Biodata is a commonly used term in industrial and organizational psychology for biographical data. Biodata is defined as “...factual kinds of questions about life and work experiences, as well as to items involving opinions, values, beliefs, and attitudes that reflect a historical perspective.” Since the respondent is limited to replying to the questions posed to them, there are elements of both biography and autobiography. The basis of biodata’s predictive abilities is the axiom that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. Biographical information is not expected to predict all future behaviours but it is useful in personnel selection in that it can give an indication of probable future behaviours based on an individual’s prior learning history. Biodata instruments have an advantage over personality and interest inventories in that they can capture directly the past behaviour of a person, probably the best predictor of his or her future actions. These measures deal with facts about the person’s life, not introspections and subjective judgements.
Over the years, personnel selection has relied on standardized psychological tests. The five major categories for these tests are intellectual abilities, spatial and mechanical abilities, perceptual accuracy, motor abilities and personality tests. The mean coefficient for a standardized test of g is .51. A review of 58 studies on biodata found coefficients that ranged from .32 to .46 with a mean validity of .35. The mean validity of interviews was found to be .19. research has indicated a validity coefficient of .29 for unstructured interviews and .31 for structured interviews but interview results can be affected by interviewer biases and have been challenged in a number of different court cases.
In summary, Biodata has been shown to be a valid and reliable means to predict future performance based on an applicant’s past performance. A well-constructed Biodata instrument is legally defendable and unlike the interview, is not susceptible to error due to rater biases or the halo effect. It has proven its worth in personnel selection as a cost effective tool.
In the South Asian community (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), a biodata is essentially a résumé. The purpose is similar to that of a résumé, to eliminate some candidates from the pool of prospective suitors before meeting others. The biodata generally contains the same type of information as a résumé (i.e. objective, work history, salary information, educational background), but may also include physical attributes, such as height, weight, hair/skin/eye color, and a photo.
- Wood & Payne, (1998). Competency based recruitment and selection. Chapter 5 "Application form design and sifting". New York: John Wiley & Sons
- Lautenschlager, G. J., & Shaffer, G. S. (1987). "Reexamining the component stability of Owen's biographical questionnaire". Journal of Applied Psychology, 72(1), 149-152.
- Mael, F. A. (1991). "A conceptual rationale for the domain and attributes of biodata items". Personnel Psychology, 44, 763-927.
- Mumford, M. D., Costanza, D.P., Connelly, M.S., & Johnson, J.F. (1996). "Item generation procedures and background data scales: Implications for construct and criterion-related validity". Personnel Psychology, 49, 360-398.
- Stricker, L. J., & Rock, D. A. (1998). "Assessing leadership potential with a biographical measure of personality traits". International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 6(3), 164 - 184.
- Reilly, R. R., & Chao, G. T. (1982). "Validity and fairness of some alternative employee selection procedures". Personnel Psychology, 35, 1-62.
- Schmidt, F.L., & Hunter, J.E. (1998). "The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings". Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 262–274.
- Harris, M. M., & Schaubroeck, J. (1988). "A Meta-Analysis Of Self-Supervisor, Self-Peer, and Peer-Supervisor Ratings". Personnel Psychology, 41, 43-62.
- Kuschnereit, F. and Spinner, B. (1997, June). "Improving The Accuracy of Biodata Questionnaires". Paper presented at the 58th Annual Convention of the Canadian Psychological Association, Toronto.