NAS (National Airspace System) Human Factors Safety Research Laboratory
Evaluation of ATCS biographical data and interview selection procedures
Dana Broach, Ph.D. (PDF)
Currently, the FAA uses a computer-administered test battery to assess the aptitude of applicants for the ATCS occupation. However, the FAA continues to research and test alternative aptitude assessments. This research task focuses on two types of assessment tools: biographical data and a structured interview. Biographical data (or biodata) refers to the life experiences, education, and training a person has when he or she applies for a job. Using an extensive database on over 10,000 controllers hired between 1981 and 1992, a biographical data instrument has been developed for the controller occupation.
Known as the Controller Background Assessment Survey (CBAS), the biodata tool is on the cutting-edge of personnel selection research through its use of response-option, empirical keying. In this approach, no one response to a question is �right� and the others �wrong.� Instead, each possible response has its own unique weight or score, based on its relationship to controller job performance. CBAS is currently undergoing validation. New controllers take the CBAS for research purposes while they are attending the FAA Academy for initial training. The correlation between CBAS scores and performance in training will be evaluated in the future, to determine the validity of CBAS in the Next Generation of controllers.
Job interviews are the most common selection procedure used in both the private and public sectors. This research task focuses on the development, validation, and evaluation of a structured interview for the ATCS occupation. CAMI researchers developed a structured interview protocol consisting of interview questions and evaluation criteria. The structured interview was implemented in 2007. The interview provides the agency with a face-to-face, one-on-one opportunity to evaluate specific attributes such as teamwork, motivation, and stress tolerance in a structured approach. In 2009, the CAMI research team began an evaluation of the interview at the request of the Air Traffic Organization. The on-going evaluation included surveying the ATC managers who conduct the interviews and a qualitative analysis of a large sample of records of completed interviews.
In addition, the research team is collaborating with academics from two universities to investigate the ways in which applicants try to make an impression on the interviewer. This is another example of cutting-edge research, taking ideas from the academic world and testing them in a real-world, high-stakes selection process with very highly motivated job candidates.