Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Joe Murphy: Buyer Beware

Today's guest post comes from Joe Murphy of Shaker Consulting Group. Joe graciously responded to my occasional Q&A series in an earlier post and has some good thoughts about the state of assessment...


Buyer Beware

Last year, while roaming the halls of the 2006 EMA and SHRM conferences, I was surprised by the lack of basic knowledge test and assessment providers were prepared to offer attendees. They were at it again this year. While attending the SHRM Staffing Management Conference in New Orleans (April 23-25, 2007), I was a bit shocked by what I heard from an assessment provider. Here are a few amazing assertions:

  • Our test is 97% accurate at identifying the right person.
  • Our test was validated by the EEOC. It only takes five minutes; you are going to love this.

I was so surprised by this comment that I was not quick enough to ask about their selection project at the EEOC. I regained my composure and asked how they establish job relevance. Their answer was, “Over a million people have taken this.”

When I asked how they help users adhere to The Uniform Guidelines on Employees Selection Procedures, they were clueless. When I asked about their various norm groups and which types of job criteria were predicted, they were clueless. When I asked if they would share the results of their validation analysis, they had no response.

Again, stuffing a questionnaire at me they implored me to “Take it, you’ll love it.” Explaining I was not interested, I wandered away to find another booth offering assessments.

Once again this may be a case of an ill prepared service provider expecting to meet uneducated consumers in the market place. It is actually pretty scary. I asked myself: “What type of staffing professional would actually believe that a five minute adjective checklist would be 97% accurate at identifying the right candidate?” Perhaps someone who was more hopeful than thoughtful.

After settling in with some small talk at my next target, I began my investigation. “How do you help users adhere to The Uniform Guidelines on Employees Selection Procedures?”

I got the most honest and candid answer. “No one has ever asked me that before. Let me tell you about our approach.” After a thoughtful exchange I left and drew a conclusion:

Prepared, but not proactive.

Why are testing and assessment providers NOT proactively taking the initiative to educate their consumers? I drew another conclusion:

Possibly because an educated consumer might not buy their product.

This thought took me back a few years to a time when I walked the SHRM Conference Exhibit Hall with a professional colleague, Bob Eichinger. He is an I/O psychologist, co-founder of Lominger and formerly on staff at PepsiCo and Pillsbury. We stopped to look at a booth with a long line of conference attendees waiting to take a five minute “wonder test.” Bob looked at me with a smile of disbelief, shook his head and said: “Shit sells.”

People and their behavioral tendencies are pretty complex. Predicting job-fit in five minutes is a claim that seems to hold a bit of hyperbole. Caveat emptor - Buyer beware.

The trend in compliance auditing is shifting from examining the content of historical candidate searches to a review of the job relevance of assessments. Auditors want to know about the job analysis process used to establish the content validity of the evaluation method, the date of the last validation analysis and to what degree the job may have changed since the last validation.

Organizations using an assessment that was “Validated by the EEOC” may be in for a big surprise if they are faced with an audit.

Take time to become an educated consumer of assessment products and services. You and your company will be glad you did.

Joseph P. Murphy
Shaker Consulting Group, Inc.

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