Employment Testing: A Diversity of Views
I think that in many ways how people feel about employment testing is probably quite similar to how they felt about tests at school.
Some people I knew loved taking tests at school; other people were terrified at the mere thought.
In this posting, I present a roundup of some different reactions to employment testing.
One perspective is from a consultant, who helps organizations implement online employment testing; a second perspective is from attorneys, who help organizations defend against legal charges; and the third perspective is from a popular columnist based in St. Louis.
If all of this is too serious for a Friday, then you could instead take this test and find out which cartoon character you are (I came out as Bugs Bunny!!!)!
First, the consultant’s perspective is based on a recent survey he conducted in which he reports:
A significant number of professionals queried seem to feel that their use of prescreening tools is not effective for the organization.
But, he goes on to state that most organizations don’t evaluate their tests and those that do, realize that their tests do provide value. He notes that the use of tests is still in their infancy and a basic lack of understanding of their value remains a major obstacle to their use.
He concludes that:
The biggest obstacles to the use of pre-employment assessments remain the belief that these tools are too costly and a skepticism about their ability to provide meaningful results.
I must admit that in light of the fact that employment tests have been use for about one century now, there must be good reason for their lack of more common use!
A recent article in the American Bar Association’s online journal provides a much different approach to employment testing.
In addition to covering the laws regarding employment tests that might be viewed as a medical examination, they touch on confidentiality laws regarding tests as well as state laws that may limit or prohibit the use of integrity tests.
But selectionmatters.com takes this article to task for not focusing more on the various anti-discrimination laws that are relevant here, such as disparate impact issues and related validity concerns.
He raises some good points that the authors should have spent more time on; while ADA definitely affects test use, so does the Civil Rights Act of 1964/1991!
Finally, a completely different perspective is brought by Bill McClellan of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, who tells the sad story of an SBC employee who is ultimately laid off, and not eligible for a job retraining program, because he fails to pass a 13-minute spelling test, despite being a college graduate. The employee concludes, based on this episode, “It would be comical if it weren’t so absurd.”
So, the bottom line on pre-employment testing? I quote from a recent book review I wrote about a book that critiqued personality testing, but the implications apply to any pre-employment test:
The uncritical use of personality tests in the workplace is foolish at best, and at worst, may be costly to companies.
If you have a broken sink, I suggest you hire a good plumber. Similarly, if you are considering implementing employment testing, hire a good industrial/organizational psychologist!