By Vivian Wing-Sheung Chan, SIOP Blogger
Which predictors do we usually use as indictors of job performance if we were selecting from a pool of job candidates? Cognitive ability? Definitely. Personality? Oh, yes. Specifically, conscientiousness is a good one. Motivation? Yes. Vocational Interests? Vocation what?
Are vocational interests useful predictors for selection?
The answer is yes!
A recent article by Van Iddekinge and colleagues (2011) looked at 74 primary studies and examined the role of vocational interests on employee performance and turnover. The validity estimates for job and training performance is moderate and positive (.14 and .26 respectively). The validity estimates for turnover intentions and actual turnover is moderate and negative (-.19 and -.15 respectively).
Aren’t vocational interests simply hobbies or fun tasks individuals choose to do in their past times? How does this play as a predictor?
Actually, vocational interests are stable individual difference preferences for specific work activities and environments. Theoretical perspectives from vocational psychology have suggested that interests affect employee performance in two ways. First, vocational interests affect how individuals align their goals and fuel their motivation towards their choice in some specific careers as opposed to others.
Second, vocational interests affect how individuals are motivated to acquire the relevant knowledge and skills that allow them to improve their task performance on the job. It is no wonder that vocational interests have a positive relationship with job performance (as task performance is part of job performance) and training performance (as these individuals are motivated to acquire relevant skills and knowledge).
How vocational interests predict employee turnover is suggested to be explained by Schneider?s (1987) attraction-selection-attrition (ASA) theory. ASA theory posits that people are attracted to jobs and organizations that align with their interests. Likewise, organizations choose people who have the same interests as the goals and mandates of the organizations. When people realize that they have a misfit between their interests and assigned job tasks or work environments, then people may decide to leave their job or organization. This last part, attrition, is the focus in understanding vocational interests and turnover. When there is a realization of misfit with vocational interests and job environment or characteristics, it often results in a turnover.
Maybe now you are a bit more interested in using vocational interest as a selection predictor. There are ways to use vocational interest measures in an optimal way. According to the meta-analysis, using scales that assess job or vocational specific interests tend to be especially promising. Job and vocational specific interest measures are those that are developed for a specific job/vocation within a specific organization. These measures typically need to be developed and validated over time, but the incurred costs may be worthwhile given broad interest measures may contain many more items that are unrelated to the job of interest, and that there will be more complexities and time spent understanding how to score and weigh less relevant information. Additionally, the validity tends to be stronger when multiple interests are included as prediction.
For researchers, understanding how vocational interests apply to selection does not end here. As vocational interest measures are rarely investigated in previous years, faking and response distortion has rarely been explored in this context. The meta-analysis also does not account for such biases. Furthermore, surely researchers and practitioners are also interested in whether there is adverse impact if this selection predictor will be used.
Since vocational interests are not strongly correlated with cognitive ability, vocational interests may provide incremental validity beyond cognitive ability for job and training performance. Vocational interest measures may be an advantage for job candidate assessors to use because cognitive ability measures have been through many heated debates with regards to adverse impact.
Vocational interests are not simply fun and games. They are promising predictors for selection! Practitioners, what do you think? Have you used vocational interest measures as part of personnel selection?