Sunday, October 13, 2019
Monday, 12 March 2018 12:10

NOW HIRING: Keys to using assessments in the hiring process

Written by Amy Gammon, Ph.D.

Now Hiring

THINK ABOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION’S CURRENT HIRING PROCESS. Are applications/resumes reviewed and interviews conducted? What if you have 500 applicants and only have 10 positions to fill? How can you systematically screen out applicants in this situation without having to interview all 500? One avenue for screening out job applicants is to use an assessment or a battery of assessments.

Assessments allow consistent decision standards in evaluating every candidate in the applicant pool. This consistency is unparalleled by any other type of selection procedure (e.g., unstructured interviews) and makes assessments an attractive option for a low-resource cost, predictive, and fair selection process.

If you want to start using assessments, there are many different types available (e.g., cognitive ability, situational judgment tests, personality, work samples, assessment centers). It is important to choose an assessment that is practical for use in your organization and suits the position. You will want to ensure that you use them appropriately and there is evidence to support their use to maximize your return on investment (ROI). Specifically, below are three key points to keep in mind when evaluating whether your assessment is compliant and providing an ROI.

1 - Invest in a thorough job analysis

Conducting a job analysis for the position you wish to hire is an essential first step. The information gleaned from that analysis allows the ability to differentiate between poor, average, and above average performers. Further, the results of a job analysis show the job-relatedness of the competencies measured in your assessment. This job-relatedness documentation is the foundation for compliance in your selection system.

A job analyst expert can help conduct a thorough analysis. Information is obtained from a combination of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) interviews, observations of the position, and surveys of job incumbents. Sometimes a traditional thorough job analysis is not possible, such as when there is a brand-new position in a startup company. In this case, an initial resource to help understand the job is O*NET (https://www. onetonline.org/). O*NET provides information about KSAs and other characteristics for a vast number of occupations that may be the same or similar to yours.

2 - Examine validity evidence

There should be an examination of the validity evidence for the selection assessments. Researching and documenting validity evidence is important to determine if the assessment is leading to selecting the “right” talent in the candidate pool. Additionally, validity evidence is also invaluable if the organization is ever called upon to defend hiring decisions in a legal challenge.

While there are many ways to establish validity evidence, a common approach is to investigate the statistical association between the assessment and job performance. This is called a criterion-related validity study. This type of study involves computing a correlation between the assessment scores and the actual job performance of people who took the assessment. If the relationship is strong and in the correct direction (doing well on the assessment is associated with high job performance), there is validity evidence that the assessment predicts job performance. There are additional factors and considerations involved in this type of study that are beyond the scope of this article; however, if you need assistance in establishing validity evidence, partnering with an experienced industrial/ organizational psychologist is a great place to start.

3 - Consider fairness of the assessment

Fairness is also important when considering how decisions are made with assessments. One common approach to examine fairness is analyzing whether there is adverse impact, which is a concept related to how the assessment (or any selection procedure) differentially impacts different protected classes. A selection procedure is said to have adverse impact if using that procedure disproportionately advantages a protected group over another (for example, if assessment results would lead to the selection of men at a significantly higher rate than women).

To determine adverse impact, one approach is to use the “4/5ths” or “80%” rule of thumb. This approach looks at the rates of selection across protected groups that would occur if you selected individuals based on your assessment results. If the selection rate of one group is less than 80% of the selection rate of the other group, there may be adverse impact created by the assessment. If assessment results show adverse impact, it is important to research further why that impact exists and, in many cases, take steps to minimize that impact. Eliciting the help of an industrial/organizational psychologist to examine the fairness of the assessment and take steps to reduce adverse impact is suggested.

Ultimately, a well-developed assessment provides tremendous ROI by upgrading an organization’s ability to find the candidate who fits best in the open positions. In order to maximize that ROI and remain compliant, remember the three key points: conduct a thorough job analysis, investigate how well that tool predicts who will be successful on the job, and make sure the assessments are used in a way that does not unfairly disadvantage any protected groups. If these three points are attended to, assessments are often the most powerful decision-making tool in the entire selection process!

Amy Gammon

Amy Gammon, Ph.D., is a senior research consultant at Select International, Inc., a human resources consulting firm that helps organizations hire and develop employees. She works with organizations across the world in various industries such as manufacturing, contact centers, leadership, healthcare, and customer service/retail. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.