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Personnel Psychology

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Personnel Psychology

Finding a job can be a stressful endeavor. People looking for jobs must put work into their resumes and cover letters, as well as track down references. However, the hiring process can be stressful for organizations as well.

This is where personnel psychology comes into play.

  • What is the definition of personnel psychology?
  • We will look at the history of personnel psychology.
  • We will also consider its functions.
  • We will look at some examples of personnel psychology.
  • Finally, we'll consider its importance.

Personnel Psychology – Definition

Personnel psychology is the "industrial" side of industrial-organizational psychology. Personal psychologists apply psychological principles to assist organizations through the hiring process, training, performance evaluation, and job seeking.

Personnel psychology is a subfield of industrial-organizational psychology that focuses on recruiting, hiring, and performance appraisal.

Personnel psychologists also help identify required job skills as well as create effective selection methods. They are also involved in training new employees.

History of Personnel Psychology

The first application of personnel psychology is difficult to identify. It could be credited to Walter Dill Scott after his lecture on the application of psychological principles in advertising, or to Hugo Munsterberg for publishing his text entitled Psychology and Industrial Efficiency (1913). Other psychologists may be responsible such as Lillian Gilbreth or James Cattell.

Personnel psychology really started to take off during World War I when thousands of soldiers needed job placements. As a result, personnel psychologists were hired to develop placement tests and procedures for selecting officers. The work of personnel psychologists during World War I and World War II set a precedent for procedures used today such as rating scales, personality inventories, and group testing.

Fast forward to the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement; legislation was passed to protect minority workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) required employers to ensure equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age, or disability. In fact, industrial-organizational and personnel psychologists were involved in the creation of this policy. Now, companies had new legal requirements to consider and personnel psychologists were (and still are) hired to ensure all activities including hiring, promotions, harassment-prevention, firing, training, wages, and benefits are not in violation of any codes.

Functions of Personnel Psychology

Personal psychologists assist organizations at each stage of the employee hiring and evaluation process.

Recruitment Techniques

Matching an employee to their skill sets can greatly improve productivity and motivation. This is in the best interest of the employer and is often a goal of personnel psychologists. While recruiting, psychologist Mary Tenopyr developed a new way of selecting recruits after noticing customer service representatives failing at a high rate.

  • Ask applicants to respond to various test questions.

  • Follow up later to assess which applicants excel on the job.

  • Focus only on test questions with the best-predicted success.

Personnel psychologists also help people find jobs as well. Knowing which positions to apply for that fit your specific skill set can make all the difference. People often waste too much time applying for jobs that do not fit their skill sets. Or, some people may have a difficult time interviewing. Personnel psychologists can help prepare job seekers for this important step.

Interview Techniques

The interview process is an important part of the hiring process. Someone can look great on paper, but other red flags may appear during the interview. However, someone who is very charismatic may make a good impression in the interview, but still not be best qualified for the job. This is most likely to occur during an unstructured interview.

Unstructured Interviews

Unstructured interviews provide a sense of someone’s personality, such as their warmth, confidence, speaking abilities, and expressiveness.

Interview questions such as “How well do you get along with people”, or “How do you handle stress”, give the interviewee too much control over the impression they make.

These questions do not actually explore the person’s skills and aptitude to do the job. Many interviewers are overly confident in their ability to discern an interviewee’s fitness for the job. This is referred to as interviewer illusion. Interviewers may be overconfident in their discernment because:

  • They presume people are what they seem to be during the interview.

  • Their own moods and perceptions impact how they perceive the interviewer’s responses.

  • They may judge a person’s interview in relation to those interviewed before or after them.

  • They often do not get any feedback on if they made a bad hire, as they only know the career success of those they hired, but not those they rejected (who may have ended up being a better fit).

  • They only uncover the interviewee’s intentions through unstructured interviews rather than revealing habitual behaviors.

Structured Interviews

To avoid interviewer illusion, personnel psychologists encourage interviewers to conduct structured interviews. Structured interviews are less like a casual conversation and more about collecting information.

Structured interviews focus on asking the same job-relevant questions to every applicant, using established scales to rate their responses.

In a structured interview questions may be more like “Give me an example of a time when you resolved conflict with a coworker?”, or, “Tell me about the time you used problem-solving skills to handle a difficult customer.” These interviews will focus more on a person's strengths, attitudes, behaviors, knowledge, and skills.

