Organizational Psychology for Human Resources

Organizational Psychology is not a specific topic on the EPPP, rather it is sprinkled throughout the exam and related to other topics.  It has been separated into its own category as understanding the principles of Organizational Psychology on its own can be helpful to answer the questions you may encounter on the EPPP. The information is best used in collaboration with your own knowledge and what you have already been taught, your previous notes or textbooks, and research if you need more information on a particular topic.  Or you could check out the product reviews page for a variety of options to help you prepare for the EPPP.


diverse workplace

The first piece to understanding organizational psychology is that there are a few different legal acts and policies that
influence the extent of which this practice can be applied.  These main acts are the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which basically protect the employee or person applying for a job from being discriminated against based on sex, ethnicity, or disability.  While it may not be the intention of the industrial organization test to discriminate against any minority group, all tests and tools need to be monitored to closely to ensure that discrimination is not an adverse affect OR that someone may misuse the tools for the purpose of discrimination.

The main reason that human resources has such a keen interest in organizational psychology is for selecting employees, evaluating employees, and training employees.  When deciding on hiring or promotions and importan first step is a job analysis which is basically an unbiased job description  such as tasks performed and compensation, and job specifications such as and education required.  This is a very important task and not as simple as it may sound as the job analysis must focus on “job related” criteria in order to avoid discrimination.  This job analysis is typically done through interviews and/or evaluating what actions tend to lead to successful or unsuccessful performance.  For example upon analysis it becomes obvious individuals in an administration position may be more successful if they are highly organized and detail orientated, this is something that could then be added to the job specifications.

Theory of Career Development

There are 2 categories of career development; Structural Theories focus on the tasks of a job and individual traits, where as Developmental Theories focus on the individuals development specific to work and career.

Holland’s Personality Job-Fit Theory: Based on the assumption that if an individuals traits and interested are matched with corresponding job traits, there will be higher job satisfaction and performance.  Holland identified 6 traits that can be present in either a job or an individual, and these traits are laid out on a hexagon with those traits that are most similar being adjacent.  Based on Holland’s Self Directed Search each individual is given a code with up to 3 letters (the letters correspond to the first letter of each trait).

  • Realistic-preference things rather than ideas or people, they are independent, persistent, practical, mechanical, etc. Jobs in this category include agriculture, environmental science, or a driver.
  • Investigative-prefer scientific or scholarly tasks, and are typically intellectual rational, curious, observational, etc. Jobs in this category are broad from a physicist to a social worker.
  • Artistic-prefer to work with concepts and ideas, and are typically creative, sensitive, unstructured, and imaginative. Jobs in this category include dancer, teacher, public relations, etc.
  • Social– prefer to help others and relationship building, and are typically cooperative, tactful, helpful, and kind.  Jobs in this category include community organizer, social advocate, and educators.
  • Enterprising– prefer being in charge and taking risks, and are typically ambitious, assertive, confident, and motivational.  Jobs in this category include business, fundraising, buyer, and market research analyst.
  • Conventional– prefer statistics and an office setting, and are typically efficient, detail-oriented, efficient, and conservative.  jobs in this category include accountant, math teacher, economist, and real estate.

Super’s Career Rainbow: Donald Super created a model much different from Holland’s, which views career as more fluid with 5 distinct phases. Under 14 is the growth stage, 15-24 is the exploratory stage, 25-44 is the establishment stage, 45-64 is the maintenance stage, and over 65 is a disengagement stage.  Career patterns are just as likely to be determined by opportunities available and socioeconomic factors as individual abilities and personal characteristics.

Schein’s Career Anchor Theory: Based on the idea that people have one category that the are “anchored” to which is based on individual self-concept.  This one anchor is what will influence future decisions, and is based on one of 8 categories: Lifestyle, dedication to a cause, pure challenge, managerial competence, technical competence, entrepreneurial creativity, security, and independence.

Krumboltz’s Social Learning Theory: Basically an individuals choice of career is based on what they have already learned through modeling, or reinforcement (for example my dad is an accountant and he makes a lot of money so I think I will be an accountant too).  Factors that affect career choice include environmental conditions, social learning, genetic components, and experience.

Selecting an Employee

There are 5 components to selecting an employee:

BIODATA: Or Biographical Information, which has 3 types of applications:

  • Standard Application is the most common and basically asks for identifying data as well as training and employment history.
  • Weighted Application is similar to the standard application except it gives preference (or weight) to spcific attributes, for example preference for those who have completed a high school diploma.
  • Biographical Inventory typically covers and individuals life in great detail, and the questions are chosen to correlate to the desirable work behaviors specific to a particular job.

Interviews: Although heavily relied upon, interviews have poor validity. It is a little better if the interviewer is trained, the interview is structured, and there are multiple interviews, but there are still interviewer biases which include:

  • First Impression: Often a positive or negative first impression will cause the interviewer to overlook other factors going forward in the interview
  • Negative Information: The interviewer may focus more on one or two negative qualities to the point of overlooking strengths.
  • Interviewer Prejudices: the interviewers own personal likes or dislikes.
  • Halo Effect: Generalizing one attribute (either positive or negative) to the entire individual.  For example attractive people are often thought to be more competent and trustworthy.
  • Contrast Effect: When candidates are compared it can change the view of one of the candidates either positive or negative.  For example, one candidate may be seen as especially competent if compared to a poor candidate.

Tests: There are 5 main types of tests for employment purposes.

