforce.   Nelson (1997) suggests that this could lead to problems.   “Attracting and selecting candidates whose traits highly “match” the organization’s cultural profile may result in two problems: organizational dysfunction and adverse impact on different social groups. It is possible that if the boundaryless organization selects employees based on its core values, and affords employees creative individualism in the area of its peripheral values, adverse impact and poor organizational adaptability will be less likely.”

Researchers Cole, Feild & Giles (2004) point out that creating a viable workforce is more difficult than ever.   They estimate that a ‘typical’ organization may look at as many as 50,000 resumes in any given year.   Employers today have the responsibility of screening applicants on a broad range of categories that can sometimes seem daunting: education, work experience, life experience, community/volunteer work, awards, publications, research experience, public speaking, conference presentations, success in their previous positions, technical expertise and so forth.   In addition, no matter how hard anyone tries to be objective, we all have our individual biases and concerns. It is almost impossible to leave them behind and be completely objective in the hiring situation.   Thus, employers must rely on other tools to assist them in the process.  

Cole, Feild and Giles (2004) suggest that one of the problems is when managers look at potential employee who is a different gender or cultural background than themselves. While people attempt to put these biases behind them, it is often difficult. Cultural and gender stereotyping is common, even though the workplace is supposed to be free of it.   One of the issues these researchers note is the possibility that biodata may reinforce cultural or gender stereotypes depending on who is reading the information.  

Harold and Ployhart (2001) suggest that it’s possible that biodata is even being manipulated by some potential employees in order to ensure that they secure a position. However, they also state that although ‘faking biodata’ does occur, it’s also fairly easy to weed out.  

Thibodeaux, Cocina & Roberts (n.d.). researched the use of biodata in the hiring of food inspectors. Their first claim is that biodata can be an important tool because the questions can be tailored to fit the specific interview experience. That is, if an employer wants to learn specific background information and how they believe it applies to the job, the questions are tailored accordingly.   Thus, the potential employee is not simply answering banal, general questions but highly specific questions designed for the situation.   Thus, the data collected from these answers is more applicable.   In addition, they note that biodata assessments can be administered online.   This leads, in their opinion to a much higher pool of qualified applicants and at a lower cost than proctoring tests on an individual or even a group basis.  

Dean (2004) agrees that biodata assessments can be specifically tailored for each unique situation.   In his analysis on the efficacy of biodata assessments as a hiring/screening tool, he concluded the following. “Closer examination of the criterion-related validities showed that the biodata inventory tended to predict criterion performance requiring the ability to apply facts to solve problems better than criterion performance measuring knowledge acquisition […] The results of this study also suggested that it may be possible to shorten typically lengthy biodata inventories with minimal loss of predictive validity, making biodata an effective means of decreasing selection system costs as part of the initial screening process.”

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor (1999), there is an onus on employers to utilize consistency checks to ensure that potential employees are recording honest information on biodata assessments.   The report also discusses various types of structured and unstructured interviews. But, it definitely seems to argue on behalf of the structured interview as being more effective.   Whichever approach the interviewer takes, one of the key factors in a successful interview is the skills of the interviewer.   The ability of someone to ask appropriate questions, to probe a potential employee for further information and to understand what is appropriate to ask and what is not is absolutely vital.   However, one of the advantages of the structured interview is the fact that it can avoid getting into inappropriate and/or unlawful questions such as asking about disability or other related issues.   Again, according to this same report, the advantages of the biodata screening assessment process are that it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to administer and some validity evidence exists for their use.   On the negative side, they bring up privacy concerns and there is a definite need to verify all the answers.

The fact is, using biodata as a screening tool is a standard hiring process today. Dalessio and Silverhart (1994) suggest that one of the primary issues is the ways in which this data is used especially in combination with the information gleaned from direct interviews.   They quote several studies to advance their theory. In particular, they note the research of Carlson (1971) who studied the effects of combining biodata with interview information.   “Carlson concluded that when the applicant receives a passing score on the biodata test, the interviewer disregards the test and evaluates the applicant using other information, and when the applicant receives an unacceptable score on the biodata test, the interviewer disregards the candidate.”

