Winners Announced from 2012 Essay Competition

The Cornell HR Review is very pleased to announce the winners of the 3rd Annual Student Essay Competition sponsored by General Electric! Open to all students pursuing a degree with an HR concentration, this year’s competition challenged students to respond to one of three prompts, which addressed such topics as development of critical HR functional areas, “HR for HR”, and workforce planning. Prizes for the competition included $1000 for first place, $500 for second, and $250 for third.

Submissions spanned 10 different universities and a blind review process narrowed down the pool of entries to the competition’s five best. An independent panel of judges representing GE executives Jennifer Maslar, Annette Ellison, Susan Beauregard and Cornell ILR Professor Bradford Bell then placed the winning essays.

Michigan State and Cornell submitted winning essays, with Ashley Myers (Cornell MILR ’12) garnering the first place prize for her essay, Taking Business to a ‘Hire’ Level: Strategies for Workforce Planning.  Ashley responded to the prompt concerning workforce planning and was able to leverage several years experience in IBM’s HR department as well as her ILR education to compose an outstanding essay. “Thank you to all the essay judges for their recognition, time and effort. It’s an honor to have won and to have my essay published in  a publication like the Cornell HR Review”, she remarked.

Second place for the competition went to Ryan Starkweather (Michigan State MHRLR ’13), whose essay offered suggestions for enhancing the quality of HR professionals. Additionally, Emily Tuuk (Cornell MILR ’12) took home third place by composing an essay describing the value of transformative leadership in organizations.

This year’s competition had an incredible pool of submissions and CHRR would like to thank all of the individuals that took the time to submit.  The winning entries will be published in CHRR throughout April and May, and details regarding the next annual essay competition will be announced in February 2013. ℵ


  1. HR has begun to move beyond its transactional roots into a function that is demonstrating punctuated business value by becoming the “talent steward” of organizations. Describe what strategies HR functions should deploy to avoid the trap of neglecting the development of its own talent. In other words, what can HR do to best develop strong “HR for HR” culture and imperatives?
  2. As companies focus on building a strong talent pipeline to drive long-term business success, what strategies can companies use to plan for their future workforce? As technology continues to rapidly evolve, how should companies ensure they are not developing talent in areas where the skills will become obsolete? What tools and methods should companies use to determine the number of people and the types of skills that will be needed to drive their long-term business strategy?
  3. It is sometimes said that “the only constant is change.”  Predict how HR will change over the next 10 years by explaining important transformations taking place in at least one critical functional area of HR (i.e., recruiting, L&D, compensation, etc.)


1st Place: Ashley Myers

2nd Place: Ryan Starkweather

3rd Place: Emily Tuuk

Effective Employee Incentive Plans: Features and Implementation Processes

A 2007 WorldatWork survey found that 70 percent of compensation professionals believe that incentive pay is “important or very important” to the success of their organization.[1] The economic downturn has accentuated the need to contain compensation costs by holding down fixed-based salary expenses. To maintain competitive pay plans, an increasing number of companies are giving more employees across different job functions the opportunity to earn variable, performance-driven incentives for achieving individual and organizational goals.[2]

This paper will evaluate the effectiveness of broad-based employee incentives, identifying the features of effective plans. For our purposes, “broad-based” is used to signal that more than 50 percent of employees are eligible for this variable pay plan.[3] In addition, the terms “variable pay plan” and “pay for performance” are used interchangeably as they appeared in the original sources.


Recruitment and Retention Effects

Implementing a pay for performance system has been shown to resolve organizational problems because it aligns the preferences of firms and employees. In addition, creating a pay for performance system serves as a sorting mechanism to identify and attract the most capable employees. This type of system has shown that individual pay incentives significantly improve productivity.5

Pay for performance systems have further been proven to have two advantages for organizations: attracting more high-quality employees and motivating employees to exert more effort at their jobs. There is some risk involved with pay for performance systems, and the incentive effects of the system may negatively impact risk-averse employees since they have a fear of failure under this plan.[4]

Productivity Implications

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, asserts that using “carrots and sticks” to motivate is counterproductive to motivation and productivity. Companies that have switched from salaries to individual incentives have increased productivity dramatically—some by as much as 44 percent. Linking pay to performance not only motivates but also helps to recruit and retain the most talented employees. New graduates seek to join organizations that make use of performance-related rewards, and they have long-term loyalty to these organizations.[5] The use of variable pay has also grown in popularity, as 67 percent of companies offer some form of variable compensation to employees below the executive level. Likewise, the practice of compensating managers below the senior executive level with stock options and other forms of long-term incentives has risen dramatically. This is because performance-sensitive pay aligns the interest of all levels of employees with the interests of shareholders.[6]

Features of Effective Plans

Top Management Support

Supervisors must understand the incentive pay process in order to support and administer it. Oftentimes, a lack of understanding causes managers to ignore or adapt the process as they see fit. Moreover, if supervisors are not trained on how to measure performance, the process will not be standardized across the company.[7]

Having buy-in from key stakeholders is crucial for the success of an incentive pay system. For example, if top management does not support such a program, lower-level managers will place little importance on effectively administering the program. Hence, a lack of top management support often leads to a lack of accountability.[8]


Consistent and methodical communication is necessary when implementing an incentive pay plan. It will ensure employees understand what is expected of them while decreasing the likelihood of morale problems that result from misinterpretations of how incentives are awarded.[9] Furthermore, one survey found that just 25 percent of respondents communicate to specific employee groups, but of those that did, 74 percent said it was either an effective or very effective strategy.[10] American Airlines used effective communication to successfully implement its compensation plans, as discussed later in this report.

Performance Management

Oftentimes, a flawed performance management system is the main reason an incentive pay system in not successful. When designing a performance management process that will be linked with pay, it is imperative that both employees and managers know what the individual goals are, how they will be measured, and how they will be compensated when achieved.

Managers must also be careful to ensure that there is adequate differentiation between high and low performers. If mediocre employees are given an average merit increase, they will perceive that their performance is adequate. Conversely, if excellent performers only receive a little more in incentive pay than average performers, they will perceive that the company does not value their performance.[11]

Appropriate Rewards

The amount of incentive a company should offer to an individual depends on current income, amount of effort needed to invest, likelihood of obtaining the reward, acceptance of risk, equity of reward and contribution, and industry standards. A minimum for incentive pay is considered to be 5 to 15 percent of an individual’s base pay.[12]

Considerations before Implementing a Plan

The best compensation plans take into account several key considerations. Before instituting a pay for performance system, companies should define which employees should be eligible for the program. Furthermore, it is important for companies to determine the role of equity in a total rewards framework from the perspectives of the employee and employer, as well as in terms of cost. Steps should be taken to (1) review the current objectives and purpose of the equity plan; (2) identify alternative rewards; (3) develop a communication plan for how the effectiveness of the program will be measured; (4) gather employees’ perspectives via surveys, focus groups, or internal research; (5) gather external market information; (6) determine the costs; (7) develop recommendations for design change; and (8) create the communication plan. The communication strategy for the program should encompass the value employees place on various rewards and how the changes will be perceived by employees. It should then monitor and manage employees’ reactions to the changes in their compensation structure.[13]

Objectives of a Broad-Based Incentive Plan

When creating an incentive plan, the organization has to determine and clearly define the goals for the program. The objectives should be aligned with the business strategy. These goals should be utilized to shape the incentive plan as well as the expectations and objectives of individual employees.[14] A main reason why incentive plans fail is because they are introduced as an inflexible process.[15] The incentive plan should be first implemented on a small group of employees in order to determine the flaws and rectify them before implementing them across the enterprise. Once the plan is implemented, it should be regularly adapted.[16]

If companies want a pay for performance system, the firm should define the desired performance and establish methods of measuring it first. Then, connect goals for individuals, for business units, and for the company. Meanwhile, track everyone’s progress and periodically give back the data to raise everyone’s awareness of the program.[17] Sixty-two percent of compensation professionals report that their organizations did not attempt to measure the return on investment of their compensation program.[18]

Degree of Uncertainty

In addition, organizations must consider the degree of uncertainty when implementing a pay for performance plan. When the firm’s earnings are highly variable, too much uncertainty associated with the realization of outcome-based incentives can cause employees to reduce effort or take actions designed to reduce the variability of their pay. It is best when organizations have compensation systems that have components of both high base pay and high variable pay.[19]

The amount of line of sight employees have influences their motivation and how well they respond to a pay for performance system:  the employees who have closer line of sight feel more empowered and view the pay for performance system as fair and equitable.[20] Studies have shown that in order to make a pay for performance system most effective, a pay guarantee that pay for performance earnings cannot fall below fixed salary earnings should be put in place. This mitigates the risk associated with a pay for performance system and will ensure that even the most risk-averse employee’s performance will not suffer due to the system.[21]

Case Study

American Airlines introduced broad-based variable compensation plans that are designed to allow all employees throughout the company to participate so the entire organization can share in the success. There are two components to the incentive plans—accomplishment of goals related to customer service and financials. American Airlines managers sought input from employees, the unions, and the Board of Directors to create these broad-based variable compensation programs. When employees achieve the customer service goal, they receive a $50 reward each month. For non-management, support staff, and other lower level employees, awards under the financial component—in combination with the customer service awards—provide total annual plan payouts ranging from 2.5 percent of eligible earnings at threshold, 5 percent of eligible earnings at target, and 10 percent of eligible earnings at maximum.[22]


Research indicates that broad-based incentive plans can be utilized as a means to encourage both employee performance and productivity. When implementing an incentive plan, several considerations are needed to ensure the plan is successful. However, it is important to note that incentive plans cannot ensure employee productivity by themselves. They must be coupled with effective human resources practices in order to ensure a successful work environment. These include determining the appropriate rewards, instituting comprehensive performance management systems, widespread and effective communication, as well as buy-in from top management to support the compensation plan.

Over the past decade and increasingly in the past year, variable pay has become the standard as companies reward strong performance and lower overhead costs. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years.[23] ℵ

Allison A. Gordon is a recent MILR graduate of the School of Industrial & Labor Relations at Cornell University. She will be joining Motorola as a Senior HR Advisor.

Jennifer L. Kaswin is a student at Cornell University, pursuing an MILR at the School of Industrial & Labor Relations.

