Original Research

Job applicants’ attitudes towards cognitive ability and personality testing

Rachelle Visser, Pieter Schaap
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 15 | a877 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v15i0.877 | © 2017 Rachelle Visser, Pieter Schaap | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 October 2016 | Published: 05 October 2017

About the author(s)

Rachelle Visser, Department of Human Resources Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Pieter Schaap, Department of Human Resources Management, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Orientation: Growing research has shown that not only test validity considerations but also the test-taking attitudes of job applicants are important in the choice of selection instruments as these can contribute to test performance and the perceived fairness of the selection process.

Research purpose: The main purpose of this study was to determine the test-taking attitudes of a diverse group of job applicants towards personality and cognitive ability tests administered conjointly online as part of employee selection in a financial services company in South Africa.

Motivation for the study: If users understand how job applicants view specific test types, they will know which assessments are perceived more negatively and how this situation can potentially be rectified.

Research design, approach and method: A non-experimental and cross-sectional survey design was used. An adapted version of the Test Attitude Survey was used to determine job applicants’ attitudes towards tests administered online as part of an employee selection process. The sample consisted of a group of job applicants (N = 160) who were diverse in terms of ethnicity and age and the educational level applicable for sales and supervisory positions.

Main findings: On average, the job applicants responded equally positively to the cognitive ability and personality tests. The African job applicants had a statistically significantly more positive attitude towards the tests than the other groups, and candidates applying for the sales position viewed the cognitive ability tests significantly less positively than the personality test.

Practical and managerial implications: The choice of selection tests used in combination as well as the testing conditions that are applicable should be considered carefully as they are the factors that can potentially influence the test-taking motivation and general test-taking attitudes of job applicants.

Contribution: This study consolidated the research findings on the determinants of attitudinal responses to cognitive ability and personality testing and produced valuable empirical findings on job applicants’ attitudes towards both test types when administered conjointly


selection justice; testing conditions; test-taking motivation; online testing; Test Attitude Survey; reaction to tests


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