These same researchers point out that another possible problem with using biodata is how and when the information is used.   For example, if an interviewer has extensive biodata on a potential employee prior to the interview, the concern is that it might present a bias in either direction.   If the employer reads information that they consider to be positive, then it might influence them to lean in the direction of hiring the individual even prior to interviewing them. However, if they read information they consider to be less than positive, they may lean in the other direction.   Another important note here is the lack of objectivity in this part of the process. Whether or not an employer considers certain information positive or not has less to do with objectivity in the hiring process and more to do with personal opinions and ideas.  

Dalessio and Silverhart (1994) quote one study which studied the interactions between scores on biodata assessments and the outcomes of the personal interview.  

“For candidates with low passing scores on the biodata test, the interviewer’s evaluation of the candidate was related to the interviewer’s decision. However, for candidates showing high passing scores on the biodata test, evaluations of candidates in the interview were not related to interviewers’ decisions. One interpretation of these data is that interviewers may not be giving much weight to the candidate’s performance in the interview when the candidate has obtained a high passing score on the biodata test, possibly because of the interviewers’ faith in the biodata test and/or because of recruiting pressures they may face.”


These same researchers raise an important issue about the availability of biodata  

prior to the interview.   One study they suggest is to provide generalized information about the biodata but not the scores themselves.  

“One question the study raises is: Should interviewers be combining interview information and test scores or should they not be given knowledge of actual test scores? The answer to this question seems to depend on further research. A follow-up to the present study could be conducted where interviewers are not provided with the candidate’s actual biodata test score but simply told that the candidate has passed the test. If interaction effects similar to those obtained in the current study are present, then these interaction effects are more likely being produced by the level of the test score. If these interaction effects are not present, and the interviewer’s evaluation predicts the job performance criteria similarly for high, average, and low biodata test scores, then the interactions are more likely being produced by the interviewer’s prior knowledge of the test score. If the interaction effects are not present in this type of follow-up study, then the results would suggest that interviewers should not be provided with test scores prior to the interview. Prior knowledge of test scores would hurt interviewers’ predictions for candidates with high biodata test scores.”


The fact is whether or not employers use these test scores appropriately is only part of the long-term issue.   Companies today, both large and small have become dedicated to using biodata as part of the screening process.   As mentioned at the top of this paper, there is a great deal of competition for top jobs today and personnel managers are under a great deal of pressure to hire the right people, otherwise time and money are lost and ultimately someone’s job could be on the line.  

O’Herron (2005) reports that increasingly companies are relying biodata because they firmly believe that past behaviors are a predictor of future success.   Thus, the use of biodata is not only about learning as much as one can about an individual, but actually believing in the strategy as a predictive tool for a potential employee as being successful or not.   She notes that employers are beginning to believe that pre-assessment tools are one of the most important strategies they will employ in the hiring process.   Biodata assessments ultimately provide them with more information than a mere resume ever can.  

“By doing most of the work for you, pre-hire assessment tools reduce the amount of time that you and your human resources staff have to devote to screening and interviewing candidates who would not be successful within your company. The tools let you discover information about applicants that you wouldn’t ordinarily get just from reading their resumes. Therefore, you save the time you do have for face-to-face interviews with only viable candidates.”

Yet O’Herron points out that some employers might be going too far in asking questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the job under the pretense of using a biodata assessment.   She notes that really employers ought to be looking into the qualities of a potential candidate and the critical factors of the job — nothing more.   But, many personnel managers are beginning to look just a little more deeply than that in order to predict the success of a job candidate. Therefore, one the key elements, in her opinion, is carefully constructing biodata assessments around the job description and nothing else.   O’Herron (2005) states that many personnel managers are not doing this and use biodata assessments to look into personal issues that have nothing to do with employee selection.   She quotes Malcom McCulloch, senior research consultant with LIMRA International (Windsor, CT) who states the following: “The importance of pre-hire assessments is only going to grow,”   His company develops several types of biodata assessments including ServiceFirst, an assessment which claims to be able to score a person’s ability to develop a service type personality.   For companies that are in the service business, such as call centers, such an assessment may (or may not) be able to predict an individual’s ability to handle a broad range of clients including the quiet and calm to the irate and rude.  

