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Chapter 7 Employee Selection

Learning objectives

 Explain strategic selection


 Understand the need for validation of employee selection procedures
 Describe some of the major research findings on selection
 Evaluate the use of psychological tests in selection
 Appreciate the factors that make for successful selection interviewing
 Discuss two approaches to making the selection decision

Chapter Outline
Chapter 7 of the text is divided into four sections, each of which examines the role of selection processes and
the importance of developing a strategic approach to selection. The first section introduces the concept of
strategic selection and why a strategic approach to selection has become necessary. The need to develop an
organisation based selection policy, and selection criteria that is valid and reliable is addressed in sections two
and three. The final section, section four, discusses the typical stages in the selection process.

Strategic selection
The hiring and retention of key human resources is a critical issue for organisations. Increased international
competition, pressures for improved performance, corporate mergers and rationalisations, and industry
restructuring mean that organisations cannot afford the luxury of poor employee selection. The choice of
selection criteria should be consistent with the organisation's strategic direction and culture. Employee
selection strategies, when aligned with the organisation's business strategies, produce a positive contribution
to organisational performance.

Ad hoc selection equals increased cost. Poor selection decisions result in increased training time, labour
turnover, absenteeism, accidents, industrial unrest, job dissatisfaction and poor performance. Selection
decisions must be based on accurate and objective information if managers are to make an informed choice. A
systematic selection process is essential to ensure that the person and the job match.

Selection policy
For an organisation to achieve its human resource objectives, selection decisions must conform with
corporate policy. Factors that management needs to consider in the development of its selection policy are:

• Equal employment opportunity (EEO).


• Quality of people.
• Source of people.
• Management roles
• Selection techniques.
• Employment consultants.
• Industrial relations.
• Legal issues.
• Organisation strategic business objectives.
• Costs

It is important that the selection process be recognised by managers as a systematic gathering of information.
Its aim is to generate as much job-related data as possible to enable the manager to choose the right
individual to fill a job. The selection process can also be viewed as a series of hurdles that the candidate must
successfully pass before being offered a job.

Validation of selection procedures


A decision to hire (or not to hire) requires that line managers and the HR manager clearly identify the criteria
that distinguish successful from unsuccessful job performance and use only predictive measures of job success
that are reliable and valid.

Validity: In selection, validity refers to the extent to which a predictor correlates with criteria identified as
measuring job performance. Validity refers to the ability of a predictor to measure what it is supposed to
measure. Two approaches can be used by HR managers to determine the validity of criteria: concurrent and
predictive.

Reliability: In selection, reliability refers to the consistency of measurement of a predictor. A predictor is


reliable if individuals obtain essentially the same scores, ratings or rankings each time they are tested or
assessed.

Steps in the selection process


Selection procedures vary from organisation to organisation. Company objectives, culture, size, type of
industry, geographic location, the state of the labour market and the type and level of the position all impact
on the type, order and number of steps an organisation uses in its selection process.

1. Reception of applicant - The importance of giving the applicant a favourable impression at this stage
cannot be overemphasised.

2. Preliminary interview - The preliminary or initial screening interview may be used to check quickly on
language skills, qualifications, willingness to do shift work, union membership, and the like. The preliminary
interview is typically brief and centred on very specific job requirements.

3. Application form - The application form is the basic source of all employment information for use in later
steps of the selection process. It is also a valuable tool in screening out unqualified applicants. Equal
employment opportunity bodies claim that many application forms and interview questions discriminate
against women and minorities because they are not job-related.

4. Tests - It has also been found that tests that are perceived by applicants as being job-related are positively
correlated with organisational attractiveness. There is evidence to suggest that use of psychological testing
(especially for managerial and professional. positions) is increasing.

Employment tests attempt to assess the match between the applicant and the job requirements. Classic
examples are driving, welding, typing and shorthand tests. Employment tests, because they are job-related,
tend to be accurate and objective predictors of particular skills that are needed on the job.

Interest tests aim to measure how an applicant's interest patterns compare with the interest patterns of
successful people in a particular job.

Aptitude tests are tests of special abilities that are required in specific jobs. Examples are tests of mechanical,
clerical, linguistic, musical and artistic abilities, manual dexterity; reaction time; and hand/eye coordination.

