Consider the past and you shall know the future.Chinese proverb
Biographical data – simply known as biodata – have informed selection decisions for many decades and are still widely used in certain areas of employment, such as sales and insurance. In broad terms, biodata include information about a person's background and life history (e.g., civil status, previous education and employment), ranging from objectively determined dates – date of first job, time in last job, years of higher education – to subjective preferences, such as those encompassed by personality traits (see Chapter 7). The diversity of constructs assessed (explicitly or implicitly) by biodata is such that there is no common definition for biodata. Indeed, ‘biodata scales have been shown to measure numerous constructs, such as temperament, assessment of work conditions, values, skills, aptitudes, and abilities’ (Mount, Witt & Barrick, 2000, p. 300). Some have argued that biodata represent a more valid predictor of occupational success than traditional personality scales (Mumford, Costanza, Connelly & Johnson, 1996), as well as reducing aversive impact in comparison to cognitive ability tests (Stokes, Mumford & Owens, 1994).
The main assumption underlying the use of biodata is that the ‘best predictor of future performance is past performance’ (Wernimont & Campbell, 1968, p. 372), though biodata focus as much on the predictors of past performance as on past performance itself.