The company isn’t stopping there though. They are always developing new products for the simple reason that they’re in high demands. Companies want to know as much possible especially in a world that is increasingly concerned with security.   “The company’s latest assessment tool, CC Hire, measures candidates’ mental ability to learn multiple tasks and skills useful for the job. CC Hire consists of optional modules that focus on attention to detail, understanding communication, business vocabulary and problem-solving/multi-tasking skills. FurstPerson also offers CC Audition, a Web-based simulation assessment that lets you score agents on their computer skills, problem-solving and general learning abilities.”   As O’Herron (2005) points out, managers don’t want to make mistakes because turnover is costly.   The growing feeling in the corporate community is that pre-screening assessment tools can help to prevent this.  

Hogan Assessment Tools out of Tulsa, Oklahoma has developed a series of pre-screening assessments that claims to measure personal qualities such as likeability, extroverted or introverted personality, emotional stability, conscientiousness and whether or not a person needs stimulation (O’Herron 2005).   One of the issues this researcher sees with this type of assessment is that assessment ‘qualities’ such as emotional stability can be highly suspect.   It could very much depend on factors such as whether or not there’s been a personal crisis (such as a serious illness or death in the family), or even the stress of having been unemployed for a lengthy period of time.   People are often nervous in the hiring process and questions that concern personal stability may even put people off.   This brings us back to the concern of privacy (raised earlier) and also whether or not some companies are resorting to asking questions that have nothing to do with the critical factors of the job. Certainly employers want emotionally stable employees but the question is whether or not a brief test in time can predict future emotional stability as well?

The DeGarmo Group out of Bloomington, Illinois claims to have an assessment that can predict whether or not a person will quit in the future (O’Herron 2005).   Although this may sound suspect, this kind of assessment is not uncommon.   “LIMRA’s CultureFit is based on a similar premise and quantifies applicants’ degree of “fit” to identify which candidates are likely to be turnover risks.”   As this author points out, whether or not the claims are true, companies are increasingly relying on these assessments and putting a lot of stock in them.   Yet, it may also be a matter of practicality that motivates companies. A personnel manager who receives hundreds of resumes for one position must find a way to screen out the ‘undesirable employees’ in the least amount of time. Biodata screening is one of the most effective ways of accomplishing this goal.   In addition, they feel they learn important information they would otherwise not have known.   O’Herron (2005) also states that although these screening tools can be effective, managers need to employ a very common tool themselves and that is ‘buyer beware’.   The report on a potential job candidate is only as good as the tool and the interpretation that supports it.   In the end, no matter what type of assessment tool you choose, the most important thing you can do is to verify that the test actually predicts performance on the job. “Ultimately, what you’re really buying is the prediction and the research behind the tool,” says LIMRA’s O’Donnell. “You should understand the validation approach your vendor takes and request that they explain in detail how the tool was developed and validated. The more thorough the validation, the better the tool.”  

Irrespective of whether or not the biodata assessment is valid, employers must still do their part.   They still have to interview the person and use the interview opportunity effectively in order to fully ascertain whether or not a person is a ‘fit’ for the job.   No matter how good an assessment tool is, sometimes there is no replacement for ‘gut instinct’ and experience.   A well-prepared and experienced personnel manager who knows how to give a thorough interview, may ultimately learn more in an hour or so than reading all the assessment data in the world.   Another fact of the hiring process is that people have to work with this individual not some online assessment tool.   It may be that no matter how effective an assessment is, it can only tell us so much and its predictions may only be so effective. And, as O’Herron (2005) points out there are many reasons why people leave jobs not just their answers on a test.   It may be that the company has internal communication problems, a low salary structure, poorly trained managers, a lack of true growth opportunities, a history of harassment.   In addition to these possibilities, peoples’ lives change, sometimes for the better, but unfortunately sometimes in a negative direction too.   People acquire disabilities, they get seriously ill, they become divorced, or they get married and decide to move.   There are so many factors in a person’s life that it is impossible to predict what will happen in any one person’s life. The use of assessment tools, while helpful, should also be used in moderation and in conjunction with other standard hiring practices.  

