10 Questions for Any Pre-Hire Assessment Vendor

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Oct 20, 2015
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

All the talk these days about talent assessment and big data can be seen as positive: people management is a science and the more data we have, the better we can know how to identify great candidates and manage their performance.

Pre-hire assessment is booming, as companies see that better fit leads to more engaged and productive employees and longer tenures. The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2013, 57 percent of large U.S. employers used pre-hire assessments, more than double from a decade earlier. This growth has brought a burst of new assessment offerings to our industry from a new breed of vendors.

While some assessment providers have years of experience and validated products to share, new vendors often have neither employee screening experience nor any employment-based validation studies whatsoever. HR leaders need to proceed with caution, and can guide their decisions by asking these 10 assessment vendor questions before accepting any promises.

This is particularly important with the spate of new vendors who claim to be using neuroscience to predict job performance. Neuroscience — true neuroscience — is illegal for hiring. Any assessment vendor who is using neuroscience imaging devices/tools like MRI, PET, or EEG before making a job offer is breaking the law as are employers who deploy them. Neuroscience tools and procedures would be classified as medical examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and therefore would be considered illegal at the pre-offer stage of employment based on the U.S. EEOC’s definitions and guidelines.

Fortunately, most new neuroscience vendors aren’t using neuroscience at all. They are not using imaging devices/tools, but rather a basic series of cognitive assessments that have been available for years but are now marketed under the misleading gloss of sexy neuroscience and big data.

Perhaps some credit is due to these self-proclaimed neuroscience vendors for making age-old tests seem spiffy.

Most of these “neuroscience” tests are cognitive in nature — and cognitive tests alone are an incomplete measure. Employers who use only cognitive assessments are only measuring for intelligence and not measuring a candidate on other critical job behaviors such as achievement drive, conscientiousness, integrity, service ability, sales ability, etc.

Further, many cognitive tests cause adverse impact that could put a company in jeopardy if validity has not been clearly established or appropriate cut scores set. Employers who participate in unvalidated cognitive assessment are in danger of discriminatory behavior, lawsuits, and poor hiring decisions.

Before any employer accepts promises from a “neuroscience” assessment vendor, ask these key questions:

  1. Have they conducted validation studies in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (federal testing guidelines)?
  2. Are they attempting to take lab experiments and apply them outside the lab, without scientific backing?
  3. Do the validation studies compare employee test scores on their assessments with actual job performance?
  4. (If so) what are the correlations between test scores and job performance?
  5. How reliable are the findings? Have results been cross-validated?
  6. If the claim is that they can predict job performance based on neuroscience research, where are the studies proving specific brain patterns predict employee job performance?
  7. Has an industrial psychologist (qualified to do so) specifically developed and validated the neuroscientist’s assessments for the employment setting?
  8. Are they well versed on issues of adverse impact (discrimination) in pre-hire assessments?
  9. Have they looked at test score differences between minorities and non minorities? (many cognitive tests cause adverse impact that could put a company in jeopardy if validity has not been clearly established or appropriate cut scores set).
  10. Where is their validity evidence for those who offer a career guidance approach?

In the brave new world of optimized hiring practices, remember to weigh newfangled assessment delivery with a bit of the tried-and-true validity support to keep yourself out of legal hot water. Assessments using best practices specifically for the employment setting, developed and validated by industrial psychologists, are available and proven.


image from Shutterstock

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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