Intelligence tests are designed to measure an applicant's intelligence or 'IQ' (intelligence quotient). Specific
tests measuring ability to reason with numbers, words and abstract items are given. Such tests are good
indicators of a candidate's ability to learn quickly those jobs that involve conceptual thinking and problem
solving.

Personality tests or temperament tests are designed to measure basic aspects of an applicant's personality,
such as level of introversion/extroversion, emotional stability and motivation. Personality tests are the most
difficult tests to evaluate and use in employee selection.

Testing and EEO


EEO requires that, if tests are to be used in making employment decisions, they must:
• be proven as being able to predict job performance
• not discriminate
• be job-related

5. Interview - The employment interview is the most widely used selection technique. It can be relatively
unstructured and non-directive or highly structured and patterned. The structured interview makes use of a
predetermined outline that ensures that all relevant information on the candidate is systematically covered.
Research indicates that the use of a structured interview yields more accurate results than an unstructured
interview. Regardless of which method is adopted, questions asked must be job-related.

How to interview successfully

1. Know the job


2. Know the personal attributes, experience, skills and qualifications
3. Set specific objectives
4. Provide the proper setting for the interview
5. Review the application form or resume
6. Beware of prejudices
7. Don't make snap decisions
8. Put the applicant at ease
9. Watch the body language
10. Encourage the applicant to do most of the talking
11. Keep control of the interview
12. Explain the job
13. Close the interview
14. Write up the interview
15. Check references
16. Evaluate the interview

6. Background investigations – This is critical. The interviewer should wait until the interview is over before
making a decision and should never make an offer until a thorough reference check has been completed.

7. Preliminary screening by the human resource department – Some initial screening is done to eliminate
those applicants that do not meet the basic, essential criteria.

8. Final selection by line managers – A final decision should not be made until all information required has
been gleaned.

9. Medical examination - The medical examination is usually given by a company doctor or by a doctor
approved and paid for by the organisation. The aim of the pre-employment medical is to obtain information
on the medical condition of the applicant.

10. Placement on the job – This step involves introducing the new employee to the organisation, and their
job. It can involve various approaches such as orientation and training.

Other selection techniques

Biographical information blanks (BIBS) are one of the oldest methods for predicting job success and are
closely related to the weighted application form.

Panel interviews or board interviews are conducted by two or more interviewers. This allows all
interviewers to evaluate the applicant on the same questions and answers at one time. It also overcomes any
idiosyncratic biases that individual interviewers might have.
Group interviews take the form of a problem-solving exercise or a leaderless group discussion, with the
interviewers acting, as observers. Such methods are likely to place emphasis on a candidate's personality,
attitudes, and social, influencing, communication and intellectual skills.

Computer interviewing can be used to conduct preliminary screening interviews. The applicant is
questioned from the computer screen without the presence of an interviewer.

Video interviewing involves the use of video.

Assessment centres are a 'state-of-the art' selection technique that involves a series of tests, exercises and
feedback sessions conducted over a one- to five-day period. While there is no one best procedure, the
following activities are indicative of what is generally involved:
In- basket exercises.
Group discussions.
Psychological tests.
Interviews.
Business games.
After each activity, applicants are evaluated by a group of assessors.

The polygraph ('lie detector') is an instrument used to record bodily changes that take place when an
applicant is subjected to pressure.

Honesty tests are written honesty or integrity tests (especially in the retail industry). Honesty tests are
designed to ask applicants about their attitudes towards theft and dishonesty or about admissions of theft or
illegal behaviour.

Graphology is based on the premise that a person's personality is revealed through their
handwriting.

The selection decision


The final step in the selection process requires the line manager to make a decision to hire or reject an
applicant. The selection decision can be made using either a compensatory approach or a successive hurdles
approach.

Compensatory approach - In the compensatory approach, the manager considers all the selection data
(favourable and unfavourable) for candidates who have successfully passed the initial screening. This allows
the manager to form an overall impression of the applicants.

Successive hurdles approach - In the successive hurdles or multiple hurdle approach, the selection
predictors are ranked according to their effectiveness. Candidates who pass move on to the next hurdle, such
as the interview, reference check and so on, until the selection process is completed. Candidates who fail any
hurdle are automatically rejected.

