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Contributed by Dr. Tom Janz, Chief Scientist, People Assessments[/caption]
When it comes to hiring, some companies pick candidates who score highest on tests of specific job knowledge and skills. They operate on the assumption that those who know the most, or perform the best on a specific skill test, will also deliver the most valuable performance on the job over time. This is particularly true for companies hiring technicians or professionals. It all makes sense, doesn’t it– hiring the typist with the highest score on the typing test or the software engineer who scored tops on the Microsoft systems engineering test?
Other companies hire candidates who score highest on job-related assessments of broad performance factors that tap into mental ability, personal, interpersonal, coaching, management and leadership competencies. Which testing approach picks candidates who will deliver the most value over time for their employers?
Tests of knowledge and skill are measures of maximum performance under ideal motivational conditions. They focus on a specific element of performance for a limited slice of time. People know they are being tested, and do their best. They define an upper-limit of performance and not how people typically perform on the job.
paint a more dynamic and generalisable picture of candidate performance. They relate to a broad range of job-related situations and challenges, pointing to the candidate’s ability to adapt to changing environments. They get at not just what candidates can do under optimal motivational conditions, but what they will do over the long term, under emerging conditions that may not even be presently known, or predictable.
include capturing specific past performance achievements, to nail down not just what candidates can do, but what they have done in work settings similar to those jobs involving human interaction, which includes the majority of technical, professional and service industry jobs, the following story illustrates an additional source of value for behavioural assessments.
I can recall a conversation I had with an HR director in charge of talent acquisition for Stanford University’s lab technicians. She described how they used to hire lab technicians. They would have the hiring manager build a list of all the specific technical knowledge and skill factors used on the job, and have candidates take tests of the job-related knowledge and skill factors. The candidate that scored top on the tests got the job for the most part. The result, according to the HR Director, was that about half the time they ended up hiring a ‘jerk’, to use her technical term. What she meant was a technician that was prickly, defensive, tactless, ego-centric, reclusive, vindictive and otherwise lacking in social skills. Someone more likely to pursue their personal interests and goals instead of adopting the team and organisational goals. The problem with team members like that is that they can poison the performance on an entire team, or even other teams that need to work with that person’s team in order to accomplish their work. And finally, the ultimate problem with jerks is that they can’t be easily fixed via training or coaching.
So she changed the focus of assessment from specific job knowledge or technical skills to focus on behavioural competencies. She assessed for dynamic learning ability and not specific components of knowledge already learned. She added a behavioural interview that explored how candidates dealt with motivational dilemmas and conflicts within and between teams. As a result, they hired technicians who were much more likely to be constructive team members, focus on achieving personal and team objectives. Sometimes, the new hire had to go through training or coaching fill in a skill gap here or there to become fully proficient at the assigned role. But that was much less costly and disruptive than the need to terminate a jerk and re-enter the hiring process all over again.
So what makes job knowledge and skill tests popular? They are quick and easy to create, often generated based on a single job expert’s opinion of the content relevance of the items and they look highly job related
. The items measure things people are supposed to know and do on the job. Creating valid psychometric measures of behavioural performance factors takes a lot more time and work. The items in our Performance Inventory
scales, for example, contain content that has actually worked to predict valuable aspects of job performance across multiple field studies.
We do not question the value of testing for knowledge and skill when there is no time to train for specific capabilities recently confirmed to be required for successful job performance. At Synermetric we have chosen to invest in the best possible measures of proven generalisable performance factors that provide the most complete and comprehensive picture of what a candidate can do, will, do, and has already done successfully.
Synermetric offer an extensive suite of selection and recruitment assessments to assist in providing a holistic view of the candidate. We enable you to assess more and hire better.