Purpose: The purpose of this paper was to investigate the influence of applicants' justice beliefs (i.e. belief in a just world and belief in tests) on justice expectations with respect to a forthcoming application for the job of prison guard. Further, it aims to study the moderating role of direct experiences on the relationship between beliefs and justice expectations. Design/methodology/approach: A written survey was administered to 803 applicants, just before the start of the selection procedure. Data were self-reported and collected at one point in time. Findings: Significant positive relationships were found between both beliefs (i.e. belief in a just world and belief in tests) on procedural and distributive justice expectations. Moreover, the relationship between belief in tests and both types of justice expectations was stronger among experienced applicants. Conversely, the relationship between belief in a just world and distributive justice expectations was stronger among inexperienced applicants. This moderation was not found with respect to procedural justice expectations. Originality/value: Insight into how justice expectations are formed in selection contexts, and consequently, how organizations can influence these expectations, is largely missing. Bell, Ryan, and Wiechmann provided a conceptual model on antecedents of justice expectations but its theoretical underpinning is rather weak and not well-understood. Construal level theory was used in this study as a theoretical basis to predict how applicants might form justice expectations with respect to future selection procedures.