Summary
The selection process begins with a linking of organisation, human resource and employment objectives. An
organisation's ultimate success depends on the best applicants being selected. Jobs and people must be
matched correctly to ensure both employee satisfaction and organisational effectiveness. To this end, as much
job-related information about the candidate should be collected as possible. Data sources include application
forms, employment tests, interviews, reference checks and medical examinations. In practice, the interview
remains the most popular source of candidate information.

HR specialists and line managers who conduct employment interviews should be trained in interview
planning, and in assessing applicants in job-related terms. EEO requirements can only be satisfied if objective
measures are employed. Consequently, the value of employment tests, biographical information blanks and
assessment centres should not be overlooked. As much selection activity is unsophisticated and ad hoc, HR
managers have a key role to play in educating management on the importance of a systematic selection
process to the successful realisation of the organisation’s strategic business objectives.

Terms to identify
application form in-basket exercises
aptitude tests intelligence tests
assessment centres interest tests
biographical information blanks (BIBs) medical examination
body language panel interviews
business games personality tests
compensatory approach polygraph
correlation coefficient predictor
employment tests reliability
equal employment opportunity (EEO) selection criteria
genetic screening strategic selection
graphology structured interview
group interviews successive hurdles approach
HIV/AIDS testing unstructured interview
honesty tests validity

REVIEW QUESTIONS
Questions in bold print are recommended as exam questions

1. What are some of the problems that arise in checking references? How can these be overcome?

Checking references is critical. The interviewer should wait until the interview is over before making a
decision and should never make a job offer until a thorough reference check has been completed. Generally,
reference checking is not done well. It is essential that an offer is not made until a good reference check has
been done. One of the biggest mistakes in reference checking is to talk to only one referee. The interviewer
should talk to a cross-section of people : peers, superiors, former bosses, customers, and compare the
responses. Research indicates that validity is best when the referee is well acquainted with the applicant's
work and/or is the applicant's supervisor. The most serious validity problem remains the unwillingness of
referees to give frank opinions and evaluations. Personal references from family friends and the like should
obviously be avoided. Academic and professional qualifications must also be checked. In the USA, it is
estimated that one-third of all higher education claims are false, and that over 500,000 Americans have
counterfeit diplomas or credentials. This has given rise to special reference checking, consultancies who
verify information on employment, convictions, finances, identity, drug abuse, education and professional
licenses. Failure to conduct an adequate background check can be expensive and embarrassing. The facts
must be known before a decision to hire is made. The interviewer must think about the strategic nature of
what he or she is about to do. The interviewer is about to make an investment decision of anything between
$150,000 and $500,000.

2. Do you agree or disagree with the view that strategic selection is just another technique for
management to use in controlling its work force?

Kanter has argued that the mad rush to improve performance and to pursue excellence has multiplied the
demands on employees to:
• think strategically and invest in the future — but keep the numbers up today
• be entrepreneurial and take risks — but do not cost the business anything by failing
• combine to do everything you are currently doing even better — and spend more time
communicating, serving on teams and launching new projects
• know every detail of your business — but delegate more responsibility to others
• become passionately dedicated to ‘visions’ and fanatically committed to carrying them out — but be
flexible, responsive and able to change direction quickly
• speak up, be a leader, set the direction — but be participative, listen and cooperate.

This is certainly a tall order for employees, but having high expectations does not constitute additional control
of the workforce. This trend has its critics. Strategic selection is viewed not as a matter of efficiency but one
of power, involving the marginalisation of unions and the creation of a compliant, non-unionised work force.
Yet, the reality is that the process through which many organisations assess people applying for jobs has
undergone little change. ‘The written application, personal interview and reference check’, according to
Patrickson and Haydon, constitute ‘an almost universal selection process in the vast majority of firms’.
Wright and Thong also found that the single person-to-person interview was the most commonly used
selection method. Thus, despite its recognised unreliability and poor predictive validity, the interview remains
the dominant method of employee selection.

3. What do you think would be the typical selection steps used for the hiring of a manual labourer, a
graduate trainee and a human resource director?

