In 1995 the Peak Selection Simulation began to be used in the Center for Creative Leadership’s Leadership at the Peak training program in Colorado Springs. Peak Selection Simulation, which uses a multimedia presentation that allows access to interview material, human resources information, and search firm information, provides a mechanism to capture and learn about the decisiison-making processes of those who make choices about selecting executives.

This study described here includes data gathered in conjunction with the use of Peak Selection Simulation between November, 1995, and December, 1997. The purpose of the research was to identify 1) how executives search through information about job candidates, 2) how executives’ information search affects their job candidate preference, 3) how executives’ personalities and individual differences affect how they search through information, and 4) how executives’ personalities and individual differences affect their preference of job candidate.


There were 621 executives from the top three levels in their home companies who participated in this study. Prior to their arrival at the training program, biographical and personality data were collected from each. As these executives looked at the information in Peak Selection Simulation, data were gathered about how they searched through the information on the computer. This data included  how much time they spent on each screen they entered, in what order they entered the screen, and which of the candidates they preferred.


There were four primary conclusions.  First, people are more likely to look through all of one candidate’s information before going on to the next candidate when presented with a complex selection task.  Second, people spend more time on candidates that they like than on candidates they don’t like. Third, people are more drawn to interview information than to standard resume information. Fourth, women and people with an interpersonal orientation bring a useful perspective to the selection process, which often shows up in better decision making and selection outcomes.

Contributing Authors

Valerie I. Sessa is a former research scientist at CCL in Greensboro, North Carolina. She worked primarily in the areas of executive selection and transitions, improving team effectiveness, and the impact of technology on leadership. Sessa was part of a team that created the Peak Selection Simulation, which emulates the decision-making styles of those who choose candidates for executive positions. She holds a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from New York University.

Jodi K. Taylor is president of Summit Leadership Solutions, a consulting firm dedicated to creating organizational excellence through focusing on leadership as the key link between strategy and performance. She holds a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Published: April 1999
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