Employee privacy in light of new technologies: An ethical and strategic framework

If freedom comes with responsibility, then the spate of new tools enabling employee surveillance calls for careful consideration among HR leaders. Although court rulings will eventually provide more legal guidance on the issue, as strategic business partners HR departments must reach their own conclusions about how to integrate employee tracking technology. Given the generally employer-friendly legal environment of the United States, American companies will likely have relatively free reign to monitor employees as they see fit, with the understanding that employees can simply find work elsewhere if they feel their privacy is being threatened. Despite the relatively lax legal constraints on employee monitoring, HR leaders are recognizing that the value of monitoring technology should be balanced with potential drawbacks, both ethical and strategic.

If freedom comes with responsibility, then the spate of new tools enabling employee surveillance calls for careful consideration among HR leaders. Although court rulings will eventually provide more legal guidance on the issue, as strategic business partners HR departments must reach their own conclusions about how to integrate employee tracking technology. Given the generally employer-friendly legal environment of the United States, American companies will likely have relatively free reign to monitor employees as they see fit, with the understanding that employees can simply find work elsewhere if they feel their privacy is being threatened. Despite the relatively lax legal constraints on employee monitoring, HR leaders are recognizing that the value of monitoring technology should be balanced with potential drawbacks, both ethical and strategic.

Strategic Advantages and Disadvantages

To be sure, a strong case can be made that employee monitoring is useful and even necessary for modern businesses to thrive. Few would argue that it would be unethical to place video cameras around a property to prevent theft, and most American workers accept that their companies have the right to monitor web browsing at work. Indeed, internet monitoring is the most acceptable form of surveillance to employees, perhaps because it seems intuitively reasonable to be reprimanded for spending six hours per day on Facebook (unless the job is social media-related).[1]

Protestations that “big brother” is coming tend to surface when more technologically advanced forms of monitoring are broached, such as devices used to measure fitness, productivity, and location. Intriguingly, these more-controversial technologies also seem, at first glance, to be more valuable from a human capital perspective. As globalization and communications technology make work more competitive and fast-paced, managers feel pressure to optimize the efficiency of their workforce. This can mean matching employees’ schedules to times of peak customer demand, reducing health care costs by promoting physical fitness through fitness monitors, or identifying the (hopefully few) employees who are spending too much time away from their desks. So far, employee monitoring appears to be fairly stratified along lines of professionalization. Retail and fast food workers’ productivity can be easily tracked according to inputs and outputs, while “presenteeism” could be rife among customer service workers who appear to be working diligently in front of their computers—hence, the appeal of location-monitoring badges and productivity software.

However, as the drive for efficiency becomes more acute and technology becomes more advanced, professional workers are becoming less immune to workplace surveillance. Aside from the fitness devices, which are perhaps more popular among those who work at a desk all day, “sentiment analysis” is allowing companies to collect and interpret employees’ opinions in real time.[2] By algorithmically processing the language contained in emails, instant messages, and other forms of workplace communication, this technology aims to determine employees’ “sentiments” about everything from their boss’s management style to the company’s broader culture. Optimistically, this would allow companies to reach a more genuine understanding of their organizational strengths and weaknesses, as well as to intervene when employees are disengaged or considering leaving.

From a strategic perspective, employers must balance the potential for increased productivity and efficiency with the negative business impact of employees who feel that their privacy is not being respected. Even if these disillusioned employees do not leave the company, their lack of engagement may result in presenteeism, which is difficult for managers to notice (particularly among professional knowledge workers) and can reduce individual productivity by over one-third.[3] In contrast, engaged and motivated employees are more likely to be good organizational citizens, going above their official job duties to benefit the company in subtle but significant ways.[4] Recent research suggests that to motivate employees, companies must inspire, promote kindness, and support employee self-care.[5] Presumably, employees who perceive that their privacy is being threatened are less likely to feel inspired by the organization’s goals and vision, no matter how laudable.

On a broader organizational scale, research shows that strong, positive company cultures can be defined by seven criteria: honesty, performance focus, accountability, collaboration, agility, innovation, and an orientation towards winning.[6] While employee monitoring may improve a company’s short-term ability to react flexibly to market forces, a heavy-handed reliance on employee surveillance is likely to compromise feelings of honesty, personal accountability, and collaboration within an organization.

Ethical Considerations

Clearly, the implications of employee monitoring for business strategy are mixed, requiring HR leaders to balance productivity concerns with employee motivation. Ethically, the matter becomes perhaps more complicated, since people have different conceptions of ethical and moral values. While most can agree that stealing and cheating are wrong, the concept of employee “privacy” seems rather vague when applied to technology that the company presumably owns. However, given the increasing pervasiveness of technology in the workplace, it would be irresponsible to use this vagueness as a reason to avoid asking difficult questions. For a modern HR leader, such questions should include:

How much autonomy are employees entitled to at work?

To what extent should we impose lifestyle recommendations that have implications for employees’ lives outside of work?

If we were able to know exactly what all employees were doing at all times, and we knew this would improve productivity, would it still be in line with our values and vision?

As technology becomes more advanced more quickly, one ethical pitfall for employers is adapting the new forms of monitoring simply because they are available, without considering the effects on the autonomy of the employees being monitored. Why is this concern for autonomy important? Michael J. Meyer, a professor at the Santa Clara University Center for Applied Ethics, believes that a certain level of autonomy is essential for an ethical employment relationship—respect for autonomy implies a recognition of employees as people, rather than simply productivity inputs: “Employees are autonomous moral agents. Among other things, that means they have independent moral status defined by some set of rights, not the least of which is the right not to be used by others only as a means to increase overall welfare or profits”.[7] The key word here is “only” –of course employees are used to increase company profits, but according to Meyer’s view, an ethical employer will recognize that his or her employees are “thinking actors” whose personal thoughts, feelings, and choices should remain as private as possible.

A Suggested Ethical Framework

The question then logically follows, What does “as private as possible” mean for modern companies? Meyers offers a six-point test determining when privacy may be breached in the context of law enforcement. Applied to a corporate context, the criteria can be centered around four themes: purpose, relevance, restrictions, and protection. Given the fast-paced, constantly-changing landscape of employee monitoring technology, an ethical framework for using this technology should be simple, adaptable, and useful for preserving both employer and employee interests. Because there is a nearly endless variety of business models and organizational structures, companies should use these four principles to decide which kinds of monitoring technology to introduce and why. Ideally, this model would be developed with employees’ input, strengthening company culture in the process, by promoting qualities like honesty, collaboration, and accountability. Table 1 includes an example of how a fictional company, ABC Corp, could use this model when deciding whether to use sentiment analysis technology.

As companies seek to remain competitive in an increasingly complex business landscape, leveraging new technologies is an appealing way to potentially improve workforce efficiency and productivity. However, forward-thinking HR managers will recognize that employee monitoring can have unforeseen negative impacts on morale and engagement if not deployed carefully and for a specific purpose. To mitigate these risks, companies should use an ethical framework to develop a consistent model for integrating these technologies on an ongoing basis, ideally with employee collaboration. ℵ

Olivia is completing her second year of the Master of Industrial and Labor Relations program at Cornell University, with a concentration in Dispute Resolution. While at Cornell, Olivia has had a paper published in the Dispute Resolution Journal, and she has also served as a Teaching Assistant for three semesters in the Labor Relations, Law, and History department. Before Cornell, Olivia worked in marketing and human resources at a policy research firm in Washington, D.C. She is originally from the Atlanta, GA area and plans to complete an HR rotation program with Capital Group after graduation. Olivia holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Studies in Women’s Studies from the University of Oxford.

Change Management and Organizational Effectiveness for the HR Professional


Hostess Brands, an American company established in the 1930s, specialized in baked goods including the long established Twinkies, Ho Ho’s, and Wonder Bread.  In November of 2012, Hostess management filed for bankruptcy, blaming the unions and workforce for the financial fiasco. While the organized workforce’s unwillingness to bend to management’s demands may have been a tipping point in the Hostess failure, it was clearly not the main issue. Hostess’s unwillingness or inability to change over time was what really led to the company’s downfall. According to Forbes contributor Adam Hartung, the “obvious problem was that leadership kept trying to sell the same products, using roughly the same business model, long, long, long after the products had become irrelevant.”[1] . Points which should have invoked change for Hostess include: changing consumer tastes, nutritional considerations, and the reality that Hostess’s product costs were higher than the prices that Hostess was able to sell the product for[2].  Because change didn’t happen, 18,000 jobs were lost and an iconic American business failed.

In today’s dynamic business world, any change not managed correctly can strain HR’s ability to help the business create and maintain competitive advantage. Human Resource professionals need to have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to not only adapt to change but to also identify when it’s needed and how to successfully leverage such opportunities. According to the SHRM 2007 Change Management Survey Report, only 23% of companies had HR staff devoted full time to change management programs. This means that 77% of HR professionals who encounter change management initiatives will be dealing with change on an ad hoc or inconsistent basis[3]. This article outlines steps and strategies to lead the everyday HR professional to a higher level of agility and effectiveness through the change process. The primary steps outlined in this article are:

Assessment: Understanding organizational and employee readiness for change

Preparation: Setting the groundwork for the change process

Execution: Implementing and monitoring change and organizational development

Sustaining: Is sustaining and institutionalizing change the right answer

1.     Assessment: Understanding Organizational and Employee Readiness for Change

Assessing organizational and employee readiness for change necessitates considering the timing of company programs, the speed of the plan, its duration, and the workforce’s knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) to implement the approaching change. All of these factors can be considered the “hard issues” of change management which, if ignored, can lead to the premature breakdown of transformation programs[4].

Timing: Timing will be a critical focus during change implementation. Common sources of timing issue include open enrollment, Kaizen improvement projects in manufacturing groups, companywide audits, annual trainings, etc.  During times of transition, each of these situations can place additional strain on the workforce and company resources. Too much pressure can seriously affect the success of the change initiative. Change will inherently require more energy, focus, and attention from employees as they’re asked to accomplish daily tasks while instituting the change initiatives. HR needs to identify any concurrent drivers which could apply additional pressures on the employees and business units. HR must be able to assess if the organization can handle the additional strain, or if the timing of the change initiative should be adjusted.