Students should work through the steps in the selection process for recruitees. They are:
1. Reception of applicant - creating a favourable impression of the organisation is probably not so
critical for the manual labourer.
2. Preliminary interview - specific issues must be identified for each of the three jobs mentioned.
Stdents should nominate specific issues relating to union membership for the labourer, skills for the
executive secretary, qualifications for the human resource director.
3. Application form - critical for the labourer; less so for the secretary; even less so for the director.
EEO requirements are critical for any job.
4. Tests - basic skill tests for the labourer; specific skill tests for the secretary; aptitude and psychology
tests for the executive secretary and director.
5. Interview - once the basic skill test has been done for the labourer, further interviewing can be
superfluous. A quick and cheap selection is usually essential. A behavioural interview would be
advisable for the secretary and for the director.
6. Background investigations - only for the secretary and for the director, more so the latter.
7. Preliminary screening by the human resource department.
8. Final selection by line managers.
9. Medical examination - these days more critical for all jobs.
10. Placement on the job - done quickly for the labourer.

You can see that the early steps in the process are more critical for the labourer. As one becomes more
managerial in the job, the emphasis moves toward the latter stages of the process.

4. Which do you think are the most critical steps in the selection process? Why?

All the steps are crucial. However, students should appreciate each job creates different demands on each of
the steps in the selection process. Students may conclude that the most crucial step in the selection process
for a certain job is the one that has the most demand placed upon it.

5. What are the major weaknesses of the employment interview? How can these be overcome?

Interviews are artificial situations and can suffer from a variety of problems including interviewer bias, poor
interview skills, and lack of knowledge about job requirements. To overcome such problems interviewers
should use the following guidelines:

How To Interview Successfully


1. Know The Job
2. Know the personal attributes, experience, skills and qualifications
3. Set Specific Objectives
4. Provide The Proper Setting For The Interview
5. Review The Application Form
6. Beware of Prejudices
7. Don't Make Snap Decisions
8. Put the Applicant at Ease
9. Watch the Body Language
10. Encourage the applicant to do most of the talking
11. Keep Control Of the Interview
12. Explain the Job
13. Close The Interview
14. Write Up the Interview
15. Check References
16. Evaluate the interview

6. Are you in favour of or opposed to the use of personality tests in employee selection? Why?

Personality or temperament tests are designed to measure basic aspects of an applicant's personality, such as
degree of introversion/extroversion, emotional stability and motivation. Personality tests are the most difficult
tests to evaluate and use in employee selection. This is because the concept of personality itself is hazy and
the relationship between performance on the job and personality is often vague or nonexistent. In addition,
the applicant can easily fabricate answers. Consequently, personality tests tend to have very limited value in
employee selection and their use may be extremely difficult to justify if challenged by EEO authorities.
Finally, some tests may include questions that could be regarded by applicants as an invasion of privacy.
Questions about religious beliefs and sexual orientation, for example in the USA have been construed as both
invasive and discriminatory and have resulted in heavy financial penalties.

However, this has not stopped their use in Australia, with organisations being prepared to pay large sums of
money to consultants to test prospective employees. Personality tests in common use include IPAT Sixteen
Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF); Edwards Personal Preference Schedule; California Psychological
Inventory; Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI); Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale;
Kostick's Perception and Preference Inventory and Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI).

The polygraph ('lie detector') is an instrument used to record bodily changes that take place when an applicant
is subjected to pressure. Stressful questions such as 'Do you take drugs?' and 'Have you ever stolen
anything?' are interposed with neutral questions such as 'Is your name Smith?' As a test of honesty, the
polygraph has been quite widely used in the USA. However, with the introduction of The Employee
Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, pre-employment 'lie detector' tests have been mainly prohibited. In
contrast, the polygraph has never been a popular screening device in Australia. Because of its questionable
validity and perceived threat to civil liberties, the test has attracted much controversy and employee
opposition. Given the potential legal and public relations costs involved, organisations tempted to use the
polygraph need to exercise the utmost caution.

The curtailment of the polygraph in the USA has seen the widespread adoption of written honesty or integrity
tests (especially in the retail industry). Honesty tests are designed to ask applicants about their attitudes
toward theft and dishonesty or about admissions of theft or illegal behaviour. Most tests have satisfactory
reliability and according to Milkovich and Boudreau have shown validities in the range of 0.50 with self
reported dishonest activity, though their relationship to objectively or observed theft or dismissal due to
illegal activity is usually lower.

