Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We're missing half the equation

Matching the right person with the right job has two main components, one focused on the employer, the other on the applicant:

#1) A careful analysis of the job by the employer to identify the critical tasks and essential KSAs/competencies. This allows us to develop selection mechanisms that filter applicants to identify the most qualified.

#2) An accurate and thorough description of the job so the applicant can decide if there is a good match between the job and their qualifications.

We tend to do a pretty good job on #1. But many of us completely fall down when it comes to #2. We assume that the job and the organization have been described sufficiently so that applicants--qualified and not--can properly select in and out. But I think we're deluding ourselves.

Ask yourself this: What do you do to make sure applicants have a feel for the job? Let's think about this like we might a selection mechanism, from least to most fidelity:

(a) Describe the job/organization using text description of duties and qualifications
(b) Describe the job as above, also include benefits and "what's in it for you"
(c) Same as above, plus pictures of the work environment
(d) Same as above, plus other multi-media like videos and podcasts

(e) Same as above, plus Web 2.0 engagement strategies, like employee blogs
(f) Allow the applicants to perform simulated job duties online
(g) Alllow applicants to perform simulated job duties in person offsite
(h) Allow the applicants to perform actual job duties on the job site

I'll bet most of us would say (a) and (b) are standard, we have (c) on a good day, and we're moving slowly toward (d) and maybe (e). But this is, frankly, insufficient. The modern job seeker has access to a mountain of information--but desperately lacks information from the horse's (employer's) mouth. The reality is if you don't give it to them, someone else will.

What other benefits are there? Self-screening for one. The fewer unqualified people you have "in the pipe", the less time you waste screening out (not to mention the less time candidates waste, which they greatly appreciate).

By this point you might be wondering what these pictures are. They're from a children's museum I visited recently. They had all these leftover pieces of equipment for children to play with. Thing is, it was fun for the adults too. It gives you a real sense of what it would be like to sit in a helicopter, ride a police motorcycle, and drive a bus.

Why don't we have something like this geared toward adults? This goes way beyond an open house. It could be part of a career fair, or even better, employers would maintain a standalone site where applicants could get a clearer picture of what they'd be doing.

Now not everyone is going to be excited about a day in the life of a cubicle dweller, but everyone works somewhere--why aren't we doing a better job of explaining what it's like? Until we recognize the applicant's perspective, and the impact this has on getting the right person-job match, we're missing half of the equation.

Finally, for those of you that follow research,
here's a listing of journals; half focus on the employer, half more on the job seeker. Which ones do you typically read?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Research round up

There has been so much good research coming out that rather than attempting to write a summary for each of them, allow me to simply present titles and links for you. I'll bet you see something you'll want to follow up on:

Cognitive and emotional processes in individuals and commercial web sites (how people respond to banner ads)

Occupational embeddedness and job performance (interesting results for people that are strongly linked to their career field)

Age stereotypes in the workplace: Common stereotypes, moderators, and future research directions (qualitative summary)

The hidden prejudice in selection: A research investigation on skin color bias

Does stereotype threat affect test performance of minorities and women? A meta-analysis of experimental evidence (really good stuff about moderators)

Stereotype threat reinterpreted as a regulatory mismatch.

Does socioeconomic status explain the relationship between admissions tests and post-secondary academic performance? (short answer: no)

Similarity and assumed similarity in personality reports of well-acquainted persons. (depends on which HEXACO factor you look at)

Not all conscientiousness scales change alike: A multimethod, multisample study of age differences in the facets of conscientiousness. (hint: there's something special about orderliness)


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Living with T&Es

There are a number of ways to use the Internet to perform personnel assessment. Examples include timed cognitive and job knowledge tests, biodata instruments, and personality inventories. But one of the easiest--and thus most tempting to use--types of tests is known as training and experience questionnaires, or T&Es (also sometimes called E&E for education and experience).

A typical (poor) example of a T&E item might be something like this:

How much experience do you have conducing job analysis?

a) None
b) Less than 2 years
c) 2-4 years
d) 4 or more years

I could go on at length about the challenges inherent with using this type of assessment, but I'll spare you. Instead I'll point you to Jim Higgins' December 2008 newsletter, HR Rampage, in which he addresses this topic, among others (see page 2).

Jim points out several problems with this type of assessment, including the overwhelming urge to self-inflate in high-stakes scenarios (we already have problems with outright cheating), the inability of highly qualified individuals to give themselves sufficient credit, and the work required to validate responses.

So given all these challenges,
what can we do to mitigate them? The solutions investigated so far (e.g., elaboration, warnings) have met with very limited success. But there are a number of tactics we can take in this situation. Here are some other methods to consider as we wait for more research in this area:

1) Accurately describe the job and requirements to prevent an unqualified individual from applying in the first place.

