Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Q&A #1: Dr. Dennis Doverspike

This is the first in a series of Q&As with experienced professionals and academics in the area of recruitment and assessment.

This Q&A is with Dr. Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP. Dr. Doverspike is a professor of psychology and Director of the Center for Organizational Research at the University of Akron, as well as a consultant in I/O psychology and human resource management. He is also the chair of the IPMAAC Scientific and Professional Affairs Committee and a regular contributor to IPMA publications.

(Note: links within answers provided by yours truly)

BB: What do you think are the primary recruitment/assessment issues that employers are struggling with today?

DD: By the time I write this and it appears in print, I will probably change my mind as I have never been good at predicting present or future trends. However, I would argue for two issues:

1. How to mix science and technology in a practical, effective, and legal manner. In particular, how to make the best use of computer and internet based screening and recruitment while still complying with legal requirements. This is especially true in the area of unproctored internet based assessment.

2. How to balance the competing demands of recruitment and assessment (selection). We tend to go through cycles in where the emphasis is placed. For awhile it was almost 100% recruitment, and then we seemed to start shifting back to the assessment process, now the emphasis seems to be about 50%-50%. But the question or challenge remains, how can we recruit large numbers of highly qualified applicants, and how do we know they are really highly qualified.

BB: What is an example of an innovative or creative recruitment/assessment practice that you've seen recently?

DD: I will answer this question in three ways. First, devil's advocate, I have not seen any innovative or creative approaches. We have a new technology, but the approaches themselves come out of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Many of our "innovative" approaches consist of the computerization of very old approaches. The one truly new advancement, Schmidt and Hunter's utility and meta-analysis theories, has still not had much of an influence on practice, especially on legal guidelines.

Second, I guess this would be angel's advocate, there has been a shift to 1) a greater concern with fairness and justice and the perceptions of the applicant 2) with seeing HRM as being an advocate for the employee. I see these trends as related in that they both reflect a great concern with human factors, especially the view of the applicant or future employee.

Third, especially in the public sector, I believe the innovation has not been so much in product as in process. That is, some of the innovations in recent years have not had so much to do with new approaches or methods of assessment, as much as they have had to do with finding new ways to do bigger, more complex projects, in less time and at lower cost.

BB: What is an area of research in this area that you think deserves increased attention?

DD: The science, or art, of recruitment is less developed than the science of assessment. I believe there is a real need for research of all types on how to target recruitment so as to more effectively deliver a large number of high quality applicants.

Going one step further, and there are obvious exceptions, as a field we have tended to look for solutions that work across jobs. In a sense, we assume that our solutions will work across all types of jobs. Meta-analysis would tend to support that finding, but I think it is an overstatement. I believe our field could advance substantially if we devoted more time to the study of specific individual jobs. In the 1980s we tried to do this with a series of studies that involved detailed protocol analyses of jobs followed up by the development of very specific computerized tests based on the identified cognitive requirements. I still believe that the in-depth analysis of specific jobs accompanied by the development of very specific tests of job-related information processing abilities would contribute to both science and practice.

BB: What subjects are you personally interested in, and what are you learning?

DD: My time is limited so it does not matter what I am interested in or want to learn. Usually what I look at is driven by the projects I am working on. But in an attempt to answer the question, I believe that one area that may contribute to advances in selection is "taxometrics." Taxometrics is fairly complicated statistically, so it does take a lot of time to start to understand its possible implications. I remain very interested in the concept of basic fairness in testing, including what that means in terms of the difference between individual and organizational utility. I have always been interested in gerontology, although as I grow older I find I cannot accept aging, so maybe that is not the best area for me. However, it is clear that with our aging workforce, we need to know a lot more about dealing with older workers.

Finally, and this is a big shift for me, recently I have started to work with our Engineering Department in the areas of MEP (Minority Engineering Programs), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education), and SLD (Significant Learning Disabilities). This has included working with children who are in the autism spectrum. This has been a very enlightening experience and returned me to my clinical roots.

BB: Have you read any books or articles lately that you would recommend to the professional community?

DD: Malcolm Gladwell's books--blink and The Tipping Point. blink in particular is an excellent book that takes a huge body of social cognitive research and presents in a style that is both interesting and engaging. He also does a good job of being faithful to the original research. In addition, especially in the case of blink, there is a great deal that is applicable to the interview and selection.

Most of my reading is research articles or textbooks, and I am not sure those are books or articles I would recommend to the professional community. That is why I recommended Gladwell's books.

If you are a golfer, save your money and take lessons instead of buying books.

BB: Is there anything else you think recruiters/assessment professionals should be focused on right now?

DD: Focused on? Sure:

1. How to appeal to the ipod generation?
2. How to appeal to baby boomers?
3. The impact of the new OFCCP rules on applicants, and when they come out, the new EEOC rules on applicants.
4. The rapidly changing field of unproctored internet-based testing.
5. Making sure that HR is seen as a profession.


Thank you, Dr. Doverspike!

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