Speed: While timing is focused on when change will be implemented, the question of speed focuses on how fast the change needs to take place. For example, a medical device company might be the only company in its industry with FDA approval to launch a new device.  Accordingly, the company would need to launch the device quickly in order to corner the market. On the other hand, a company implementing a cultural change would need more time and flexibility to incorporate those changes. If change needs to be implemented quickly, HR must have a clear plan in place so the company can move forward rapidly and effectively. In such a situation, HR should minimize the number of people involved in the change management process; the more people involved, the slower the process will be. Moreover, HR will need to encourage leadership to be very attentive to resistance. If the company limits involvement for efficiency reasons there is an increased likelihood that employees will feel ignored and fight the change process. Conversely, when speed is not such an issue, companies can consider broader employee involvement, to foster employee ownership and buy-in[5].

Training (KSA’s): According to the SHRM 2007 Change Management Survey Report, 44% of respondents listed insufficient time devoted to training as a major challenge of the change process. A company’s failure to adequately prepare employees for change is critical, and HR must address this issue in the assessment stage, as it’s almost impossible to correct later.  There are three specific questions HR needs to ask. First, do we have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s) to foster success in this situation? Second, what KSAs would enhance success? Third, what are the time and resource needs to make this training happen? With this information HR can move forward confidently that a lack of knowledge, skills, or abilities will not inhibit a positive change implementation.

As leadership and HR address each of these “hard” issues, they will have a clear understanding of the company and employees’ readiness for change. Postponing change for as little as a month to avoid a particularly hectic time of year or to better prepare employees could largely increase a change program’s probability of success.

2.              Preparation: Setting the Groundwork for the Change Process

The assessment stage is a lot like identifying if a business has enough capital, cash on hand, and resources to move forward with a large expansion project. The Preparation stage is when the business is able to say, “Ok, we can do this; let’s get started.” Change management is like any worthwhile project; it needs to start early and the preparation needs to be done well.

Creating a Vision for Change and a Strong Leadership Voice: Management and HR need to clearly identify a vision for the change process. The vision should clearly highlight the: who, what, why, when, and how of the change process. When management attempts to build a persuasive vision for change they need to connect the change vision with the current identity of the company and the core values of the business. Leadership also needs to make sure there are vivid descriptions of what the change and the future are going to look like. By doing this the vision will be more compelling to the employee population[6].

By identifying and building the vision early, company leadership is able to buy into and represent the upcoming change effectively. Throughout the change process, it’s critical for the workforce to see commitment to the change from management at all levels. If employees don’t see that the company’s leadership is supporting a project they’re unlikely to change[7].  When management can show employees that change is possible and exciting, people feel empowered and are more likely to buy into the prospect of change and work hard to make it happen.

Unfreezing: The second significant point of the preparation stage is to “unfreeze” the current state of thinking about the organization and what it’s doing. Most employees inherently don’t feel that change is needed, especially if the business is doing well. Unfreezing is the act of highlighting the gaps that exist in the current model (i.e. the need for change) or focusing on the growth opportunities that the business could realize if the specific change takes place.  By doing this, HR paints a different picture of the current situation and alters employee perceptions. The act of focusing on gaps or opportunities is called physiological disconfirmation and brings the workforce to a point where it can clearly see and agree that change is needed or beneficial[8]. This could also be looked at as reframing situations so people can look at them in a new way. Framing is a mental window through which we view problems, solutions, or opportunities”[9]. By re-framing the business situation, employees can take a step back, understand the need and/or benefit of the change project, and make a mental shift and get behind the change.

Avoiding Resistance and Communication Strategies

According to the SHRM 2007 Change Management Survey Report, 76% of respondents listed employee resistance as a major hindrance to change, making it the most frequently reported obstacle followed closely by communication breakdown at 72%[10]. With these metrics in mind, it’s clear that HR professionals must find tactics to reduce employee resistance and minimize the breakdown of communication before and throughout the change management process.

Comprehensive Communication Plan: Confusion is a lack of understanding among employees and usually occurs because management’s message is not clearly presented. Ignorance is a lack of information and happens when there are not enough details voiced or employees are intentionally kept in the dark. When these situations occur, employees tend to tell themselves stories to fill in the gaps, and most of the time self-created stories are negative and inhibit the change process[11].  Building an effective communication plan with information, dates, challenges, deadlines, etc. will diminish employee confusion and ignorance simultaneously. The comprehensive communication plan should focus on identifying and anticipating resistance, questions, and concerns that employees will have. By doing this, management can speak with confidence when communicating with employees about current or upcoming change[12]. This confidence and clarity will help convince employees that company leadership is prepared for the future and the change can be a success[13].

Part of the communication plan must address company culture and how it will be impacted. With each new change that’s launched there’s risk to the overall company culture. Employees often resist changes to a familiar culture. By making sure that HR communicates how the change will align with or enhance the current organizational culture, HR can eliminate potential employee fear. In addition, HR should encourage the leadership team to have a culture of communication within the team and with subordinates. One of the worst things that can happen for the company’s culture is inconsistency in understanding.  If there’s a culture shift in one area of the company and not in others, this can create animosity, misunderstanding, and errors, which can hinder the planned change process. By focusing on culture, values, and company ideology, business and HR leaders will better manage the challenging dynamics of culture during institutional change.

Picking the Right Messenger:  Once the communication strategy has been developed, the HR team needs to identify the right messenger to communicate the change plan. Most times, the role of messenger falls to the CEO. However, this might not always be the best option.  Research suggests that employees may use the positive or negative feelings they have about a messenger to decide whether the message can be trusted. Employees who feel loyalty, support, trust, and liking for a particular messenger have proven less likely to resist change. This finding has held true across multiple management communication approaches[14]. When employees communicate with messengers they trust and like, they’re more likely to listen and accept change initiatives. It’s not just important for HR to identify the right messenger at the top of the organization; HR also needs to implement an identification strategy aimed at recognizing leaders who are trusted and can act as change messengers at all levels of the organization[15].

Give Them Voice: In addition to communicating effectively through the right messengers, HR needs to ensure, where possible, that employees have a voice throughout the change process. This doesn’t mean that all employee ideas need to be implemented. However, management and HR should listen to employees and identify what ideas can be realized without inhibiting the change initiative. Employees frequently give management and HR a broader or deeper perspective into the effects of change. This information often helps the process be more successful in the short and long run. Also, by taking note of employee ideas and concerns, HR demonstrates that it values employee buy in and ownership. This also creates a greater sense of procedural justice for the employees throughout the change process[16].

3.              Execution: Implementing and Monitoring Change and Organizational Development

Execution of a change initiative can be exhilarating and stressful for the business leaders and the employee population. It’s critical that HR approaches implementation with a structured and systematic method. Most of the vital steps in the assessment and planning stages must be repeated in the implementation phase. HR professionals must reduce resistance, encourage input, continue to focus on training and education, ensure effective communication, and ensure that the vision stays inspiring and consistent with the company culture as the business moves through the change initiative. However, there are additional areas that management and HR must act on to build employee confidence in the change, and employees’ abilities to contribute to the change process during implementation. Those areas are expectancy theory, creating small wins, equity theory, and correcting direction.

Expectancy Theory: Expectancy Theory[1] is a critical motivation strategy that businesses need to consider during change. Throughout the change process employees must feel that the proposed plan is possible and that as the proposed actions are taken, it will lead to the expected results, which will be positive or beneficial. This must be a key focus during change. If the employees don’t find value in the change or they don’t think it’s possible, they’re less likely to apply the effort required to implement the desired change. Managers must evaluate, what’s the perceived value.

Small Wins: This concept centers on creating and highlighting early accomplishments, and therefore setting an expectation that success is possible. An example of small wins would be the case of Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems (SNI). SNI lost over $350 million in fiscal year 1994 and was trying to deal with these struggles.  In its quest to stem the financial losses, SNI hired new CEO, Gerhard Schulmeyer, who immediately instituted a culture change program. He assembled opinion leaders throughout the company to generate ideas, goals, and then created 60 action teams responsible for creating tangible results in the first 90 days. In May 1995, Schulmeyer held a “Results fair” in Munich where 12,000 employees were able to see what had been accomplished in the first 90 days of the culture change program. Employees were excited; Schulmeyer used the power of small wins to create motivation for his change program[17]. The best time to identify small wins is early and often[18]. By doing this, HR builds employee confidence and self-efficacy toward change. Small wins have a snowball effect, gathering momentum as they roll, and leading to greater confidence and profound results.

Equity theory:[2] Employees often try to alter a real or perceived unfair situation by altering inputs or outputs, telling a story about the situations (i.e. cognitive distortion), choosing alternative comparisons, or leaving the company altogether.  During change, many companies revamp the compensation models and give out prizes and/or rewards for success. Because opportunities during change vary, some employees may come out more favorably than others, which could create discontent among employees. When businesses institute a change initiative, HR needs to consider the equity of the situation and how to brand it appropriately. If there’s inequality or even perceived inequality, employees may feel frustrated toward the change and mentally disengage or try to alter the environment to make it feel or be more equitable.

Correcting Direction: During the implementation stage of a change initiative HR professionals need to ensure that they instill a clear understanding that management encourages feedback and ideas throughout the change process. Many times, change initiatives derail because management and employees are so focused on the end results that they’re unwilling to change course even in the face of obvious obstacles. Correcting direction is an important part of implementing change and should be something the company is ready to embrace if adjustments are necessary.

The classic example of an organization failing to correct direction was the Challenger disaster in 1986, in which a NASA space shuttle exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. The primary issue that caused the explosion originated from the failure of the shuttle’s O-rings at low temperatures. These facts, and the extreme risks, were clear to some of the engineers, but the group norms were set and these norms made it hard to change the direction that the team was moving. Many people wanted to move forward and presented high levels of defensiveness against those who raised concerns. Because of strong defending of the current plan, engineers who knew about the O-ring problem backed down and said that “everything should be fine”… the rest is history.