Personnel Psychology, woman interview another woman in restaurant, StudySmarterInterviewer taking notes, Freepik.com

During a structured interview, personnel psychologists will suggest that the interviewer take notes to avoid memory distortions and bias. Studies have shown that using a structured interview increases predictive accuracy more than unstructured interviews (Schmidt and Hunter, 1998). It is vitally important that interviewers are careful not to let their bias interfere with the hiring process, otherwise progress within the organization may be hindered. Replacing a bad employee with another bad egg is not progress.

Performance Appraisal

Personnel psychologists are not only involved in the hiring process, but are also involved in other company functions such as harnessing employee strengths, appropriately awarding and paying people for their time and efforts, and deciding whom to keep on staff. This process is called performance appraisal.

Performance appraisal is a review of an employee’s job performance and contribution to a company to determine if they are being productive.

Performance appraisal should either affirm employee strengths or help motivate improvements. Some appraisal methods used in personnel psychology include:

  • Checklists: to identify specific behaviors of each worker.

  • Graphic rating: scales used to measure worker attributes such as dependability and productivity on a pointed scale such as 1 to 5.

  • Behavior rating: These are used to measure worker behavior such as tardiness and ability to follow procedures, by using a frequency scale rating from “never” to “always”.

An employer may rate an employee’s dependability as a 2 if they are almost always late completing projects. Or, an employer may rate an employee as “almost never” late.

Performance appraisal is not always done for employees; they may also evaluate themselves, their supervisors, and other colleagues as well. This type of feedback in a company is called 360-degree feedback and often results in more open communication within the organization. It includes the following types of performance appraisal:

  • Supervisor rating

  • Peer rating

  • Subordinate rating

  • Customer rating

  • Self-rating

Personnel Psychology – Examples

Let's take a look at some personnel psychology examples in healthcare.

Personnel Psychology in the Field of Healthcare

Let's break this down by category.

Job Analysis

Personnel psychologists may evaluate the necessary skills and educational requirements for the position. They will collect a large amount of data to stay up-to-date with what knowledge is required for nurses and doctors, as healthcare is an ever-changing field.

Employee Selection

With lives on the line, it is vitally important for hospitals to hire well-qualified candidates. Personnel psychologists will help hospitals in determining what factors may predict high or low performance such as test scores and interview questions. Additionally, hospitals, like any other employer, are expected to follow the EEOC, ensuring there is no discrimination in their hiring process. Historically, this has not always been the case.

Personnel Psychology, african-american female doctor, StudySmarterDiversity in healthcare, Freepik.com

Performance Appraisal Systems

Just as hospitals need to hire qualified healthcare professionals, it is also important for hospitals to ensure they remain qualified. Personnel psychologists may develop rating scales for the hospital to use to evaluate employees, and also for employees to rate their supervisors, and for patients to rate the hospital and staff.

Compensation

As in any job, being paid appropriately for your work and efforts can improve morale. Hospitals may use personnel psychologists to determine appropriate pay for healthcare workers based on several factors such as education, time, and training. Healthcare professionals, especially nurses, are not always compensated for the time and risks that come with the job.

As the healthcare system is still recovering from a global pandemic, personnel psychologists may be able to help determine proper pay rates for healthcare workers to help avoid further burnout.

Training and Development

Since the medical field is constantly evolving, doctors and nurses are expected to continue to learn and study. Additionally, residency programs have an immense amount of responsibility in ensuring doctors are properly trained. Personnel psychology can be useful in developing the best teaching and training methods used in a residency program.

Importance of Personnel Psychology

In modern times, the nature of work has changed drastically. With the advancement of technology, several jobs such as bookkeeping, clerical work, and repetitive tasks have been automated through computer programming. Suddenly, people are being replaced by machines and losing their jobs. Personnel psychology is important in these cases because it can help uncover other positions that will require the human touch.

Personnel psychology is almost like a safeguard in the workplace, ensuring that everything is functioning as it should, and that those who are qualified for a position are given the best chance of getting it. Additionally, with education requirements being especially high, personnel psychologists are tasked with developing training programs and opportunities that may help the most qualified applicant stand out amongst other highly qualified applicants.

