Bill Schult CBA, CBMA
There are plenty of assessments that are validated for other purposes. Many of these can be categorized as Style or Type assessments. This group of assessments are most often used for team building, identifying a person’s leadership style, behavioral style or type, communication style and perhaps his/her sales style. It is important to understand that while these are very good things to measure, a person’s style or type may not be a factor in determining job performance.
We have all witnessed the consultant who has attempted to convince his/her client that his/her assessment has credibility. They will say the assessment has been given to a similar group of workers, the scores have been calculated and a benchmark created. Be careful of this approach! That average or benchmark means nothing. It is the average of the best, the average and the below average. It does not mean it predicts job success.
Since becoming certified in identifying, understanding and appreciating behavior in the mid 70’s it has become agonizingly apparent to me that attempting to hire a job candidate on behavior alone is courting disaster.
A person’s behavioral type or style, by itself, is not a valid indicator of his/her potential for success in a specific job. There are many tools in use that predict behavior in a general or overall sense, but they do not predict job performance or are they job related. In order for an assessment to predict the potential for job success they must be validated against job performance.
So does this mean you can’t use personality assessments to predict the potential for job success? Not at all! But, you will need to use personality assessments that were designed for the selection process. The assessment must be job related and validated against a given job and the performance required to be successful in that job.
This will almost always eliminate the use of Ipsative assessments for selection purposes. This type of assessment uses the Most – Least word descriptor approach to identify a person’s personal preferences. It can provide insight into the person him/herself, but not validated information to be used to make a selection decision. This type of assessment does not provide the necessary or right type of information to do a true validation study.
Good assessments consist of measuring the factors that contribute to job success. These factors are obtained by psychologists conducting well-constructed job studies to determine the personality traits that actually contribute to job success. They gather data of on the job performance for top and bottom performing job incumbents, along with collecting performance ratings of supervisors and managers and production in the case of salespeople.
Why collect data for a validation study on top and bottom performers? Good question! A well-validated assessment should have the ability to predict potential success, as well as the potential for job failure.
This is why a “one test fits all” mentality comes into question. Different jobs have different success patterns. One test cannot come close to measuring the varied and numerous traits and abilities necessary to perform a given job successfully.
Don’t be fooled or talked into “benchmarking” your top performers. They are good compared to what? What if your top producers looked exactly like your bottom producers? Was the benchmark valid, did it predict success? Maybe and maybe not! Benchmarking only your top performers is a formula for EEOC disaster.
Yet, a client will say, “I want to test my top performers and create an average, so I can hire more people that look like the average of my top performers.” That’s not a good idea. Averages can mask the differences between co-workers. In a recent article, benchmarking was described by saying, “If you averaged the athletic ability of all the members of the top professional team and compared that to the average of the bottom professional team in the league, you would see very few differences.
Both numbers may be fun, intellectual exercises, but tell you nothing about test scores and performance.” A good validity study will demonstrate that high scores match high performance and low scores match low performance. That’s validity, developing averages is not validity.
So what counts in using personality assessments in the selection process? What contributes to success on the job must be identified, defined and measured.
Once those steps have been completed a true study of the top and under performers in the job in question can begin. Typically, psychologists collect data on a minimum of 150 individuals and as high as 300 or more. Assessment scores are collected, along with performance ratings for each group and the results are statistically analyzed.
For the assessment to predict success on the job there must be a mean difference between the test scores and performance ratings. Without being able to correlate assessment scores with performance an assessment is not useful in the selection process. It is wise to use an assessment developed specifically for selection to use in your hiring process.
How do I have a validation study conducted for a job in my 0rganization?
First, you can use assessments that have already been validated for jobs that are similar to jobs in your organization. This allows you to begin using validated assessments without having to make a large investment of money.
The second method is for you contract with a reputable psychological firm to conduct your in house validation study mentioned earlier in this article.
I often hear the question, “Are assessments legal?” The short answer is, yes! When you compare your present process of mostly subjective interview techniques and the lack of a structured interview process to avoid what is called a “soft interview.” This is where candidates for the same job are asked different questions by the interviewers. Interview questions that are not criterion and face validated, coupled with hiring to jobs that do not have defined job requirements are a formula for hiring poor performers.
Compare those legal issues to an assessment where the job has been well researched and defined. Assessments where validation studies conducted by licensed psychologists have identified the personality traits that actually contributes to success in the job. Assessments that have been constructed to identify those personality traits contributing to job success and predict the candidate’s probability of success on the job improve your potential to make a more informed hiring decision.