4.              Sustaining: Is Sustaining and Institutionalizing Change the Right Answer?

What is sustainability? What is institutionalization? If they are different, do the differences matter?  The answer is clear; they are different and the differences are critical to the change management process. Sustainability can be viewed as – keeping a company from moving back to “old ways” while the change process moves forward. HR can help this happen by supporting the firm’s change agents (the people who are pushing the change program forward). If change agents become burned out, they may stop encouraging employees and the program may lose momentum and falter. Establishing a support system gives change agents a place to vent, exchange ideas with other change agents, and gain an understanding that others are facing the same types of challenges. Most times, change agents need some level of psychological distance from the rest of the employees. It’s critical that change agents have a place where they can be open and honest without reproach or retribution[19]. Creating a change agent support system is akin to reinforcing the foundation of a house that is holding everything else in place. Went these change leaders are supported they’re able to continue to sustain organizational change.

Institutionalization, on the other hand, encompasses the actions surrounding keeping changes that are effective in place after sustainability. It is defined as the process of initiating, executing, and managing change for the appropriate length of time. Institutionalization should happen when a company can identify changes that result in higher levels of competitive advantage

This highlights the importance of consistently reviewing change initiatives and continually asking the question, “Is this program still offering us a competitive advantage?” A risk of institutionalization is the loss of leadership attention and the subsequent depreciation of the value that the change holds. To avoid this, HR must keep a pulse on what is happening with change programs.  HR must bear in mind the program’s intended aim and assure the results are still moving toward that end. Furthermore, HR must ask if these expected results will align with the business model and larger organizational goals. If the change is no longer effective or no longer in alignment it needs to be reviewed, revamped, or discontinued.

How to Sustain/ Institutionalize Change:  When a change initiative is successful and creates a competitive advantage, the question then is how to institutionalize that change for an appropriate period of time. Many of the steps highlighted in the planning and implementing stages are mirrored in sustaining and institutionalizing a change.  These steps include: gaining high levels of commitment, reducing resistance, highlighting accomplishments, encouraging collaboration, training, communication, and appropriate incentive allocation to foster motivation. The biggest difference here is that HR professionals need to help the change initiative be seen as a norm, part of the business model, and not just a fad. This could require continual reminders so that old habits are broken and employees move forward with the new agenda.

Not every change is appropriate to sustain, let alone to institutionalize, but change is always happening. It’s imperative that HR professionals develop and encourage a culture that’s adaptive, dynamic, and open to change. As leadership and HR create a “change culture,” where change seems the norm, the continued alterations will be less taxing, there will be reduced burnout, and employees will be more effective over time[20].

Conclusion Historically HR has faced business challenges and issues from a static approach. By mastering necessary stability processes, HR limits its ability to work in a change environment. The stable, day-to-day operations in HR will always be important and it’s critical that they’re done well; however, to strategically enhance the business’s competitive advantage, HR needs to master how to lead the change process now and in the future.  To do this, HR needs to be effective at assessing the company and its readiness for change, set the ground work for the change to happen, move forward to implement change and monitor its progress, help to sustain momentum, and know when it is appropriate to institutionalize change in an organization. As this happens, Human Resource professionals will have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to not only work through change but also identify when it’s needed and how to make it successful. ℵ

Steve Hanson is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota’s, Carlson School of Management, Master in Human Resources and Industrial Relations program. Steve has worked as a Corporate Training Office, was proprietor of Steve Hanson: Leadership Keynotes and Conferences, and was a Graduate Teaching Assistant covering the topics of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining. Mr. Hanson is currently working for ExxonMobil Corporation as an HR advisor.

May the Best (Looking) Man Win: the Unconscious Role of Attractiveness in Employment Decisions

In 1972, Karen Dion, Ellen Berscheid, and Elaine Walster set out to determine whether people hold “stereotyped notions of the personality traits possessed by individuals of varying attractiveness.”[1] Their study provided participants with photographs of subjects previously classified as attractive, moderately attractive, or unattractive and asked them to record their impressions of each.[2] The results were astonishing: based only on the photographs provided, participants predicted attractive subjects would be happier, possess more socially desirable personalities, practice more prestigious occupations, and exhibit higher marital competence.[3] Their findings were published in an article entitled “What is Beautiful is Good” and gave rise to an enduring theory of the same name.

In the decades since the Dion et al. experiment, the “what is beautiful is good” hypothesis has played a particularly meaningful role in occupational studies. Given the high-stakes nature of job acquisition, many researchers have asked, for example, whether attractive job candidates are more likely to be hired than their peers. Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes.[4] And attractive applicants are deemed not only more hireable than less attractive candidates, but also more likeable as individuals and likely “to have all it takes to be successful in life.”[5] This is true regardless of an applicant’s gender and whether the evaluating participants are college students or actual personnel professionals.[6] The advantage persists even when reviewers are provided with other job-relevant information: studies pairing applicants’ photographs with information like college major, relevant work experience, and performance reviews failed to attenuate the effects of the beauty bias.[7] Furthermore, physically attractive job candidates are also offered higher starting salaries than their less attractive peers.[8]

Once on the job, the benefits continue. Attractive employees receive more favorable job performance evaluations than their co-workers.[9] Even attractive college professors see an average 0.8 jump in student evaluation scores on a five-point scale.[10] And, in conjunction with higher evaluations, attractive employees are also more likely to be selected for management training and promoted to managerial positions.[11] It bears mention that, while most studies in this area manipulate attractiveness with head shots, facial attractiveness is not the only predictor of success: women with lower body-mass indexes reach more prestigious occupations in their careers, and taller men reach higher earnings over theirs.[12] Malcolm Gladwell discusses a greater phenomenon with respect to men’s height in his book Blink: among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, 58 percent stand six feet or taller—among the U.S. population of men as a whole, that figure is a mere 14.5 percent.[13]

And contrary to expectations, the professional advantages enjoyed by attractive individuals persist throughout their careers. A longitudinal study of MBA graduates revealed that the earnings gap between attractive and unattractive employees only widens over time: for every additional unit of attractiveness on a five-point scale, men earned on average an extra $2,600 annually and women an additional $2,150 over their peers.[14] Another study found that “an American worker who was among the bottom one-seventh in looks . . . earned 10 to 15 percent less per year than a similar worker whose looks were assessed in the top one-third—a lifetime difference, in a typical case, of about $230,000.”[15]

In short, attractive individuals will receive more job offers, better advancement opportunities, and higher salaries than their less attractive peers—despite numerous findings that they are no more intelligent or capable. This article aims to explore the sources and potential resolution of appearance-based employment decisions. In other words, now that we know appearance-based employment discrimination exists, where does it come from and what do we do about it? Part I examines the psychology of attractiveness, exploring what registers as attractive and what unconscious responses attractiveness commonly evokes. It begins with a definition of beauty in terms of both biological and performed traits and concludes with a discussion of beauty facts versus fictions. Part II provides an overview of existing legal remedies to victims of appearance-based discrimination and explains why legal reform is an ill-suited solution. After ruling out the law, this article concludes that appearance-based employment decisions should be curbed internally, via management and human resources efforts.

The Pieces and Pay-Offs of Attractiveness

Before we examine the effects beauty has on its beholder, it is worth attempting to craft a definition of attractiveness. This undertaking is beneficial for a number of reasons: first, it establishes a common understanding of what is meant when we say “physical attractiveness”; second, it demonstrates the extent to which one can influence his or her own attractiveness; and finally, it dispels the notion that attractiveness is too subjective to quantify or discuss in any meaningful way. For despite variations in personal and cultural predilections, studies have found that certain traits and combinations of traits emerge as more-or-less universally attractive.[16] While some preferred features are biological—say, for example, a fetching waist-to-hip ratio[17] or a symmetrical face,[18] others are a matter of presentation. For women especially, perceived attractiveness is largely influenced by wardrobe,[19] hair color or style,[20] and cosmetics choices.[21] The following sections will discuss the elements of each type of beauty, biological and performed, in turn. The final section will discuss the positive assumptions we commonly make about attractive people and how often those individuals fall short of our expectations.

A.  The Biological Aspects of Attractiveness

Researchers consistently find that physical attractiveness is defined in terms of gender. In other words, the traits that contribute most significantly to female and male attractiveness are positively correlated with femininity and masculinity, respectively. For instance, the most significant predictors of an attractive female figure are a small waist-to-hip ratio and a light body weight.[22] Women are also considered more attractive the longer they wear their hair.[23] The ideal male figure, on the other hand, features a larger waist-to-hip ratio and a muscular, rather than slender, build.[24] And men’s attractiveness ratings increase with height.[25]

Our preference for gendered (or “sexually dimorphic”) features holds especially true with respect to facial features. Female facial attractiveness is commonly linked with a small size of the lower face, while the attractive male face possesses a “longer, broader lower jaw.”[26] Other features commonly associated with female facial attractiveness are wide eyes, a thick mouth and upper lip, and high, prominent cheekbones.[27] In contrast, female faces are rated less attractive when they exhibit characteristically masculine features like a pronounced brow ridge and a wide nose or chin.[28] In addition to the proportions of certain features, facial attractiveness is also influenced by their appearance. The color and texture of skin, for example, play a considerable role in determining facial attractiveness: the attractive female face has smooth skin with a “slightly reddish” tint[29] and heightened luminance contrast between skin and lip color (referring to the contrast between brighter and darker tones).[30] Not surprisingly, increasing luminance contrast has been found to detract from masculinity and male facial attractiveness.[31]

      B. The Performed Aspects of Attractiveness

To some extent, our features are biologically fixed. There are, however, some traits that are more open to manipulation than others. With the aid of cosmetics, women can alter their skin texture, tint, and contrast. They can vary hair length and style. And a woman may strategically emphasize or downplay aspects of her figure through her manner of dress. Even men’s attractiveness can be manipulated, to a lesser extent, by increasing muscularity,[32] dressing in a manner that signals status,[33] and wearing light facial stubble.[34]Thus attractiveness is not only biologically determined, but also performed.

A recent New York Times article entitled “Up the Career Ladder, Lipstick in Hand” examined the effects of cosmetics on perceptions of women, with an eye toward wrangling any identified benefits for professional gain.[35] By gauging participants’ reactions to images of women with increasing quantities of makeup, the study concluded that makeup can not only enhance women’s attractiveness but also increase their perceived “likeability,” “competence,” and “trustworthiness.”[36] Interestingly, the benefits held true past the point of “professional” makeup and into the “glamorous” aesthetic.[37] These results indicate that like biological determinants of attractiveness, the performed elements of attractiveness can affect an individual’s experience and status. More importantly, they suggest the status and privilege associated with beauty may be attained through individual effort, in addition to biological good fortune.

