What Does a Personnel Psychologist Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2020
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A personnel psychologist assists employers with hiring new employees, assigning them appropriately, and promoting them as they develop experience and skills. This differs from the role of organizational psychologists, someone who address ongoing issues with work culture and facilitate the development of a healthy working environment. Personnel psychologists may play a role in workplace development, but their focus is on recruitment and retention of staff members. It is usually necessary to have a psychology degree, typically a postgraduate qualification, to work in this capacity.

Some companies like to administer simple psychological screening tests to prospective employees. A personnel psychologist can design tests that can be administered with a form or computer program. They can also develop more rigorous testing performed through interviews, where a trained staff member meets with a prospective employer. These tests need to adhere to any guidelines set by government regulators, including anti-discrimination laws.

Job descriptions can also benefit from a consultation with a personnel psychologist. These psychology professionals can review positions and determine what kinds of skills and traits are best suited. The information can be integrated into job advertisements and descriptions to allow people to find the best matches for given positions. Applicants reading ads that call for an “outgoing personality,” for example, know whether or not a position is a good fit for them. Human resources personnel meeting with applicants can consider recommendations for traits like “attention to detail” when they discuss the job with candidates.


Information from interviews and testing can help a personnel psychologist determine where an employee fits within an organizational culture. Such testing is often used prior to entrance to organizations like the military. It can rule candidates in or out of specific positions and can become part of an employee’s record. This information can be useful to have when people are considered for promotion and officials want to know if an employee is suited to a position with more responsibility or authority.

In some cases, a personnel psychologist may meet directly with employees. In others, the job requires the development of screening tools that other staff members can use at job fairs and in interviews. These employees may also meet with organizational psychologists to talk about the demands of the workplace, the kinds of employees that fit into different positions, and how to promote a healthy and functional workplace environment. As the personnel psychologist contributes to the recruitment of suitable candidates, the organizational psychologist provides ongoing support to increase retention.


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