I tried one of those DISC-type instruments and the report really seemed to describe me pretty well. Doesn’t that mean the test is a good one?

 Not necessarily. All personality tests do what they say to some degree. The question for you is whether the information is specific enough to predict hiring decisions, or job relatedness as the EEOC calls it.  Many simple instruments rely on a psychological experience known as the “P.T. Barnum Effect.” Experiments have demonstrated that when personality reports are written in fairly general terms, most people judge them to be accurate representations of themselves. This “Effect” is the trick behind the “try it and see if it is accurate” approach. It is not that the information is wrong, but that it is seldom adequate for employment decisions. In fact, one expert described such reports as being “just right enough to be dangerously wrong.

What should I look for in selecting a pre employment assessment test?

First of all, be clear on what you want the instrument to do. Instruments are designed for specific uses. Ask to see example of how the instruments were used.

Second, consider your resources. Who will be using the information? Certain instruments provide excellent information but considerable training is required to use the information effectively. This can be a problem if you want the information to be useful to a wide range of people. PeopleClues, Prevue, and AssessTM produces a unique form of report writing, known as a virtual interview. This type of report requires little or no interpretation or training and offers specific information on job behaviors. Many reports even include behavioral interview question guides to keep hiring managers focused on job related factors.

Third, consider the logistics of your application. Is the hiring test available online? Does it require any special equipment or requirements to access it? How quickly are the reports available? Do you want or need to process the reports in-house?

Fourth, how much time do candidates have? In the past, higher quality instruments required as much as 3 or 4 hours to complete, a psychologist to interpret, and several days or weeks to process.  Shorter pre employment tests often lacked validity. Technology and automation have all but eliminated inaccuracies, improved objectivity and validity, and reduced the time to receive information from days to minutes. PeopleClues, Prevue personality, and Assess Screening  are good examples of differemt types of employee assessments that require 15 to 30 minutes to complete and offer real-time results.

How do I know if an instrument is valid?

All instruments are valid for some purpose. Validity is not an intrinsic characteristic. Assessments are validated for a specific use within a specific population. (Eg. DISC-type and Myers-Brigg Type instruments were never intended to be used as a stand-alone for hiring decisions, but as a vehicle to discuss communication styles or to assist in behavioral interviewing.) Be certain that the products you choose were developed for the purpose you need.

I have heard that I should ask to see the technical manual for the instrument. What is that?

An employment test technical manual describes the development of the instrument. It will generally include the objectives of the instrument’s use; the concepts behind its design; the methodology used in the development process; and the statistical data upon which the instrument’s information is based. Unfortunately, the existence of a technical manual, regardless of how thick or complex it may be, is not a guarantee of quality. Knowing that most human resource professionals and small business owners are not trained to understand psychometric terminology and statistical data, a number of companies have put quite a bit of creative energy into providing an impressive technical manual for some rather unimpressive products. You would do well to consider the author of these manuals and who was the technical expertise behind the development of the instrument. Fortunately, many of the newer instruments are offering user-friendly versions of their technical manuals, which are designed to educate the users and provide a guide to making a sound decision.

We have used a first generation instrument for years and everyone really likes it. Why should we change?

First of all, it is important to separate the emotional feelings of familiarity from the pragmatic issues of effectiveness. Think back to your first computer. Was it a 386; 486; Apple IIE? Do you still use it? Of course not! Did it stop working? Probably not. You just changed to newer technology because it could do things the old computer could not. Assessment technology is the same thing. New generation instruments are simply capable of providing levels of information undreamed of with earlier instruments. 

We were considering creating our own tests. Wouldn’t that be better than buying something off the shelf?

It depends on what you are trying to measure. If there is some unique skill, ability, or set of knowledge that is critical to successful performance in a particular job, and there is not an existing instrument that measures that, it may be necessary to construct one. However, if job success is more dependent upon a unique combination of fundamental characteristics of behavior and abilities, it is much better to use established tools. The most effective and predictable employee assessment instruments require years to develop; thousands of people to participate in the normative studies; many hundreds of thousands of dollars; and the expertise found in a relatively small number of psychometric experts. It is usually more economical and more effective to buy that level of expertise. While producing “customized” tests may offer a surface appeal, it is rarely a wise expenditure of resources with so many other options available and often exposes the business to considerable risk.