Having discussed the biological aspects of female facial appeal, we see that makeup application tends to mimic our biological predilections: foundation satisfies the preference for smooth, homogenous skin;[38]concealer camouflages blueish tones that detract from facial attractiveness;[39] blush increases skin saturation, which is perceived as “attractive and healthy”;[40] and lipstick creates the desired luminance contrast between skin and lip color.[41] Not even the structural elements of facial attractiveness are beyond the reach of skillful makeup application, as glamour magazines regularly offer tutorials on applying makeup to create the illusion of wider eyes,[42] fuller lips,[43] and higher cheekbones.[44] It is, therefore, unsurprising to discover that women are considered more attractive when wearing makeup.[45]

In addition to using cosmetics, women can also influence their perceived attractiveness by manipulating their hair length, style, or color. A 2004 study found that long and medium-length hair worn down significantly improves a woman’s physical attractiveness, regardless how attractive she was initially rated with her hair pulled back.[46] In fact, women who were initially rated less attractive experienced nearly twice the improvement in ratings as their more attractive counterparts just by wearing longer hair.[47] Participants in another study rated blonde women not only more attractive than brunettes but also “more feminine, emotional, and pleasure seeking.”[48]

Clothing choices, too, play a role in determining attractiveness. Researchers in one study attempted to identify the social cues communicated by various types of women’s dress.[49] They photographed subjects in five different outfits (formal skirt, formal pants, casual skirt, casual pants, and jeans) and gauged participants’ reactions to the subjects in each form of attire.[50] The results indicated that both males and females consider a woman wearing a formal skirt outfit most “happy, successful, feminine, interesting, attractive, intelligent, and wanted as a friend.”[51] Conversely, subjects wearing jeans were rated lowest among each category.[52]These results demonstrate once again that women can not only influence their attractiveness, but can also elicit other desirable inferences generally bestowed upon attractive people simply by manipulating their appearance.

 C.  Why Beauty Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

But what are these desirable inferences? On the basis of appearance alone, we attribute a number of positive characteristics to our attractive peers: on the whole, we perceive them to be more competent, happy, and successful than the general population.[53] We expect them to attain more prestigious jobs, enjoy happier marriages, and lead richer social lives.[54] Moreover, our positive assumptions about attractive people lead us to treat them better at every point in their lives.[55] In primary school, attractive students are called on more often than their peers[56] and judged more leniently for their transgressions.[57] In college, attractive students get more dates[58] and are more often elected to leadership positions.[59] And “lookism,” as this form of bias has been termed,[60] is perhaps most acutely observed in the workplace, where (as discussed above) attractive employees and job candidates are more often hired over their peers, more readily promoted, and paid more.[61]

But are attractive people, in fact, more capable than their less attractive peers? According to psychologist Alan Feingold, the answer is no.[62] Feingold amassed decades’ worth of attractiveness research to discern what traits we attribute to attractive people, what traits actually prove to be most prevalent among them, and how wide the gap is between our expectations and reality. In its first stage, Feingold’s study confirmed that people undoubtedly ascribe more socially desirable attributes to physically attractive individuals.[63] Specifically, people anticipated attractiveness would bear a modest correlation with intelligence, a moderate correlation with sociability, dominance, and mental health, and the strongest correlation with social skills.[64] In the study’s second stage, however, Feingold found “no notable differences” in levels of sociability, dominance, general mental health, or intelligence between attractive and unattractive people.[65] In fact, social skills were the only area in which attractive people were both expected to, and then actually did, exhibit an advantage—but even that correlation fell significantly short of expected values.[66]

Despite the general myth-busting nature of Feingold’s findings, his study did reveal certain traits with which attractiveness seemed to be correlated. For instance, attractive people are generally less lonely, less prone to social anxiety, and more comfortable interacting with members of the opposite sex than their peers.[67] For women, attractiveness served as a stronger predictor for self-esteem, opposite-sex popularity, better grades, and sexual permissiveness than for men.[68] Among men, attractiveness came with greater popularity and social comfort, but also lower intelligence and heightened public self-consciousness.[69] On the whole, Feingold found that while attractiveness tends to correspond with heightened social comfort and other related behaviors, it generally served as a poor predictor for measures of ability.

Feingold did, however, uncover one additional relationship of note: the relationship between the traits we expect to find in attractive people and a person’s rating of his or her own attractiveness.[70] Unlike objective attractiveness, self-rated attractiveness actually did correlate with measures of sociability, dominance and mental health (including self-esteem)—attributes that were expected in higher measure among objectively attractive people.[71] And like objectively attractive individuals, those who rated themselves as attractive also demonstrated higher levels of social comfort (including freedom from loneliness, from general social anxiety, and from anxiety with regard to opposite-sex interactions).[72] Thus, Feingold’s findings provide two insights with respect to self-rated attractiveness: (1) considering oneself attractive is more predictive of many socially desirable traits than actually being attractive, and (2) even the attributes that are more often found among objectively attractive individuals—namely, social skills and comfort—are present among those who merely consider themselves attractive.

More recent studies confirm Feingold’s conclusion that looks do not live up to their reputation.[73] One notable example is the Judith Langlois et al.  2000 study entitled “Maxims or Myths of Beauty? A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review.”[74] Langlois et al. discovered that attractive people are not only judged more favorably than their peers, but are also treated significantly better.[75] Consequently, they found positive correlations with both internal and external measures of social advantages: compared with unattractive adults, attractive people experienced more occupational success, were better liked, had more dating and sexual experience, and generally exhibited better physical health.[76] Moderately correlated with attractiveness were measures of extroversion, traditionalism, self-esteem, social skills, and mental health.[77]In addition, Langlois et al. found that attractive adults hold somewhat more favorable self-perceptions than their peers, perceiving themselves to be more mentally healthy and more competent.[78] In the end, the correlation between attractiveness and intelligence remained very slight.[79]

Another study conducted in the mid-1990s focused specifically on the relationship between attractiveness and intellectual competence.[80] The study, entitled “Physical Attractiveness and Intellectual Competence: A Meta-Analytic Review,” reaffirmed the finding that attractive individuals are perceived as more competent than their less attractive peers.[81] After aggregating the results of 113 attractiveness studies, however, it concluded that the actual correlation between physical attractiveness and intellectual competence is “virtually zero.”[82]

Thus, the opportunities afforded attractive people are proven not only unfounded but also unfair—for any advantages bestowed upon attractive people necessarily translate into disadvantages for their less attractive peers. Because these differences often lead to palpable disparities in wealth and opportunity between the attractive and unattractive, many argue that appearance-based discrimination should carry legal implications. The following Part will discuss the current role of the law in this context and explain why expanding legal recourse for the unattractive is an ill-suited reform.

Appearance-Based Discrimination and the Law

The professional disadvantages faced by unattractive individuals mirror in many ways the forms of employment discrimination that gave rise to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”),[83] the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA),[84] and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).[85] Indeed, the advantages bestowed upon attractive people are not only parallel to, but also entangled with the advantages of whiteness, health, and youth. As evidenced by our current federal employment-discrimination regime, discrimination on such bases is not only socially undesirable but often legally prohibited. The following section summarizes the legal remedies currently available to some victims of appearance-based discrimination. It is followed by a discussion of the arguments commonly advanced in favor of appearance-specific legal reform and, finally, an explanation of the law’s inadequacy to resolve this issue.

A. An Overview of Appearance-Based Legal Protections

Currently, victims of appearance-based discrimination are not wholly without recourse: federal anti-discrimination laws (and a handful of state and local laws) may already prohibit certain forms of employment discrimination if an individual’s appearance is sufficiently linked to some other legally protected classification. Thus, certain victims of appearance-based discrimination may fall within the protections of Title VII,[86] the ADEA,[87] or the ADA.[88] A brief overview of each statute and its applicability to appearance-based discrimination follows.

Title VII prohibits employers with at least fifteen full-time employees from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”[89] Discrimination for the purposes of Title VII means any action with respect to an applicant’s or employee’s “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” including hiring and firing decisions.[90] Given Title VII’s broad reach, some victims of appearance-based discrimination have successfully alleged race or sex discrimination on the basis of physical characteristics like grooming and attire. In the well-known case Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that a female accountant who was denied partnership in part for her failure to “dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry” had been a victim of unlawful gender discrimination under Title VII.[91] In another case, an African-American man who suffered from pseudofolliculitis barbae, a skin condition which prevents approximately fifty-percent of African-American men from shaving comfortably, was found to have suffered race discrimination on account of his employer’s no-beard policy.[92]Overall, however, protection for victims of appearance-based discrimination under Title VII has been inconsistent, even in cases where appearance seems inextricably linked with a plaintiff’s otherwise protected status.[93]

The ADEA extends Title’s VII’s protections to employment decisions made on the basis of an employee’s age, for persons forty years of age and older.[94] To establish a claim of age discrimination, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she was over 40, qualified for the position in question, was subjected to an adverse employment action, and subsequently replaced by a sufficiently younger person to create an inference of age discrimination.[95] Given our tendency to define beauty in terms of youth, it is unsurprising that some victims of appearance-based discrimination have successfully established claims of age discrimination after being replaced with younger, more attractive employees.[96] Like cases brought under Title VII, however, age-discrimination cases on the basis of appearance have met mixed results in courts.[97]

Finally, employees may also seek recourse for appearance-based discrimination under the ADA, which protects qualified individuals from discrimination on the basis of an actual or perceived disability.[98] A qualified individual is defined as one who can perform a job’s essential functions, even if doing so would require some level of accommodation by an employer.[99] To qualify as disabled under the ADA, an individual must (1) be substantially limited in a major life activity (e.g., walking or reading) by a physical or mental impairment, (2) have a record of such impairment, or (3) be perceived as having such an impairment.[100] An “impairment” for purposes of the ADA does not include “ordinary physical characteristics, height, weight, or muscle tone within ‘normal’ range and not resulting from an underlying physiological condition.”[101] Thus, a victim of appearance-based discrimination may only seek legal protection under the ADA if his or her appearance is either symptomatic of an impairment or leads an employer to perceive that individual as being impaired.

