If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

Profile-Based vs. Performance Based Selection

Image of men and women employees with a geometric design overlay

Every company faces the same challenge: How to find and hire employees who perform well, fit the company’s values and culture, and stay. We call them “quality hires.” Other than guess work, the two most popular ways of identifying a quality hire are profile and performance-based selection. While each method has its advocates, they come from contrasting theoretical perspectives, and provide very different end-user information. The objectives of this paper are to provide a brief overview of each approach and review their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Profile-Based Selection

Profile-based selection, often referred to as a hiring or employment profile, describes what a composite of current high performing employees “looks like” in terms of knowledge, experience, or other personal characteristics. The details of a hiring profile are in terms of specific type(s) of work history, educational experience(s), knowledge, overt skills and characteristics, as well as other work-related factors common to current high performing employees. In addition, hiring profiles often incorporate one or more personality, cognitive ability, or other “flavor of the month” tests.1

This profile is then used as a benchmark for comparing the profile of a job applicant to the profile of the composite high performing employee. If the candidate matches the performance profile, he or she is eligible for hire. The following figure summarizes the process.

Corvirtus model of profile-based selection

The simplicity of the figure speaks to the most alluring aspect of profile based selection: it is crayon-simple to do! It is also economical and quick to do, and makes sense to most managers and employees. For the most part, such hiring profiles do a good job of identifying the characteristics common to high performers within a company.

Performance-Based Selection

Performance-based selection is often referred to as criterion-based selection or performance-based testing. It is similar to profiling in that the aim is to identify the characteristics of successful employees that can then be applied to job candidates, but is different in one major respect: While profile-based selection focuses on the characteristics of the job incumbent, performance-based selection focuses on actual job behaviors and success (e.g., how effective performance, fit, and retention are defined) without regard to the personal characteristics of current job incumbents.

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