A recent two year study by the American Psychological Association in fact has concluded that professionally
developed honesty tests are valid predictors of dishonest and counterproductive behaviour in the workplace.
Even so, honesty tests are not without their critics. Charges that some tests are deceptive, ask questions
which are intrusive, have questionable validity and present a real danger that applicants who fail will be
labelled as dishonest have all been made. Consequently, honesty tests should be used with great caution;
always in conjunction with a detailed reference check and restricted to those jobs where actual opportunity
for serious theft exists. Similarly, an applicant should never be rejected solely on the basis of an honesty test
result. Although it is estimated that Australian business loses some $2.5 billion a year because of security
problems it is very debatable whether honesty tests will gain acceptance.

7. What are some questions that should not be included in the application form? Why?

Marital status : Inquiries into family circumstances, relationships, spouse's situation, family planning or any
related circumstances are not acceptable. The applicant may be asked if he or she is willing and able
to be transferred, to travel, to work weekends or shifts or overtime, and under what conditions.
National or ethnic origin : No inquiries indicating national or ethnic origin may be made. This includes
references to birthplace, mother tongue, nationality or foreign residence.
Organisations : Applicants may not be asked to list all the clubs and organisations to which they belong.
Photographs : Photographs may not be requested prior to interview. Photographs may be required for
identification purposes after appointment.
Race or colour : Questions asking a person's race, colour, complexion or colour of eyes, hair or skin may not
be made.
Relatives : No information about relatives including names, addresses and relationships may be required of
the applicant. The names and addresses of person or persons to be notified in the case of an
emergency may be required after the selection decision has been made.

Furthermore, information relating to criminal record and/or traffic convictions and accidents (if relevant to the
job applied for) should not be requested on the application form but may be asked for at an interview.
Additional information which can be regarded as relevant in some circumstances only includes the following:
Age ; Sex ; National or ethnic origin ; Name ; Languages ; Religion ; Military service ; Physical disability ;
Medical information ; Height and weight. Consequently, considerable care and attention must now be given
to the design of the employment application form if charges of discrimination are to be avoided.

8. Are you for or against the alcohol and drug testing of job applicants?

This is a discussion question for students. Ethical issues can be debated. Some considerations relate to the
sensitive issue of screening to combat drug and alcohol abuse. Drug screening, according to Senator Amanda
Vanstone, could dramatically reduce the Commonwealth Public Service's wage and salary bill. Qantas, for
example, found that one in eight prospective flight attendants were using illegal drugs (a positive test result
automatically eliminated the candidate). However, companies that administer compulsory drug tests should
be aware that such procedures can lead to legal action, may be expensive and can have a negative impact on
employee morale. Testing for illegal drugs is perfectly sound practice at law, but can be seen by employees as
a display of a lack of trust. Testing for alcohol abuse is perfectly sound in view of statistics about alcohol
abuse in the workplace, but can be seen the same way by employees.

9. What are some factors that could influence an organisation’s choice of selection methods?

For an organisation to achieve its human resource objectives, selection methods and decisions must conform
with corporate policy. A good policy is essential as it communicates clearly what a company's selection goals
are. Factors that management needs to consider in the development of its organisation's selection policy are:
• Equal opportunity requirements : For example, what are the company's attitudes towards hiring women,
minorities, the disabled?
• Quality of people : For example, does the company only want to hire the best, for instance by hiring
M.B.A. graduates from top Australian universities for management positions?
• Source of people : For example, does the company want to promote from within, have a mix of internal
and external people or rely solely on external sources?
• Roles of line managers and human resource specialists : For example, who in the company makes the
final decision to hire? What is the role of the human resource department in recruitment and selection?
• Selection techniques to be used : For example, will psychological tests be used? Will assessment centres
be used in executive selection? Will all applicants be required to undertake a medical examination?
• Use of consultants : Will external employment agencies, executive recruiters or search consultants be
used? If so, for what positions?
• Employee relations impact : Are there any union restrictions or requirements relating to employment in
the company?
• Organisation objectives : Is the company's approach to selection in harmony with the organisation's
objectives?

It is important that the selection process be recognised by managers as a systematic gathering of information.
Its aim is to generate as much job-related information as possible to enable the manager to choose the right
individual to fill a job. It can also be viewed as a series of hurdles which the candidate must successfully pass
before being offered a job.

10. Do you agree or disagree with the view that an organisation’s strategic business objectives should
define the type of people to be hired? Why?