Kirkwood and Ralston (1999) state that although screening tools and pre-hiring assessments are indeed popular, they don’t tell the whole story about hiring new employees. In their opinion, the interview continues to be the most important tool in the hiring process.   They also note that although biodata assessments are popular, many managers are actually skeptical of them.   These managers continue to prefer to rely on their own expertise and experience.   Although assessments can provide a great deal of information, they don’t know the actual workforce of an individual company.   From a sociological perspective, every company or organization has its own ‘culture’; the way people interact, the history of the company/organization, the reasons people came to work there to begin and the reasons they stay and the indefinable qualities that make a company work the way that it does.   Personnel managers know their companies and they know their workforce. They understand the intricate needs of the company/organization and they are in the best position to decide whether or not a person is qualified for the job.   Thus, while the biodata assessment can provide good background information, many managers prefer to make their own decisions based on the opportunity to meet someone in person and judge them for themselves.  

The structured interview provides the most advantages in the hiring process.   It allows the interviewer to be prepared and focused.   They already know the questions they’re going to ask.   This leaves them free to concentrate completely on the task at hand — deciding whether or not an applicant is right for the job. In terms of the structured interview, one the key aspects is asking the right questions.   Unless the interviewer gathers the salient information, the interview may go for nought. “Of special concern are questions about employee “fit,” communication skills, job motivation, and work-related values. Employers are right to doubt whether other sources of information, such as resumes, references, and personality tests, can answer such questions” (Kirkwood and Ralston 1999).

The interview is also the beginning of a new working relationship.   The way an interviewee is treated in the interview process is probably a good indicator of the way they will be treated by the company/organization.   If an interviewer takes the time to write down meaningful questions that will elicit important information, they not only demonstrate respect for the interviewee but demonstrate that they take the process of hiring new employees seriously.   It is the time to shape the way this new person is accepted and integrated into the company/organization.   A structured interview is valuable tool in this process.  

Kirkwood and Ralston (1999) also stress the fact that the structured, intelligent interview serves more than just as a means to meet someone.   It is an opportunity to truly get to know someone albeit on a limited basis.   They point out that many interviewees ‘act out’ their interviews rather than being themselves and answering honestly.   Many interviewees seem to believe that if they give a good ‘performance’ they can erase any personnel manager’s doubts or concerns.   But, these authors note that a prepared interviewer will be able to weed out the actors from the true potential employees.  

“While naive interviewers may fail to recognize the theatrical quality of applicant behavior, trained interviewers may focus only on this quality and seek to penetrate interviewee performances. Paradoxically, however, efforts to outsmart applicants invite applicant performances that are hard to interpret. These efforts also create a communication setting unlike that in the workplace, and they deprive applicants of information they need to make wise employment decisions. Finally, we argue that interviewers can improve the value of selection interviews for all parties by helping applicants give their best possible performances, practicing conscious transparency, and creating a communication situation more like those on the job.”

The structured interview can assist personnel managers in a number of specific ways.   First, the prepared interviewer will decide exactly what kinds of questions to ask and how long to keep an applicant in an interview.   This can help to determine a number of factors — the ability of the person to answer specific questions that are geared towards working in that company/organization; the ability of the person to handle the pressure of the interview, the ability of the person to cope with a prolonged situation as opposed to a brief, unstructured interview and the person’s ability to provide information in a coherent, intelligent manner.  

A structured interview will also reveal something of the company/organization to the applicant.   First, it reveals that the personnel manager took the time to prepare. This means, at least to a degree, that they take the hiring process seriously.   It also suggests (again, at least to a degree) a certain level of organizational and time management skills.   There is no doubt that an applicant would gain a very different impression of a company/organization in an interview where the interviewer is flying by the seat of their pants, and one where the interviewer is calm and well-prepared.   While applicants are performing in the interview, to some extent so is the interviewer.   They both want to present a good impression to the other. One wants to attract a good job, while the other wants to attract good employees.   Preparation will pay off on both ends.   “If they follow some experts’ advice, interviewers will employ strategic questions and structured interviewing methods designed to penetrate applicants’ interviewing personae. Kador (1997) tells employers that unless they put as much preparation into interviews as the candidates, they will get rehearsed answers.”

