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Department of Psychology Work and Organisational Psychology

Current research projects

Assessment Center

The assessment center is an established diagnostic method that is often used for selecting and developing employees. In the assessment center, multiple observers observe assessees’ behavior in simulated situations to assess them on job-relevant competencies (e.g., leadership competencies). We are conducting several studies to investigate (1) how the construct-related validity of assessment centers can be improved (i.e., how should assessment centers be designed so that they measure what they are supposed to measure?) and (2) how the criterion-related validity of assessment centers can be extended (i.e., how should assessment centers be designed to predict different criteria such as leadership effectiveness or well-being).

Contact: Anna Luca Heimann, Amelie Güntner, Valerie Schröder

Predicting everyday job behavior from job interviews

The job interview is the most popular method in personnel selection. However, both researchers and practitioners continue to worry about how interview ratings can serve as valid predictors of everyday job behavior. This is largely due to the high-stakes nature of job interviews, motivating applicants to present their best self, i.e., demonstrating maximum performance instead of typical performance. The current project addresses this issue and aims to advance our understanding of how to capture applicants’ everyday job behavior based on their responses to job interview questions. To this end, we will develop and test different strategies (i.e., developing new criterion measures, interview questions, and interviewee training programs) to improve and expand the criterion-related validity of job interviews.

Contact: Johanna Bayón, Anna Luca Heimann

SNF project: Anna Luca Heimann (UZH)

Cooperation partner: Martin Kleinmann (UZH), Nicolas Roulin (Saint Mary’s University), Ann Marie Ryan (Michigan State University)

Measuring personality in the context of personnel selection

Personality traits are related to applicants’ job performance and their fit with their work group. However, most traditional personality self-report inventories are not ideal for the context of personnel selection: they rarely relate to the context of work, can be easily distorted, and are perceived unfavorably by applicants. Alternative instruments such as structured interviews or Situational Judgment Tests show potential for measuring personality but lack empirical evidence on their validity and are rarely used for this purpose in practice. In order to support personnel selection practice, we compare the validity of different personality measures for predicting various work performance criteria and applicants’ fit to their organization or work group. A further goal of this research project is to investigate which type of personality measures achieve most favorable reactions by applicants.

Contact: Valerie Schröder, Anna Luca Heimann

SNF project: Martin Kleinmann (UZH), Pia Ingold (University of Copenhagen)

Cooperation partner: Nicolas Roulin (Saint Mary’s University)

Impression Management

People often actively try to make a specific impression on others. In research, this is referred to as self-representation or impression management. Impression management is not only used in private encounters, but also at work and when applying for a job. This is the case, for instance, when a team leader praises in detail their past professional successes in front of their employees or when career opportunities offered by a company are highlighted to job applicants in job interviews. Our research focuses on what effects impression management has on leader-employee cooperation as well as personnel selection and recruitment.


Project: Employees and leaders

Contact: Nina Beck, Annika Wilhelmy

Cooperation partner: Maike Debus (Université de Neuchâtel), Martin Kleinmann (UZH)


Project: Personnel selection und recruitment

Contact: Nathalie von Rooy, Annika Wilhelmy

SNF project: Annika Wilhelmy (UZH)

Cooperation partner: Martin Kleinmann (UZH), Nicolas Roulin (Saint Mary’s University), Donald Truxillo (University of Limerick)

Work is a central component of human life. Unemployment is often experienced as a drastic event and is usually associated with the search for a new job. This job search is a dynamic process that can change over time. In an ongoing collaborative project with the Swiss company Skillsgarden AG, we are researching, among other things, how job seekers use their social resources, how the use of these resources changes intraindividually over time, and its effects on job search success.

Contact: Annika Wilhelmy, Martin Kleinmann

How do leaders communicate most effectively?

Leaders play a central role in promoting performance and achieving corporate goals. For example, good leaders can inspire others, get them excited about projects and positively influence the performance of their employees. However, it is unclear how leaders should communicate and what specific communication techniques they can use to lead effectively. In a cooperation project with the Department of Military Psychology and Pedagogics at the Military Academy (MILAC) at ETH Zurich, we are addressing this question and investigating which communication techniques are effective for military leaders to influence the performance of their subordinates in a positive way and to be able to convince and motivate them.

Contact: Chantal Utzinger, Anna Luca Heimann

MILAC: Hubert Annen (ETH)

Cooperation partner: Fabiola Gerpott (Otto Beisheim School of Management), Anna Luca Heimann (UZH), Martin Kleinmann (UZH)

Adaptive Leadership

Leaders in organizations face manifold challenges requiring them to be adaptive. Adaptive leadership describes a leader’s capability to respond with appropriate leadership behaviors to different situations. The present research investigates the skills it takes for leaders to lead adaptively. We propose that adaptive leadership is facilitated by both behavioral skills (i.e., the capability to engage in different leadership behaviors) and cognitive skills (i.e., the capability to perceive which leadership behavior is required in which situation). Furthermore, our research investigates whether and how adaptive leadership can be learned.

Contact: Amelie Güntner, Anna Luca Heimann

SNF project: Pia Ingold (University of Copenhagen), Martin Kleinmann (UZH)

Leadership and Followership

Leadership is an essential aspect for the optimal functioning, development and growth of organizations. For leadership to be effective, it requires not only leaders who provide direction, ensure task accomplishment, and deliver inspiration, but also the participation of employees. In our research, we take a closer look at the dynamic interactions that unfold in interactions between leaders and employees (i.e., followers). In particular, we are interested in the influence of followers on the emergence and development of destructive leadership and shared leadership. To investigate these issues, we use a multi-method approach: we employ methods of behavioral observation (e.g., interaction analysis), vignettes, and questionnaires.

Contact: Amelie Güntner

Assessing social and leadership skills in professorial appointment procedures

Professors are generally also leaders in addition to their responsibilities in research and teaching. They supervise various employees and take on additional and temporary leadership tasks in academic self-administration. In the selection process, therefore, transferable competencies (e.g., leadership competencies) of the applicants should also be systematically evaluated. To support the members of the professorial appointment committee in assessing social and leadership competencies, the Executive Board of the University has initiated a project. Together with the faculties, we have developed a structured interview to assess such competencies.

Contact: Martin Kleinmann, Isabelle Odermatt, Professorships Department


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