Do Assessment Tests Work?

printer Printer Friendly Version

Author John Towler, Ph.D.
Original Publication Exchange Magazine

Do employee tests and selection tools really work?

How can you find the employees you need and ensure that they not only have the skills that you want, but that they are ethical, honest and have the right attitudes? One of the easiest, most accurate and least expensive ways is to test them. The right test can tell you things that you never discover on your own. They are one of the most powerful tools in the HR department. However, this wasn’t always the case and some people still think that tests are inaccurate and ineffective. This certainly isn’t the case today. Here’s why.

Several years ago, there was a case involving an employee who had been tested for promotion and found lacking. She objected and took her employer to court. During the trial, her lawyer challenged the validity and reliability of the tests that had been used. Experts witnesses were called and it was shown that although her firm had been using these tests for years and had based countless promotion and hiring decisions on them, the tests were unproven, unrelated to the real world and were, in fact, useless. The court ordered the company to promote the employee and the firm stopped using tests. This gave the entire testing industry a black eye and test developers made a concentrated effort to improve their products.

A few years later, another company put a prospective employee through a series of interviews and then decided not to hire him. He too decided to take the matter to court. But this time, the results were completely different. The prosecutor claimed that the firm had no firm evidence upon which to base their decision. They had spoken with the applicant, but had no idea whether he could do the job or not, nor had they any way to prove that he was unsuitable. The court agreed and ruled that the man must be hired. In addition, the judge admonished the company for not using any tests!

The point is, testing has improved and there are excellent, proven, valid and reliable tests for almost everything. The best tests measure what they say they are measuring (they are valid) and give consistent results time after time (they are reliable). However, there are also lots of tests that aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Unless you understand validity, reliability, correlational and validation studies, you need expert advice. Nevertheless, every HR department should be using the testing tools that are available.

A wide variety of tests are available. If there is something you are looking to assess then it makes sense to see if a good test is available.

John Towler is a Psychologist and the founder of Creative Organizational Design. Please send comments about this article to jtowler@creativeorgdesign.com. For more information, please contact us.

Re-printable with permission.