You Validate Parking, Why Not Tests? Part 2

Jun 26, 2002

In Part 1, I discussed a major lawsuit involving a large corporation and used it as a learning example. In Part 2, I’ll discuss how common HR practices can lead to similar challenges for other companies. Silly Test and Interview Practices Don’t get me wrong, I believe very much in using tests and good interview technology in the hiring process. They are quick and efficient ways to predict future job performance ó but only if they are job-related and someone has taken the time to formally validate them. There are four general kinds of validation HR needs to be concerned with:

  1. Face validity. Does the test content resemble the job? For example, don’t ask questions about a person’s hobbies if you aren’t hiring them to work in a hobby shop. Lack of face validity is cited as a major stimulus for legal challenge. Many interviewers and trainers like to think of themselves as amateur shrinks. Avoid personally invasive items or items that make you sound like a psychologist. Unless you have a Ph.D. in selection psychology, psychobabble can, and probably will, get you into trouble.
  2. Content validity. Does the test measure job content? For example, asking questions about programming knowledge is okay for a programming job, just as taking a typing test is valid for a typist. But asking a programmer to take a general personality test is a “no-no” unless you have proof that test scores and job performance are related.
  3. Criterion validity. Do test scores have a direct relationship with some aspect of job performance? For example, being able to pass a programming test (content validity) and being able to “out-code” other coders are two different things. Criterion validity means high scores predict high performance and low scores predict low performance.
  4. Construct validity. Does some deep underlying factor affect job performance? Constructs are tricky to validate. Take mental ability, for example. Highly successful people are almost always smart, but smart people are not always highly successful. So what do you think? Should you use mental alertness tests to hire employees? If you don’t know, you are in trouble.

If you find all this validation and job analysis stuff confusing, you have three choices: 1) you can do nothing, hope your “test” scores predict performance, and wait for the inevitable legal challenges; 2) you can go back to school to get an advanced degree in the subject; or 3) you can hire an expert to help you. If you are not serious about how you hire and promote people, I can assure you the government will be. 13-Step Program to Getting Your Company’s Name on the Front Page If an expensive hiring lawsuit is what your company is looking for, then this 13-step program is just for you!

  1. Ask interview questions like, “If you were a tree, what color leaves would you have?” or “What you would do if a subordinate had B.O. so bad it triggered the sprinkler system?” The answers won’t predict performance, but you will sound very sage and insightful.
  2. Ignore line managers and jobholders when developing competency lists. HR and training knows infinitely more about line jobs than jobholders, anyway.
  3. Be sure to use tests that were not developed for hiring. They will help you learn personal information so you can ask the applicant for a date prior to making a job offer.
  4. Never, ever conduct a study comparing test scores with job performance. You might discover the test really doesn’t work and then you would have a lot of explaining to do.
  5. Ignore the EEOC Uniform Guidelines and trust foolish vendor claims that they aren’t very important. You won’t see your vendor at court, but you’ll have the piece of mind knowing they are thinking about you.
  6. Be sure to use the same test with everyone who applies. It makes scoring much simpler.
  7. Have every applicant tested by a clinical, counseling, or sports psychologist. Research shows they use the wrong tests, tend to test for mental health instead of job skills, and seldom use predictive reports. Nevertheless, it helps diffuse responsibility. All those credentials really sound good and you can always say, “I told you so.”
  8. Never follow up on the success of your hiring and promotion decisions. You may discover things you don’t like and then people will question your teamwork and company loyalty.
  9. Be sure to treat demographic groups differently. Only give tests to people you don’t like or think are stupid or ugly. Be sure to use reading and mental alertness tests, even if reading and mental alertness is not important to the job.
  10. Always complain that screening people out early in the hiring and promotion process increases your work and reduces your applicant pool. Save a few bucks on hiring tests and hire people without full job-skill data. It is easier to hide the cost of low performance, high turnover, and high training expense in a line manager’s budget than in HR.
  11. Ignore 30 years of hiring research and rely instead on “gut” feelings. Gut feels good and, besides it will take six to twelve months before anyone will know if you hired a good employee or not. By then, you can fill more open positions with marginal employees. Be sure to snicker at line managers’ inability to solve their people problems.
  12. Never check your hiring or promotion accuracy. You just find ’em. Let line managers do the rest. Out of sight, out of mind.
  13. Never assume responsibility for being the “people expert” department. Let HR employees “learn while they earn.”

Conclusion: Think about why I stopped counting at step 13.

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