The hiring and retention of key human resources has become a critical issue for Australian organisations.
Increased international competition, pressures for improved performance, corporate mergers and
rationalisations, and industry restructuring mean that organisations cannot afford the luxury of poor employee
selection. The efficiency and effectiveness of an organisation is ultimately dependent on the quality of its
human resources. The organisations strategic objectives must define the kinds of people selected. Yet, the
process through which Australian organisations assess people applying for jobs has undergone virtually no
change in the past thirty years. The written application, personal interview and reference check constitutes an
almost universal selection process in the vast majority of firms. The single person-to-person interview has
been the most commonly used selection method. Thus, despite its recognised unreliability and poor
predictive validity, the interview remains among Australian firms the dominant method of employee selection.

Management selection in Australian business firms pays little heed to research reports and recommendations
in personnel selection literature, and relies extensively on assessment methods that have poor predictive
validity and low reliability. This raises questions as to whether the best qualified candidates are being
appointed to manage Australian organisations. Supporting this view, Dr Milton Smith argues that few
Australian organisations appear to have developed recruitment and promotion procedures based upon merit,
equity and relevant job factors. High levels of unconscious prejudice and subjectivity abound.

Also, failure to conduct an adequate background check can be expensive and embarrassing. The facts must
be known before a decision to hire is made. The interviewer must think about the strategic nature of what he
or she is about to do. For executive positions, the interviewer is about to make an investment decision of
anything between $150,000 and $500,000 per annum.

DIAGNOSTIC MODEL

1. Identify and discuss the key influences from the diagnostic model (figure 1.11) that have significance
for employee selection.

Human resource strategy can emphasise or de-emphasise the importance of selection. For example, a HRM
strategy might be 'to source externally as the first choice for new personnel'. If so, then external recruitment
and selection will be a crucial factor in the strategy. This strategy can then be translated into tactics
(activities) which will put that strategy into place. Job analysis, advertising, searching, processing, testing,
and interviewing will be some of the activities that will have to conform with that strategy. HR strategy is a
function of HRM objectives, which are a function of organisational objectives and strategy.

For an organisation to achieve its human resource objectives, selection decisions must conform with
corporate policy. A good policy is essential as it communicates clearly what a company's selection goals are.
Factors that management needs to consider in the development of its organisation's selection policy are:
• Equal opportunity requirements : For example, what are the company's attitudes towards hiring
women, minorities, the disabled?
• Quality of people : For example, does the company only want to hire the best, for instance by hiring
M.B.A. graduates from top Australian universities for management positions?
• Source of people : For example, does the company want to promote from within, have a mix of
internal and external people or rely solely on external sources?
• Roles of line managers and human resource specialists : For example, who in the company makes the
final decision to hire? What is the role of the human resource department in recruitment and selection?

2. Explain the impact that employee selection has on the acquisition, development, reward and
motivation, maintenance and departure of an organisation’s human resources.

Recruitment and selection must be considered together. Selection is a major source of HR acquisition.
Improperly selected people will have to be developed further at the expense of the organisation. This is
expensive and time consuming. They may have to depart the organisation and be replaced. Even worse, they
may maintain their relationship with the organisation, and stay with the organisation, continuing to perform at
a substandard level. Rewarding poorly selected people is a difficult paradox for any organisation, especially if
the organisation is encumbered with comparatively inflexible awards that fix the levels of reward.

3. Discuss the impact that employee selection policies and practices may have on commitment,
competence, cost effectiveness, congruence, adaptability and performance, job satisfaction and
employee motivation.

Again, selection is essentially an acquisition activity. Figure 1.11 shows the relationship between the
acquisition activities and outcomes like commitment, etc. The hiring and retention of key human resources
has become a critical issue for Australian organisations. Increased international competition, pressures for
improved performance, corporate mergers and rationalisations, and industry restructuring mean that
organisations cannot afford the luxury of poor employee selection. The efficiency and effectiveness of an
organisation is ultimately dependent on the quality of its human resources. The organisations strategic
objectives must define the kinds of people selected.

It is obvious that ad hoc selection equals increased cost. Poor selection decisions result in increased training
time, labour turnover, absenteeism, accidents, industrial unrest, job dissatisfaction and poor performance.
Selection decisions must be based on accurate and objective information, if managers are to make an
informed choice. A systematic selection process is essential to ensure that the person and the job match.

Soapbox

There are seldom clear answers to these questions. The idea is to stimulate debate as much as to determine
an answer.