Beyond federal discrimination laws, victims of appearance-based discrimination may also fall under a handful of state and local protections. In 1977, Michigan became the first state to outlaw appearance-based discrimination on the basis of height and weight.[102] Today, Michigan remains the only state to prohibit appearance-based discrimination, but it has since been joined by a number of localities. The District of Columbia, for example, prohibits discrimination on the basis of “the outward appearance of any person, irrespective of sex, with regard to bodily condition or characteristics, manner or style of dress, and manner or style of personal grooming, including, but not limited to, hair style and beards.”[103] Similarly, the city of Santa Cruz, California adopted an ordinance in 1992 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of height, weight, and “physical characteristic.”[104] Other jurisdictions to have adopted appearance-based employment protections include Madison, Wisconsin,[105] San Francisco, California,[106] Urbana, Illinois,[107] and Howard County, Maryland.[108]

B. The Appeal and Ultimate Inadequacy of Legal Reform

As the more insidious forms of employment discrimination arguably subside, appearance-based discrimination becomes the subject of increased attention and scrutiny. Additionally, given the demonstrated inadequacy of our current anti-discrimination regime to offer protections to all of its victims, many scholars have advanced arguments in favor of legal reform. Economist David Hamermesh proposes, for example, that unattractiveness should be construed as a disability, thereby shielding all unattractive individuals from discrimination under the ADA.[109] Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode advocates a wholesale prohibition on discrimination “based on appearance in employment, housing, public accommodations, and related contexts.”[110] Yet, despite the inherent appeal of combating lookism in the same way we have overcome other forms of discrimination, this article argues legal reform is not the answer.

For one, most elements of physical attractiveness are not capable of being confined to discrete, protectable criteria in the way that religion, ethnicity, gender and age are. Physical attractiveness is an amalgamation of several traits, some of which are highly susceptible to manipulation and all of which may be valued differently under different circumstances. For instance, an individual may be considered more or less attractive depending upon the other members of the relevant pool; in contrast, one does not become more or less Chinese when compared with others. This is not to mention the inherent difficulty in asking discrimination victims to self-identify as legally ugly.

Furthermore, attractiveness is not one trait, but rather the composite of multiple social values and aesthetic signals—many of which are already protected in some form by the current employment discrimination regime. Put differently, attractiveness is not purely a function of looks; instead, our minds process the way people look and then glean from different aspects of their appearances certain positive or negative inferences. As an illustration, obesity presents a significant detriment to job applicants and employees.[111] On a superficial level, this could be explained by classifying obesity as a form of unattractiveness.[112] But studies show that obesity latently communicates more: because it is most prevalent among minorities and white individuals of lower socioeconomic status,[113] obesity carries racial and class implications as well.

A cursory glance at interview attire reveals another outlet for classist thought in appearance-based judgments. As stated in “The Perfect Interview Outfit,” an article in Forbes magazine, “Your interview attire indicates your socioeconomic status and it can actually impact your salary offer. . . . If someone looks like they need a job they are probably not going to get it.”[114] From silk ties and leather shoes to professionally pressed suits,[115] it is clear that dressing professionally is meant to communicate a level of affluence.

And all of these signals—combined with race, age, and gender judgments—are communicated simultaneously by one’s appearance, rendering “attractiveness” more of an umbrella term than a single characteristic. This is not to say that attractiveness is incapable of isolation; the many studies that analyze the effects of attractiveness have accomplished this task by displaying only headshots or controlling such variables as hairstyle, wardrobe, and skin color. In reality, however, these variables are not standardized or isolated. And so protections on the basis of appearance would practically translate to some amalgamation of protections on the basis of race plus age plus gender plus socioeconomic status, and so on.

And finally, more significant than the complexity of appearance-based judgments is the fact that they are made unwittingly.[116] For, while we embrace a legal system that punishes bad behaviors, we have yet to develop or approve of a legal mechanism that penetrates the unconscious. As one scholar has noted, “[o]ne of the most important discoveries in empirical social psychology in the twentieth century is that people’s perceptions and behavior are often shaped by factors that lie outside their awareness and cannot be fully understood by intuitive methods.[117] In addition, most would agree that legal protections on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, and so on reflect a general consensus that these traits would be illegitimate bases for judgment in any context—professional or otherwise. Consistent with this understanding, Congress drafted antidiscrimination laws with the goal of counteracting and, in time, eradicating people’s innate prejudices. This begs the question whether we as a society are similarly prepared or desire to eliminate appearance-based judgments entirely. Unlike whiteness or maleness, attractiveness is still widely and overtly celebrated. It is perfectly acceptable to compliment someone by saying, “You look beautiful.” It would be ill-advised and repugnant, on the other hand, to congratulate someone on her whiteness or lack of disability. Employment discrimination laws work because they reflect widely held cultural beliefs about what we should and should not value. With respect to attractiveness, however, it is unreasonable to expect employers to act—and to think—differently in the workplace than they are encouraged to think everywhere else. To render such judgments illegal would, therefore, prove unreasonable and ineffective.


As this paper has demonstrated, attractiveness is not well-suited to legal protection for a number of reasons. Given the evidence that lookism results in markedly differential treatment and opportunities for the unattractive, however, it is a problem that deserves attention. If the law falls short as an exogenous force to individual thought and organizational action, perhaps the solution lies in internal reform. Interview protocols, hiring strategies, and compensation—the roots of organization inequality—all reside within the purview of human resources and management personnel.

Appearance-based discrimination has already received some attention in managerial literature. The International Journal of ManagementPersonnel Psychology, and other periodicals have identified and discussed the effects of attractiveness across the spectrum of job-related outcomes.[118] The question, then, is how to facilitate the transition from literature observing the phenomenon of lookism to proposing solutions. Unlike legal discourse, which asks how to do a job fairly, internal management discourse asks how to do a job better. Accordingly, the question of lookism should be framed not as a fairness issue and how to artificially disadvantage the attractive, but as a strategic challenge—i.e., how to avoid missing out on superior candidates whose unattractiveness would otherwise cause them to be underestimated and overlooked. By reframing the issue in this way, organizations can internalize the harms threatened by appearance-based discrimination in a way that incentivizes reform and addresses the problem at its source.

Personality Tests in Employment Selection: Use With Caution

Many employers utilize personality tests in the employment selection process to identify people who have more than just the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in their jobs.[1] If anecdotes are to be believed—Dilbert must be getting at something or the cartoon strip would not be so popular—the work place is full of people whose personalities are a mismatch for the positions they hold.  Psychology has the ability to measure personality and emotional intelligence (“EQ”), which can provide employers with data to use in the selection process.  “Personality refers to an individual’s unique constellation of consistent behavioral traits”[2] and “emotional intelligence consists of the ability to perceive and express emotion, assimilate emotion in thought, understand and reason with emotion, and regulate emotion.”[3] By using a scientific approach in hiring, employers can increase their number of successful employees.

Personality & Emotional Intelligence

The link between personality and emotional intelligence to job performance is compelling.[4]  Though there is strong evidence that cognitive measurement tools are good predictors of job success, one important reason that they are not perfect predictors is that human personality is an important factor in job success.[5] But not all are convinced that assessing workers’ cognitive abilities is worthwhile.  Annie Murphy Paul, a former senior editor for Psychology Today magazine, attacked the $400 million a year testing industry, comparing personality tests to phrenology—a popular and discredited 19th century personality instrument that measured mental traits by examining the 27 bumps on a person’s head.[6] With over 2,500 personality and emotional intelligence instruments on the market, Ms. Murphy is likely correct that some of these are ineffective.[7]  Discernment is the solution.


Personality is “the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts to and interacts with others … [and] we most often describe it in terms of the measurable traits a person exhibits.”[8]   One of the best supported models for measuring personality involves the “Big Five Model,” with its five basic dimensions that capture most of the variation in human personality.[9] The traits include neuroticism/emotional stability,[10]extraversion,[11] openness to experience,[12] agreeableness,[13] and conscientiousness.[14] These five job traits are connected to job performance and are predictors of certain outcomes: 

“avoiding counterproductive behavior, reducing turnover and absenteeism, exhibiting more teamwork and leadership, providing more effective customer service, contributing more citizenship behavior, influencing job satisfaction and commitment to the firm, and enhancing safety.”[15]

There are several tests that measure the Big Five personality dimensions, but the two most popular are the NEO-Personality Inventory and the Personality Characteristics Inventory (“PCI”).[16]  The PCI is comprised of 150 multiple-choice questions and asks questions such as “I tend not to say what I think about things” (i.e., testing extraversion) or “I approach most of my work steadily and persistently” (i.e., testing conscientiousness).[17] The first Big Five personality test developed for the business community was the Hogan Personality Inventory (“HPI”), with its focus on normal personality rather than abnormal personality.[18] A 2003 meta-analytic review of 43 studies found that the HPI is an effective predictor of job performance for many different jobs, including customer service representatives, hospital administrators, bus drivers, department managers, and police officers.[19]

Personality Test Criticism

There is some debate in the industrial/organizational (“IO”) psychology field as to whether personality measures should be used in employee selection.[20] Many believe that personality tests used for employee selection are not valid, and in any event, can be faked.[21] The earliest personality tests go back at least to 1919, at the dawn of IO psychology.[22] In one article that reviewed 113 personality selection tool studies conducted from 1919 to 1952, personality was found to correlate to job success at levels similar to more recent studies.[23] For studies published from 1952 to 1963, one paper noted that the studies indicated that personality had some predictive power, but not at a level that personality should be used for employee selection.[24] This same article concluded that

“there is no generalizable evidence that personality measures can be recommended as good or practical tools for employee selection….  The best that can be said is that in some situations, for some purposes, some personality measures can offer helpful predictions.  But there is nothing in this summary to indicate in advance which measure should be used in which situation or for which purposes.  In short, it must be concluded (as always) that the validity of any personality measure must be specifically and competently determined for the specific situation in which it is to be used and for the specific purpose or criterion within that situation….  It seems clear that the only acceptable reason for using personality measures as instruments of decision is found only after doing considerable research with the measure in the specific situation and for the specific purpose for which it is to be used.[25]”

A 2010 review of the academic literature found correlations between personality and job success to fall in the .03 to .15 range, which the authors note is “close to zero.”[26]  To put these correlations in perspective, personality tests used in employee selection account for approximately 5% of an employee’s job success while the other 95% of their performance is unaccounted for by personality.[27] Interestingly, the .15 correlation is almost identical to what was noted in the 1960’s, meaning there has been no measurable change in the data for the 50 years.