  • Personality Tests: Typically a poor predictor.
  • Interest Tests: Such as Hollan’d Self-Directed Search may correlate well with job satisfaction, they are poor predictors of performance.
  • Cognitive Ability Tests: Although aptitude tests are often time good predictors of success, they can result in discrimination.
  • Work Sample Tests: Involve having the candidate demonstrate a sample work behavior (such as typing) and tend to be both good predictors of performance and less likely to discriminate.
  • Test Batteries: Are a good predictor of job performance, but typically only used in upper management.

Reference Letters: Often times can be misleading and candidates will typically only ask for references from people they know will give them a positive reference.

Selection: Because there can be so many sources of information available it, it can be helpful to have a strategy for how to select a successful candidate.

  • Multiple Regression Approach: This allows for high scores in one area to compensate for low scores in another area.  For example if an individuals GPA, work history, and references are very good this may compensate for a poor interview.  It utilizes a multiple regression equation which you should cover in the statistics portion of the material.
  • Multiple Cutoff: Unlike the multiple regression approach, there is no low scores that can be compensated by high scores.  Either the applicant meets or does not meet the cutoff criteria, for example a position will not consider applicant without a Bachelors degree.
  • Multiple Hurdle: Similar to the multiple cutoff approach, except there are multiple cutoffs or hurdles.  For example first on those with a bachelor degree make the cut, then only those with 3 or more years of experience make the cut, and after enough candidates are eliminated the few remaining are given an interview.


performancePerformance is typically influenced by ability (innate capacity), motivation (willingness to perform), and opportunity (environmental variables).  Evaluating performance is a necessary tool for human resources to determine promotions, salary changes, feedback, and identifying necessary training.

Objective Methods: Based on easily observed characteristics that can be quantified, such as quantity of output, number of errors, absent days from work.

Subjective Methods: Typically a rating by supervisors, peers, employees, or even self ratings.  They can be either comparative or absolute.

  • Comparative Methods: Can be as simple as ranking employees from best to worst (such as highest quantity sold to lowest) and is known as Straight Rankings. Or another form of comparative methods is Forced Distribution where they are ranked to fit a predetermined distribution (like a Bell Scale with a few at the top and a few at the bottom, but most in the middle).  And finally there is the Paired Comparison where each employee is compared in pairs to every other employee.
  • Absolute Methods: There are few different ways this can be done, Graphic Rating Scales rates several different aspects of the job (for example a likert scale for quantity, punctuality, and enthusiasm). Behavioral Checklist a yes or no check for a list of qualities that describe an employee. Forced Choice in which the performance appraiser is forced to choose between 2 equally desirable or undesirable choices. Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (BARS) assesses critical incidents that are either related to successful or unsuccessful job performance, typically this is based on hypothetical situations. Behavioral Observation Scale (BOS) how often an employee engages in every behavior being measured.

Management by Objective (MBO): This is when supervisors and employees meet to discuss agreed upon goals, and then meet later to conduct a performance review based on the goals outlined.  This has been shown to be an effective means of performance evaluation.

Errors in Evaluation: Errors can be found with either the instruments used to conduct the performance evaluation, or the rater conducting the evaluation (rater errors are more prevalent).

  • Instrument Errors: These can include Deficiency Errors which typically exclude important aspects from an evaluation. Or there can be Contamination Errors which involves ranking someone in on parts of their job that are not important.
  • Rater Errors: Raters tend to have a way of evaluating such as being overly strict, or lenient or just giving everyone an average rating which is known as the Task-Based Rater Biases. On the other hand the rater’s performance evaluation may be based on their own prejudices and biases known as Ratee-Based Biases. The rater also has a tendency to be influenced by the employees most recent performance known as the Recency Biases. The Attribution Errors is the tendency to attribute poor performance to internal factors for employees they don’t like, and to external factors for employees they do like.


Training is typically Non-participative training (such as watching a training video), Participative Training (such as completing a workbook), or Group Training (such as role-playing).  There are number of personal factors that affect training which include: pre-training expectations, individual differences, individual differences, transfer of training to the individuals work setting, whether it is learned whole or in parts, motivation, active versus passive practice, massed practice or spacing the practice out, individual feedback, and individual reinforcement.

***Often people are surprised that a piece of psychology is actually business organization.  After reading some of this information can you see how it relates to your own work environment? Can you remember your last interview?  Were some of these components present?  Does your work place have performance reviews?  What type?

You may find the information on this site is not enough to help you feel confident about your ability to pass the exam, That is OK and only you can be the judge of what you need. If this information seems overwhelming to you it does NOT mean you will fail the exam, but you may require a little more in depth material than is offered here. That is why there is a Product Reviews page which will give you a variety of additional options, as well as practice exam questions which I highly recommend as explained on the Study Tips page.

2 thoughts on “Organizational Psychology for Human Resources

  1. This is very in depth information and I had to delve into it, and focus on something that is applicable to me. The hiring of an employee seems so complicated today. You used to just turn in your application, they would call if they liked what they read and schedule an interview. Sometimes, there was no interview. Now, so many more components going into hiring an employee. Which I think is great on one hand, but on the other it makes some people unemployable.

    1. Its very true, its seems to make a formula for the perfect employee and doesn’t leave a lot of room for “gut feeling”. At the same time this formula may help someone who doesn’t make a good first impression, or those that are often discriminated against, to get employed. My mom owned a small business for 25 years and would typically avoid hiring women in their “baby making” years as she found it created a high turn over in staff, on one hand it was what was best for her business but on the other hand it was discrimination. I think its interesting from an employee perspective as I see exactly how my last job I applied for followed these ideas, and my annual performance review.

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