Personnel Psychology - Key takeaways

  • Personnel psychology is a subfield of industrial-organizational psychology that focuses on recruiting, hiring, and performance appraisal. Personnel psychologists also help identify required job skills as well as create effective selection methods. They are also involved in training new employees.
  • Personnel psychology really started to take off during World War I when thousands of soldiers needed job placements. As a result, personnel psychologists were hired to develop placement tests and procedures for selecting officers. The work of personnel psychologists during World War I and World War II set a precedent for procedures used today such as rating scales, personality inventories, and group testing.
  • To avoid interviewer illusion, personnel psychologists encourage interviewers to conduct structured interviews. Structured interviews are less like a casual conversation and more about collecting information.
  • Performance appraisal is a review of an employee’s job performance and contribution to a company to determine if they are being productive. This may include checklists, graphic rating, or behavior rating.

  • Healthcare is an example where personnel psychology may be involved in job analysis, employee selection, performance appraisal, compensation, and training and development.

Frequently Asked Questions about Personnel Psychology

Personnel psychology was developed to create placement tests and procedures for selecting officers in World War I. The work of personnel psychologists during World War I and  World War II set a precedent for procedures used today such as rating scales, personality inventories, and group testing. 

Personnel psychology is a subfield of industrial-organizational psychology that focuses on recruiting, hiring, and performance appraisal.

Personnel psychology focuses on determining the skills required to perform a job successfully and using that information to help with employee recruitment, selection, placement, training, and development. Organizational psychology focuses on finding ways to improve culture and organizational structure to motivate employees, and improve job satisfaction and productivity.

The purpose of personnel psychology is to apply psychological principles to assist organizations through the hiring process, training, performance evaluation, and job seeking. Personnel psychologists also help identify required job skills as well as create effective selection methods. They are also involved in training new employees.

Personnel psychology is important because it is almost like a safeguard in the workplace, ensuring that everything is functioning as it should, and that those who are qualified for a position are given the best chance of getting it.

Final Personnel Psychology Quiz

Question

Define personnel psychology.

Show answer

Answer

Personnel psychology is a subfield of industrial dash organizational psychology that focuses on recruiting, hiring, and performance appraisal.

Show question

Question

What major event sparked the need for personnel psychologists to develop placement tests?

Show answer

Answer

World War I 

Show question

Question

While recruiting, psychologist Mary Tenopyr developed a new way of selecting recruits after noticing customer service representatives failing at a high rate.  What 3 improvements to the recruiting process did suggest?

Show answer

Answer

  • Ask applicants to respond to various test questions. 

  • Follow up later to assess which applicants excel on the job.

  • Focus only on test questions with the best-predicted success

Show question

Question

___________ interviews provide a sense of someone’s personality, such as their warmth, confidence, speaking abilities, and expressiveness.    

Show answer

Answer

Unstructured

Show question

Question

Many interviewers are overly confident in their ability to discern an interviewee’s fitness for the job. This is referred to as ___________

Show answer

Answer

interviewer illusion.

Show question

Question

__________ interviews focus on asking the same job-relevant questions to every applicant, using established scales to rate their responses.

Show answer

Answer

Structured

Show question

Question

True or False? Structured interviews are less like a casual conversation and more about collecting information.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

_____________ is a review of an employee’s job performance and contribution to a company to determine if they are being productive or if they are a liability.  

Show answer

Answer

Performance appraisal

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not​ an appraisal method often used in personnel psychology?


Show answer

Answer

Unstructured interview

Show question

Question

If a company uses 360-degree feedback, what five types of performance appraisal do they conduct??

Show answer

Answer

  • Supervisor rating

  • Peer Rating

  • Subordinate rating

  • Customer rating

  • Self-rating

Show question

Question

True or False? An interviewer with interviewer illusion is usually skeptical of if people are what they seem to be during the interview. 

Show answer

Answer

False. They presume people are what they seem to be during the interview. 

Show question

Question

An interview questions like “Give me an example of a time when you resolved conflict with a coworker?" is an example of what type of interview technique?

Show answer

Answer

Structured interview

Show question

Question

Using hospitals as an example, what areas might personnel psychologists be involved in?


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Answer

They may be involved in all these areas.

Show question

Question

True or False? Personnel psychologists also help people find jobs as well.  

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

How did the Civil Rights Movement impact the field of personnel psychology?


Show answer

Answer

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) required employers to ensure equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age, or disability. Personnel psychologists were (and still are) hired to ensure all activities including hiring, promotions, harassment, firing, training, wages, and benefits are not in violation.

Show question

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