One possibility for the relatively low correlation rates is that the data has not been interpreted properly.  A 2011 study has found evidence for a curvilinear relationship between personality traits and job performance, while all the earlier studies assumed a linear relationship.[28] This suggests that for complex jobs, high personality scores may correlate better to ultimate job success.[29]

Emotional Intelligence

As the name implies, emotional intelligence (“EQ”) is not a personality trait but a type of intelligence.  Beginning in the 20th century, society has viewed intelligence almost exclusively through the lens of intelligence quotient (“IQ”) tests.[30] IQ tests have the advantage of being very reliable, but they are limited in that they measure abstract reasoning and verbal fluency.[31]  In 1990 Peter Salovey and John Mayer proposed an additional intelligence:  emotional intelligence.[32] Emotional intelligence is comprised of four components: First, people need to be able to accurately perceive emotions in themselves and others and have the ability to express their own emotions effectively.  Second, people need to be aware of how their emotions shape their thinking, decisions, and coping mechanisms.  Third, people need to be able to understand and analyze their emotions, which may often be complex and contradictory.  Fourth, people need to be able to regulate their emotions so that they can dampen negative emotions and make effective use of positive emotions.[33]

It is important to note that if EQ is, in fact, a type of intelligence, it really cannot be changed very much—just like a person’s IQ remains relatively constant throughout their lifetime. The marketplace is beginning to recognize the importance of EQ.  One survey indicated that 60% of employers would not hire a high IQ candidate with a low EQ.[34] When asked why emotional intelligence is more important than high IQ, employers said that employees with high EQ (in order of importance):

  • Are more likely to stay calm under pressure
  • Know how to resolve conflict effectively
  • Are empathetic to their team members and react accordingly
  • Lead by example
  • Tend to make more thoughtful business decisions[35]

When these same employers were asked to identify specific behaviors and qualities that demonstrate EQ, they responded that employees who demonstrate high EQ:

  • Admit and learn from their mistakes
  • Can keep their emotions in check and have thoughtful discussions on tough issues
  • Listen as much, or more than, they talk
  • Take criticism well
  • Show grace under pressure[36]

The opinions given by the surveyed employers are also echoed in academic literature on the subject. Research indicates that emotional intelligence has predictive validity “in domains such as academic performance, job performance, negotiation, leadership, emotional labor, trust, work-family conflict, and stress.”[37]  While some contend that emotional intelligence and personality are the same, other studies reveal that emotional intelligence is measuring something apart from personality.[38]  Specifically, when measuring emotional intelligence as a separate construct, it can be measured separately from intelligence and personality.”[39]  In one 1995 study, it was claimed that emotional intelligence was the most significant job performance predictor.[40]  However, as in many areas of research, the keynote finding of one study does not even make the footnote of a similar study. Such was the case in 2011 when a study, relying on much more data than the 1995 sample, could not support the earlier claim that EQ predicts job performance.[41] Although the exact role EQ plays in the workplace is still up for debate, it is reasonable to assume from the multitude of studies linking EQ to various performance factors that a valid and reliable emotional intelligence test used in selection process should result in useful data.

Applicant Faking

To the extent that personality and EQ tests are used in hiring, the issue of applicant faking needs to be addressed.  Faking is defined “as the tendency to deliberately present oneself in a more positive manner than is accurate in order to meet the perceived demands of the testing situation.”[42] The concern is that a person with high cognitive abilities will have the intellectual skill necessary to identify the answers that will maximize their chances of getting a position.  A quick search on the Internet will find advice on how to fake these tests.  One article, geared toward lawyers seeking employment with firms who conduct personality or EQ tests, notes:

I’m not convinced that you can’t ‘game’ the test to some extent. So here are my tips for ‘passing’ the test:

  • Resist the urge to be too revealing. The assessment is part of the job interview, not something for your own enlightenment. If you are curious about your psychological profile, take one of the tests out there on your own dime.
  • Be a social animal. If you need to lock yourself in a soundproof room to do your work, don’t admit it. These days, law firms are very keen on team work. Never mind that most of the big rainmakers tend to be solipsistic egomaniacs. The buzz word is ‘cooperation.”
  • Be sunny. Lawyers are paid to look at the worst-case scenarios, so they tend to be skeptical, if not pessimistic. Despite your inclination to look on the dark side, try to project a positive, ‘I’ll-find-a-solution’ attitude. That’s what clients want to hear.
  • Be cool. If you get angry or take criticism badly, don’t admit it. Grit your teeth and say you welcome criticism—and that you always learn from it.
  • Review math. Yes, there was a math section on the test that completely threw me. It might help to buy one of those SAT prep books.[43]

One recent study found faked answers for one quarter to one half of the applicants.[44] So how can employers who want to use personality or EQ tests in their selection process mitigate against the risk of applicant faking?  Counter-measures to faking include the test and retest approach to see if an individual is consistent in their answers, or asking questions that require quick responses.[45] But counter-measures to faking may result in less reliable and valid results since some tools used to detect faking do not work well.[46]

Skepticism in Personality Testing

There are some skeptics in the general population who are derisive of these tests because they feel the questions posed in them are irrelevant to determining a person’s personality or emotional intelligence.  For example, one exam used in selecting first year legal associates asks “do you like flowers?”[47] Clearly an applicant’s affection for flowers is not connected to the knowledge, skills, or abilities necessary to be a successful lawyer.  It is this type of question that skeptics use to prove, at least to themselves, the total irrelevancy of psychological testing.  However, proponents of these tests would say these cynics are wrong because they misunderstand the purpose behind the question.  Personality tests may ask a series of irrelevant questions because the test is examining the patterns behind the responses, not the answer to any particular question—it is that pattern that provides insight into the test taker’s personality.

Legal Considerations

As more and more companies decide to utilize personality and emotional intelligence tests in the employee selection process, applicant faking and placating skeptics are not the only hazards a company can expect.  If not constructed properly, the potential legal ramifications of these tests can be massive.  The two most significant legal considerations in using personality and emotional intelligence tests are Title VII discrimination and discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  While intentional discrimination is certainly possible, the more likely risk for companies acting in good faith involves inadvertent discrimination through the use of valid and reliable instruments.

Title VII Discrimination and Validation Studies

The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” in the employment context, including the employee selection process.[48] To assist employers in the selection process, Title VII allows professionally developed ability tests as long as they are not “designed, intended or used to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”[49] Personality differences between races are small and should not impact the use of personality tests in the employee selection process.[50] In the first Supreme Court case that examined unintentional discrimination, Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Court accepted a lower court finding that that the business was not intentionally discriminating against the plaintiffs based on race.  The Court then shifted its inquiry to the employer’s use of two commercially available ability tests[51]—both still in use today—and held that these facially non-discriminatory tests violated Title VII because the tests had a disparate impact on the African-American plaintiffs and the employer did not prove that the tests were related to job performance.[52] The Griggs Court, however, ended its opinion with agreement that employee selection tools are extremely important to business, but that business needs to use tests that are designed “for the job and not the person in the abstract.”[53] Presumably, if the employer in Griggs had conducted a meaningful study and determined that the two ability tests were related to job performance, then the Court would have found there was no Title VII violation.[54] Today, the Court’s jurisprudence has been codified into Title VII.  To prevail in a disparate impact case, a plaintiff must establish that at least one of two tests has been violated.  The first test requires the plaintiff to prove that an employment practice results in disparate impact which, if proven, shifts the burden to the defendant to demonstrate that the practice in question is consistent with business necessity.[55] The second test requires the plaintiff to prove that there was an alternative employment practice, the defendant refused to adopt it, and the alternative employment practice would have eliminated or reduced the disparate impact.[56] Presumably, the employer must also have been aware of the alternate employment practice at the time the defendant was being considered for employment.[57] Though most of the litigation involving alternative employment practices involves the use of employment tests, plaintiffs have rarely prevailed because their suggested alternatives were neither less discriminatory nor advanced the employer’s purpose in using the test.[58] This leaves the first test—job relatedness—as the only significant disparate impact issue facing legal employers that use personality tests.

A disparate impact claim is, basically, a plaintiff proving discrimination through the use of statistics.  An employer can then defeat a disparate impact claim by “proving business necessity, bona fide occupational qualifications, or validity.”[59] The bona fide occupational qualification defense only applies to sex and religious discrimination and therefore only applies to a small group of employers.[60]  Business necessity is limited to safety concerns for those in the protected class (e.g., prohibiting pregnant women from working on a job that would exposes them to lead, which would be dangerous for the unborn child).[61] This leaves employers with the need to establish validity for their selection tools.  To help government agencies and employers with a uniform understanding of validation, in 1978 the government created the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (“Guidelines”).[62] The Guidelines provide options for establishing validity, though modern science is often opposed to the older science enshrined in the Guidelines.[63] In one recent case rejecting disparate impact, the Supreme Court held that the City of New Haven, Connecticut had developed an examination that was job related, was necessary for the firefighting business at issue in the case, and had the requisite validity.[64] This demonstrates the importance of validating tests before administering them.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from conducting pre-employment medical exams.[65] Though most employers are only interested in identifying personality traits necessary for a particular position, some personality tests might also have the ability to identity a medical condition, thereby violating the ADA.  For example, in Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, the Court held that a personality test that could have been used by the employer to diagnose a medical condition violated the ADA.  Specifically, the employer used the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (“MMPI), which can measure “depression, hypochondriasis, hysteria, paranoia, and mania.”[66] The Court rejected the “we aren’t using it for that” argument and explained that because the test can reveal mental illness then it should be legally classified as a medical exam.”[67] In another case, an employer asked candidates whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:

  • People do a lot of things that make you angry.
  • There’s no use having close friends; they always let you down.
  • Many people cannot be trusted.
  • You are unsure of what to say when you meet someone.[68]

The applicants were concerned that the questions might identify mental illness, which is prohibited by the ADA, so the company agreed to remove the questions from future tests.[69]  Personality tools that are designed by knowledgeable psychologists familiar with employment laws should have no difficulty in avoiding an ADA violation.