Ethical dilemma

The medical exam

1. What do you think? Is it ethical for companies to demand comprehensive medical examinations?

see question 4 below.

2. Is conducting a urinalysis to check for drug use an invasion of privacy? Is it unethical?


It is not an invasion of privacy if it is for a job-related requirement. It is not an invasion of privacy to conduct
a urinalysis as part of a health test for the purpose of determining insurance ratings. However, using
urinalysis to test for drug use under the guise of determining insurance ratings is unethical.

3. Should employees be tested for AIDS? pregnancy? allergies?

The law is quite clear - if these issues affect job-related criteria, they can and should be tested. The difficulty
is in determining whether or not they are job-related criteria. They need to be tested in a court of law.

4. How would you try and satisfy the company’s health and safety concerns and employee concerns
regarding privacy?

Application forms may indicate that a job offer is conditional on the passing of a medical examination if there
is a bona fide occupational requirement for it. A medical examination should be conducted only after the
selection decision has been made, and only where required. The medical examination is usually given by a
company doctor or by a doctor approved and paid for by the organisation. The aim of the pre-employment
medical is to obtain information on the medical condition of the applicant.
Such information is useful in:
• ensuring that people are not assigned to jobs for which they are physically unsuited
• safeguarding the health of present employees through the detection of contagious diseases
• ensuring that the applicants are not placed in positions which will aggravate an existing medical
condition
• protecting the organisation from workers’ compensation claims by identifying injuries and illnesses
present at the time the employee was hired
• determining the applicant’s eligibility for group life, health and disability insurance.
Because of the cost, some organisations give applicants a medical questionnaire to complete. If no serious
medical problems are indicated by the questionnaire, the applicant is not required to have a physical
examination. It should be noted that EEO authorities sanction the conduct of a medical examination only if
there is a legitimate job requirement for it. Thus, if organisations are to avoid discrimination charges, they
can make inquiries only about an applicant’s medical situation which are directly related to his or her ability to
perform the job.

Nevertheless, some organisations, motivated by escalating compensation costs, have introduced stringent pre-
employment medical checks. These, in turn, have been criticised for making it too difficult for people to
obtain jobs. Controversy regarding medical examinations also centres on AIDS and drug testing. The
Confederation of Australian Industry, the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and the
ACTU in a national policy statement recommend that employers should not test their staff for AIDS.
Nevertheless, all Australian Defence Force recruits are now tested for AIDS. Likewise, Australians who want
to work in certain overseas locations have to prove that they do not have AIDS before they will be granted a
work permit. How organisations satisfy this requirement while not being able to demand an AIDS test is
unclear. For the human resource manager, AIDS in the work force is a potential minefield.

Similarly, the sensitive issue of screening to combat drug and alcohol abuse is now becoming of concern.
Qantas, for example, found that one in eight prospective flight attendants were using illegal drugs (a positive
test result automatically eliminated the candidate). However, companies that administer compulsory drug
tests, according to the Research Institute of America, should be aware that such procedures can lead to legal
action, may be expensive and can have a negative impact on employee morale.

5. What ethical issues, if any, are raised in this case?

The aim of the pre-employment medical is to obtain information on the medical condition of the applicant.
Such information is useful in:

• ensuring that people are not assigned to jobs for which they are physically unfit
• safeguarding the health of present employees through the detection of contagious diseases

• identifying applicants who have symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse

• ensuring that applicants are not placed in positions that will aggravate an existing medical condition

• protecting the organisation from workers compensation claims by identifying injuries and illnesses
present at the time the employee was hired

• determining the applicant's eligibility for group life, health and disability insurance

The ethical issues that will need to be addressed will relate to the privacy and confidentiality of an
applicant's/employee's medical history and any current problems, the responsibilities of the organisation to its
existing employees, and whether these outweigh the rights of applicants.

Case Study

The new teacher

1. Is any of this personal information relevant? Is it any business of the school?


2. In cases such as this, should employers be allowed to discriminate?
3. If you were Helen Moskowitz, whom would you choose? Why?
4. If the rejected candidates challenged your selection, how would you justify your decision?

In answering these questions students should discuss the EEO and Anti-discrimination legislation. All of the
information discovered by Ms Moskowitz needs to be examined to determine whether it is relevant to the job.
If the new teacher was required to teach religious studies one could argue that religion was important.
However, the appointments are not for teaching in this area.