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The Importance of Ability and Effort in Recruiters' Hirability Decisions: An Empirical Examination of Attribution Theory


Sally Carless, School of Psychology and Psychiatry, Monash University, Building 17, Clayton 3800, VIC 3145, Australia. Fax: +61 3 9903 2501; email:


Weiner's attribution theory was used to examine the attributions made by recruiters during a selection interview and their subsequent hiring decisions. A quasi-experimental design was used in which level of ability (high, low) and effort (high, low) was manipulated. The impact of the manipulations on three outcomes was examined: (1) expectations of future job performance, (2) perceived level of responsibility for the failure, and (3) hiring recommendations. Seventy experienced recruiters from an Australian organisation read four transcripts of interview segments about a job applicant's response to missing a deadline. Findings were consistent with attribution theory; recruiters detected differences in the causes of past work outcomes offered by applicants, which in turn affected their expectations about future work performance, responsibility for failure, and recommendations to hire.