Making poor hiring decisions not only has the potential to create a toxic workplace environment, but it can be expensive.  Each bad hire costs a business 1.5 times[70] to 5 times that employee’s salary and benefits.[71] Assuming a $50,000 combined salary and benefits, the bad hire will cost an employer at least an additional $75,000.  Even though an employer may be challenged in court for using personality and EQ tests in employee selection, the benefits of more successful employees far outweigh potential legal costs.  The key is for employers to use valid, reliable, and legally sustainable tests in hiring employees, not only because this will reduce potential lawsuits but also because it is the only way that employers can scientifically identify the best candidates for the job. ℵ

H. Beau Beaz currently serves as the Associate Dean for Academic Effectiveness & Professor of Law at the Charlotte School of Law. Previously, Baez was the director of the Tax Law program at Concord University School of Law and counsel for the Multistate Tax Commission. He received both a J.D. and a Master of Laws in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center and was a law clerk for the United States Attorney’s Office.  

  • [1] Ruth Mantell, Job Seekers, Get Ready for Personality Tests:  More Employers are using Pre-Hire Assessments, Market Watch (September 12, 2011)
  • [2] Id. at 491.
  • [3] Wayne Weiten, Psychology:  Themes and Variations 385 (8th ed. 2010).
  • [4] Frank L. Schmidt & John E. Hunter, The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology:  Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings, 124 Psychological Bulletin 262 (1998).
  • [5] Lee Borghans, Angela Duckworth, et al., The Economics and Psychology of Personality Traits 42 Nat’l Bureau of Econ. Research, Working Paper No. 13810 (2008).
  • [6] Annie Murphy Paul, The Cult of Personality:  How Personality Tests are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves (2004).
  • [7] Id.
  • [8] Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 135 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [9] Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 138 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [10] Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 138 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [11] Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 138 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [12] Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 138 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [13] Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 138 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [14] R. R. McCrae & P. T. Costa, Personality in Adulthood:  A Five-Factor Theory Perspective (2003); Stephen P. Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, Organizational Behavior, 138 (14th ed. 2011).
  • [15] Robert D. Gatewood, Huberto S. Field, and Murray Barrick, Human Resource Selection, 507 (7th ed., 2011).
  • [16] Self-report questionnaires are less expensive to administer, which is why they tend to be more popular than approaches that require the administration by a trained psychologist.
  • [17] Robert D. Gatewood, Huberto S. Field, and Murray Barrick, Human Resource Selection, 511 (7th ed., 2011).
  • [18] Hogan Assessments, Hogan Personality Inventor:  Overview Guide,  (The HPI utilizes the following seven dimensions:
  • “Adjustment: confidence, self-esteem, and composure under pressure
  • Ambition: initiative, competitiveness, and desire for leadership roles
  • Sociability: extraversion, gregarious, and need for social interaction
  • Interpersonal Sensitivity: tact, perceptiveness, and ability to maintain relationships
  • Prudence: self-discipline, responsibility and conscientiousness
  • Inquisitive: imagination, curiosity, and creative potential
  • Learning Approach: achievement-oriented, stays up-to-date on business and technical matters”
  • [19] Joyce Hogan and Brent Holland, Using Theory to Evaluate Personality and Job-Performance Relations:
  • A Socioanalytic Perspective, 88 Journal of Applied Psychology 100, 103 (2003).
  • [20] See generally, Frederick P. Morgeson, et al., Are We Getting Fooled Again?  Coming to Terms with Limitations in the Use of Personality Tests for Personnel Selection, 60 Personnel Psychology 1029 (2007).
  • [21] Wesley A. Scroggins, Steven L. Thomas, and Jerry A. Morris, Psychological Testing in Personnel Selection, Part I:  A Century of Psychological Testing, 38 Public Personnel Management 99, 105 (2008).
  • [22] E. E. Ghiselli and R. P. Barthol, The Validity of Personality Inventories in the Selection of Employees, 38 Journal of Applied Psychology 18 (1953).
  • [23] See generally, E. E. Ghiselli and R. P. Barthol, The Validity of Personality Inventories in the Selection of Employees, 38 Journal of Applied Psychology 18, 20 (1953).
  • [24] See generally, Robert M. Guion and Richard F. Gottier, Validity of Personality Measures in Personnel Selection, 18 Personnel Psychology 135, 141 (1965).
  • [25] Robert M. Guion and Richard F. Gottier, Validity of Personality Measures in Personnel Selection, 18 Personnel Psychology 135, 159-160 (1965).
  • [26] Frederick P. Morgeson, et al., Are We Getting Fooled Again?  Coming to Terms with Limitations in the Use of Personality Tests for Personnel Selection, 60 Personnel Psychology 1029, 1033 (2007).
  • [27] Frederick P. Morgeson, et al., Are We Getting Fooled Again?  Coming to Terms with Limitations in the Use of Personality Tests for Personnel Selection, 60 Personnel Psychology 1029, 1037 (2007).
  • [28] Huy Le, In-Sue Oh, Steven B. Robbins, et al., Too Much of a Good Thing:  Curvilinear Relationships Between Personality Traits and Job Performance, 96 Journal of Applied Psychology 113 (2011).
  • [29] Huy Le, In-Sue Oh, Steven B. Robbins, et al., Too Much of a Good Thing:  Curvilinear Relationships Between Personality Traits and Job Performance, 96 Journal of Applied Psychology 113, 129 (2011).
  • [30] Wayne Weiten, Psychology Themes and Variations 361-362 (8th ed. 2010) (“An intelligence quotient (IQ) is a child’s mental age divided by chronological age, multiplied by 100.”).
  • [31] Id. at 364, 366.
  • [32] Peter Salovey & John Mayer, Emotional Intelligence, 9 Imagination, Cognition, and Personality 185 (1990).
  • [33] Wayne Weiten at 386.
  • [34] Seventy-One Percent of Employers Say They Value Emotional Intelligence Over IQ, According to CareerBuilder Survey, August 18, 2011,
  • [37] Ernest H. O’Boyle et al., The Relation Between Emotional Intelligence and Job Performance:  A Meta-Analysis, 32 J. Organiz. Behav. 789 (2010) (citations omitted).
  • [38] J. C. Rode et al., Emotional Intelligence and Individual Performance:  Evidence of Direct and moderated Effects, 28 Journal of Organizational Behavior 399 (2007).
  • [39] O’Boyle at 806.
  • [40] D. Goleman, Emotional Intelligence:  Why it can Matter More than IQ (1995).
  • [41] O’Boyle at 804.
  • [42] Jinyan Fan, Dingguo Gao, Sarah A. Carroll, et. al., Testing the Efficacy of a New Procedure for Reducing Faking on Personality Tests Within Selection Contexts, American Journal of Applied Psychology 1, 2 (2012).
  • [43] Vivia Chen, The Careerist Goes on the Couch, The Careerist (Feb. 1, 2011).
  • [44] R. L. Griffith, et al, Do Applicants Fake? An Examination of the Frequency of Applicant Faking Behavior, 36 Personnel Review, 341 (2007).
  • [45] Jinyan Fan, Dingguo Gao, Sarah A. Carroll, et. al., Testing the Efficacy of a New Procedure for Reducing Faking on Personality Tests Within Selection Contexts, American Journal of Applied Psychology 1, 2 (2012).
  • [46] Mitchell H. Peterson, Richard L. Griffith, Joshua A. Isaacson, et. al., Applicant Faking, Social Desirability, and the Prediction of Counterproductive Work Behaviors, 24 Human Performance 270, 286 (2011).
  • [47] Vivia Chen, The Careerist Goes on the Couch, The Careerist (Feb. 1, 2011)
  • [48] 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2(a)(1).  The shorthand term “Title VII,” used by practitioners and in the literature, refers to this section’s location in Pub.L. 88-352 passed in 1964 rather than to its location in Title 42, Subchapter VI of the U.S. Code.
  • [49] 42 U.S.C.A. §2000e-2(h).
  • [50] Hannah J. Foldes, Emily E. Duehr, and Deniz S. Ones, Group Differences in Personality:  Meta-Analyses Comparing Five U.S. Racial Groups, 61 Personnel Psychology, 579, 605 (2008).
  • [51] The Wonderlic Personnel Test, today called the Wonderlic Classic Cognitive Ability Test, claims to “measure a candidate’s ability to understand instructions, learn, adapt, solve problems and handle the mental demands of the position.” (last visited July 4, 2012).  The Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test is used for assessing mechanical aptitude, “with a focus on spatial perception and tool knowledge rather than manual dexterity.” (last visited July 4, 2012).
  • [52] Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 431 (1971).
  • [53] Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 436 (1971).
  • [54] See, Griggs v. Duke Power Col, 401 U.S. 424, 431 (1971).
  • [55] 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A)(i).
  • [56] 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A)(ii).
  • [57] 2 Lex K. Larson, Employment Discrimination §24.01, at 24-5 (2d ed. 2012).
  • [58] 2 Lex K. Larson, Employment Discrimination §24.01, at 24-8 (2d ed. 2012).
  • [59] Robert D. Gatewood, Huberto S. Field, and Murray Barrick, Human Resource Selection, 39 (7th ed., 2011).
  • [62] Created by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Civil Service Commission, Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice.
  • [63] Robert M. Guion and Scott Highhouse, Essentials of Personnel Assessment and Selection, 87 (2006).
  • [64] Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 587-588 (2009).
  • [65] 42 U.S.C.A. § 12112(d)(2)(A).
  • [66] Karraker v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., 411 F.3d 831, 833 (7th Circuit, 2005).
  • [67] Id. at 837.
  • [68] Eve Tahmincioglu, Employers Turn to Tests to Weed Out Job Seekers:  Some Screens May Violate Law, But Applicants Rarely Have Choice, Today Money, 8/15/2011
  • [70] See Kay Lazar, Employers Test with a  New Attitude:  Controversial Questionnaires Screen Applicants for Hire Purposes, Boston Herald, Apr. 18, 1999, at 3.
  • [71] Survey: Bad Hires Cost Big Money, Philadelphia Business Journal (April 11, 2006)