To conduct an intelligent, and respectful interview, interviewers must not only develop a structured interview but a meaningful one. This entails creating thoughtful questions which will, in turn, elicit thoughtful responses.   Interviewers must be careful not to try and ‘outsmart’ or ‘outwit’ applicants as this leads into a situation where both parties are merely playing games. Again, according to Kirkwood and Ralston (1997), the interviewer must take control of the process by using the time wisely.   It is the responsibility of the interviewer to keep the process on time and on track.   An interview that gets out of control and leads into inappropriate or meaningless discussions is the responsibility of the interviewer.   Author, Stephanie Clifford (2006) concurs.   “A typical interview–unstructured, rambling, unfocused–tells the interviewer almost nothing about job candidates, other than how they seem during a couple of meetings in a conference room.”

Jennings (2000) writes that hiring employees from Generation X is actually a completely different process than hiring people in the past.   She writes that they are very interview savvy.   They know what they want and they’re prepared.   In order to impress them, the interviewer has to be prepared too.   Thus, interviewers must be prepared to handle many different types of applicants.   The applicant pool is completely different than in the past.   Baby-boomers seeking jobs are obviously looking for different things than those from Generation X and their values are different too.   An interviewer who is prepared will be able to deftly handle both.  

Reynolds and Polansky (1997) agree. They are also among those who suggest that although pre-screening assessments are helpful, they don’t and can’t tell the whole story. Their research suggests that thoughtful questions will, in the end, elicit the most meaningful responses. “We believe pre-interview paper screening does not provide the breadth of understanding needed to evaluate a candidate. By meeting candidates, we can evaluate not only their vision of education, understanding of pedagogy, and ability to communicate, but we also can measure their excitement and the light in their eyes.”   In their opinion, three of the most valuable questions an interviewer can ask are; what skills the applicant will bring to the company/organization, describe a meaningful strategy or technique they’ve used successfully in the past and how to deal with a hypothetical issue. They state that these kinds of questions not only force applicants to think on their feet, but they are ones that are very hard to create ‘fake’ answers to.  

Clifford (2006) also points out that specific types of questions will lead the interview down an important path.   “Structured interviews with behaviorally based questions really allow us to drill down… Behavioral interviews have almost triple the correlation of conventional interviews with job success. Behavioral interviewing involves, by definition, a group of interviewers defining qualities needed for a job, asking candidates to give past examples of how they’ve demonstrated those qualities, asking the same questions of each candidate, and taking notes throughout.”

Another strategy that is often successful is the group interview. This puts the applicant under greater pressure but it also reveals a great deal more about them.   It definitely demonstrates their ability to think and behave under pressure; their ability to answer questions from a broad range of perspectives; to interact with a group of people they don’t know and be at ease in the situation and impress more than one person at a time.   This type of structured interview may also be the most difficult to arrange as it involves many peoples’ schedules and interests but is often one of the most successful in determining an appropriate employee.   These are most often used by universities and colleges in order to hire faculty and high level administrators.  

Kirkwood and Ralson (1997) point out that an effective interview will invite questions from the applicant.   Their research reveals that the questions an applicant asks are as important as the questions they give to the interviewer’s questions.  

Another aspect of the interview that many do not pay attention to is doing everything possible to keep the interview process fair and equitable. It is not unusual these days for a disappointed applicant to sue a company/organization over what they deem to be an unfair interview. This is another reason why the structured interview is an advantage. The interviewer prepares the proper questions, taking care not to ask anything that is inappropriate or illegal. As well, they should ask the same questions of every single applicant. In this way, it is less likely that someone will have reason to complain about the interview process.  

