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With that said, how can one go about getting the right person in the door? Here are three recommendations to consider in the selection process that have been proven to go a long way in finding that right person:
Are you reading this blog on a mobile device? Chances are that a quarter of you (or more) are reading this on a smartphone or tablet. Even if you aren’t reading on that device, it is likely that some link to it has shown up on one. Personally, I have probably received a link to this blog in my e-mail and on my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter apps, which are on my PC, smartphone and tablet. If you aren’t this connected and mobile, it probably won’t be long before you are.
Job applications are a quick and effective way to get more information about whether job candidates are qualified for a position. Including knock-out questions on an upfront application about specific requirements for the job can eliminate candidates before progressing them to more costly stages of the hiring process. One question sometimes utilized is asking whether candidates have a prior criminal conviction, which is often framed as a yes or no question. Using this yes/no question does not to take into account the complexity of the answer and whether the conviction is related to the job in question. More importantly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that utilizing this type of question may put protected classes at a disadvantage because African Americans and Latinos tend to have higher rates of convictions than whites. Recognizing this potentially unfair treatment to protected classes and the possibility for adverse impact, more and more legislation is taking effect to “ban the box.”
Call me a reality TV show junkie, but I fall prey to any show where contestants are competing to become the next best chef, baker, or interior decorator. If it’s aired on the Food Network or HGTV, I’ve probably seen it. Who doesn’t want to watch amateur chefs that are competing against one another in crazy elimination challenges week-after-week?!? Ok, admittedly, there probably are a few people out there that don't find it appealing … But anyways, regardless of whether you watch/enjoy the show or not, at the core, these shows are very reminiscent of a selection process. They start with a large pool of candidates, do an initial screen to reduce the pool to higher potentials, and then put them through exercises to assess different skills and abilities. While these TV shows aren’t as rigorous as typical selection systems, they do have some good steps in place. Let’s take a look at what they do well.
In an ever-advancing, technologically-savvy business world, something is for certain: the role of mobile devices is increasing. Recently Ericsson reported that 91% of the world’s population has a mobile subscription. No less than 4.5 billion people have mobile device plans. This number has increased by more than 100 million people in the last six months and the growth shows no sign of slowing.
Employee testing has now reached a global scale as more and more multinational companies start to use a standard set of tests worldwide for their HR decisions. Typically, these tests are developed in the headquarters country (mostly North America), and then translated to different languages, and administered in subsidiary companies over the world. When a test doesn’t work well in a foreign country, people often blame the translation. While it is true that poor translation can lead to ambiguities and misinterpretations, cultural differences oftentimes cause more problems than linguistic idiosyncrasies.
Many of you may wonder, as long as we adjust norms to the local population and get a good estimate of individuals’ standings relative to their peers, why should we care about culture. Well, it’s a fair argument, but things are more complicated than this. Imagine that a personality item is culturally sensitive – agreeing with the item means disregarding what is generally accepted in that society. Then how much variability would you anticipate in the responses? If 95% of the population answers “strongly agree” to an item, what is the added value to keep it in the test? This is simply one example of how culture can affect the functioning of a test item. Culture is rooted in every social human being and it has profound influence on people’s values, beliefs, thinking styles, behaviors patterns, and even information they receive and internalize.
Even though The Office series has ended, we still remember it well. Some of us are probably re-watching it on DVDs just to relived each moment. Why was (is) that show so popular? I’ll tell you why, because it’s believable. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few, your office probably has a Dwight, Jim, Pam, Toby, and of course a Michael Scott. Poor Michael ... you’ve got to feel for him. It pains me to watch awkward situations manifest, and Michael manages to create that face-in-hand, head shaking experience regularly.
When you hire a new employee, you are about to make a large investment, something that will be costly and likely to be a decision you will need to live with for a long time. There is a lot of information to gather and discuss with others, but ultimately the decision will be yours, and most likely the consequences as well.
No test is 100% accurate. There, I said it. But before we throw the baby out with the bath water and abandon testing altogether, let’s look at some realistic assumptions about tests and their value in making hiring and placement decisions. Tests, by their very nature, should be considered samples of performance and signs of future performance. A well designed test, used for the purpose it was intended, provides a lot of valuable information about a job candidate. Tests are designed to increase your odds of making a good decision, and avoiding a bad decision. If a test tells you that a candidate has a high propensity for taking risks does that mean that he/she will definitely get into an accident on the job? No. Remember my first sentence. But, do you want to put a person who is likely to take risks in a dangerous job? Wouldn’t you want to know about their likelihood for taking risks before you send them out with blasting caps and flammable liquids? I would hope so.
I bring this up because too often people have unrealistic assumptions about what tests are supposed to do. The conversation usually goes something like this. “We had someone take the test and they didn’t do well on it, but they’re a good performer, so I guess the test doesn’t work.” That may in fact be the case. Perhaps the test isn’t a good predictor of performance in that particular job. That’s one reasonable conclusion. Here are a few more. Maybe the measure of performance isn’t that great. When we look at “hard” criteria, like actual sales, for a salesperson compared with “soft” criteria, like their supervisor’s rating of job performance, you’d be surprised how many times the test more accurately predicts both the hard and the soft performance criteria than either of the two criteria predict each other. Outside of applying the wrong test to the job, the most likely reason that a test didn’t “work” for a given individual is that tests are designed to improve your odds, over time, over lots of people.
Here’s an analogy. You watch two hitters for one at bat each in the same baseball game. One batter hits a double and the other one strikes out. Which one is the better hitter? Which one do you want on your team? Ridiculous question, right? You’d never make a decision based on that limited bit of information. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know that the batter who struck out in that one at bat is a perennial All Star, with a .315 batting average and the one who got the hit is a journeyman who has never hit above .230 in his career? Feel more comfortable about your decision knowing that information? Knowing the “behind the scenes” information is exactly what a good test can provide. It’s never good to make decisions on very small samples. Trying out a test based on one or two people is just like evaluating a hitter based on one at bat. You need the power of Big Data (i.e., more objective data) to bolster your decision making.
So, if a test, an admittedly imperfect one, is able to increase your odds of making a good decision and avoiding a bad one, by say 30%, is it worth using? If you’re hiring a salesperson, an executive or a factory worker, or almost anyone for that matter, the answer is almost always yes. It won’t always work and it will sometimes be wrong. But the goal is to improve accuracy and reduce risk, not to be perfect.
As the economy becomes more global, our assessments also get to take a trip around the world! This means that we’ve had the opportunity to translate our assessments into many foreign languages. Translating can get complicated because it’s not as simple as just finding the word in the other language and replacing it. There are a lot of subtle nuances in languages and we really rely on our translation vendors to help us find the proper translations. Localization, cultural relevance and context are key factors when translating anything, especially employment assessments.
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