Jennings (2000) states that a good interviewer knows what they should offer at what point in the process.   She cautions employers not to offer ‘the farm’ simply because they feel they’ve met an exceptional employee.   Jennings suggests that a qualified interviewer is also a good negotiator.   They know how to discuss the various benefits and opportunities their company/organization has to offer and the appropriate time to make these offers.   Deals should be made carefully and only after references have been fully checked and it’s clear that the right person has been selected.  

Kirkwood and Ralson (1997) say that in the end, interviewers should invite ‘meaningful performances’ from their applicants. They should endeavor to elicit thoughtful responses and try to bring out the best in their applicants and not the worst.   In the final analysis, the interviewer should attempt to create the interview as an ‘authentic dialogue’ which would not be dissimilar to a conversation they might have as manager and employee.  

There is no doubt that hiring employees today can be somewhat of a minefield. Employers have legislative issues to consider, the needs of a diversified workforce and the pressure to hire the right people at the right time.   Using biodata screening assessments in conjunction with thoughtful, well-structured interviews gives employers the opportunity to get to know their applicants, at least to a degree.   Perhaps there is no such thing as the perfect way to hire people, but this is definitely a positive combination provided that it is used appropriately and with care.  



Borman, Walter, C., Jerry W. Hedge & Mary Ann Hanson. (1997). “Personnel Selection”, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 48, pp. 299-335.  

Cole, Michael L., Hubert S. Field & William S. Giles.   (2004). “Interaction of Recruiter and Applicant Gender in Resume Evaluation: A Field Study”, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Vol. 51, pp. 597-613.

Dalessio, Anthony T. & Todd A. Silverhart.   (1994). “Combining Biodata Test and Interview Information: Predicting Decisions and Performance Criteria”,   Personnel Psychology, Vol. 47, pp. 1-15.

Dean, Michelle A.   (2004).   “An Assessment of Biodata Predictive Ability Across Multiple Performance Criteria, Applied H.M.R. Research, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 1-2.

Hough, Leaetta, M. & Frederich L. Oswald. (2000)/ “PERSONNEL SELECTION: Looking toward the Future-Remembering the Past. Contributors”, Annual Review of Psychology, pp. 631-664.

Jennings, Andrea T.   (2000).   “Hiring Generation X”, Journal of Accountancy, Vol.189, No. 2, pp. 55-62.

Kirkwood, William G. & Steven M. Ralson.   (1999).   “Inviting Meaningful Applicant Performances in Employment Interviews” The Journal of Business Communication, Vol. 36, No.1,   pp. 55-73.

Maden, Daniel M.   (1995).   “Observations and Comments on ‘Reinventing Government.”, Public Personnel Management,Vol. 24 No.1, pp. 113+-124.

Nelson, Jodi Barnes.   (1997). “The boundaryless organization: implications for job analysis, recruitment and selection”,   Human Resource Planning,   Vol. 20, No. 4,   pp.39-54.

O’Herron, Jennifer.   (2005). “How to Predict the Future”, Published for the International Center Management Institute. Retrieved August 30, 2006 from:  

Polansky, Harvey & John Reynolds.   (1997).   “Inquire Intensively When Hiring Staff”, School Administrator, Vol. 54, No. 7, pp. 37-40.  

Rudner, Lawrence M.   (1992). “Pre-Employment Testing and Employee Productivity”,Public Personnel Management, Vol.21. No. 2, pp. 133-148.

Thibodeaux, Henry F., Jeffrey M. Cocina & Alix L. Roberts.   (n.d.).   “Development and Implementation of a Web-Based Biodata Inventory for Food Inspectors”, United States Office of Personnel Management.  

U. S. Department of Labor — Employment and Training Administration. (1999).   “Testing and Assessment: An Employer’s Guide to Good Practices”.


  1. You’ve done a good job researching biodata and its’ application to pre-hire personnel selection. One challenge that cannot be overstated is the use of Biodata with people from various countries other than the one in which the Biodata was validated. For example, items referring to playing American baseball as a child wouldn’t be answerable by those who never played baseball in, for example, China or India. For this reason, the fact that Biodata is atheoretical, it is a bit more expensive than theory-based approaches as it takes multiple validations over time; and must be adjusted for cultures if not done apriori.

Leave a Reply