2) Clearly word stems and responses to avoid legitimate mis-reads.

3) Include lie items (e.g., "
I have experience using the HR Tests Job Analysis Technique") and deduct points when candidates endorse them.

4) Use false bottoms (e.g., both (a) and (b) are worth zero points) and false tops (e.g., both (c) and (d) are worth the same).

5) Use scales appropriate to the item. For example, amount of experience is often the incorrect scale; type of experience is better.

6) Encourage hiring supervisors to follow up on specific items in their interview.

7) Use a friendly zero point, such as "I do not have any experience but I would be willing to learn" instead of "none." Remember there are egos involved here.

8) Ask questions that are appropriate for a T&E. Don't ask candidates to rate their oral communication skills.

9) Don't ask people to compare themselves to others (e.g., Average, Above Average). Instead use objective measures such as number of times.

10) Seriously consider weighting the items. This is of course dependent upon subject matter expert input, but it's highly likely that your SMEs consider certain training or experience areas more important than others.

11) Before they even get to the T&E, use willingness/pre-screening questionnaires that ask candidates to acknowledge they understand the less-than-perfect conditions related to the job (e.g., mandatory overtime, working outside in the heat).

12) Consider using them as a feedback tool for candidates rather than a scored instrument (e.g., "Your responses indicate you have very little experience and education related to this job. Would you like to continue to apply?").

13) Base everything on SME input. Yes, I realize this probably doesn't need to be stated, but one of the worst temptations is for HR folk to draft T&Es themselves thinking they're easy to write. This is a myth, and helps contribute to poor quality eligible lists.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I'm sure there are other methods out there for helping us live with T&Es. Feel free to add your suggestions!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

ATP Conference Feb 22-25

The Association of Test Publishers (ATP)'s annual conference is February 22-25 in Palm Springs, CA and if you have even a passing interest in personnel assessment, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

There's a lot more there besides I/O--they have tracks for education, clinical, and certification/licensure as well--but take a gander at some of these sessions:

Test development in a global economy: A practical guide to best practice in test construction, localization and adaptation.

Innovation and going green: Use of web-enabled technologies in applicant screening.

Developments in innovative technology-based assessments.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, there's tons of great content planned. It even looks like they know how to have a little fun. Cost is $800 for non-members ($725 for members).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Old school competencies part 2

I seem to have a thing for noticing signs in museums that remind me of a job analysis. Either I'm developing an appreciation for our nation's history or I'm obsessed with my subject matter. Maybe a bit of both.

Anyway, this weekend I visited the California State Railroad Museum and happened to notice this sign:

It reminded me of several things:

(1) Analyzing job requirements, whether you want to call them KSAs, KSAOs, KSAOPs, competencies, or whatever, is not new.

(2) Despite this, and despite efforts of the feds and well-known vendors, we still don't have a common language when we talk about job requirements. Non-HR folk tend to be more attracted to the words used in this poster--words like "people skills" and "perseverance." We need to seriously de-jargon ourselves.

(3) Many HR professionals are still stuck in the paradigm of (1) analyze job, (2) test for few relevant competencies, (3) choose person with best score. As the last paragraph of this picture points out, we need to remember that many different competencies go into job performance and very few jobs are identical. If a highly competent person drops in your lap, are you able to plug them in where you need them, or do you shunt them to a website where they spend 30 days going through your application process? Are you looking for competencies or people?

(4) I really need to stop using my phone to take pictures.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

LAPD uses economy to recruit

Looking for an example of how to take advantage of tight economic times to increase recruitment efforts? Look no further than the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), who--accordingly to a recent article--have increased their applicant numbers over 100% compared to last year.

How did they do this? A good career site helps, and high unemployment is certainly a factor, but it's one that LAPD is tapping directly through advertising language such as this that has been posted in newspapers and on the web (bold added):

"During these times of economic uncertainty, the Los Angeles Police Department is always looking for a few good women and men to protect and to serve our communities. Never have to face a layoff again! Start your new career today!"

Subtle, huh? But apparently pretty darn effective.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


As of January 1st, 2009, the professional organization formerly known as the IPMA-HR Assessment Council (IPMAAC) has changed its name to IPAC--the International Personnel Assessment Council.


IPAC is a group of professionals devoted to the science and practice of employee assessment. That pretty much covers it. Smaller, more accessible, and more focused than SIOP. Larger than say a regional PAC or PTC.

Why the change?

IPMA-HR restructured and decided having IPMAAC a Section no longer fit with their mission. IPMA-HR targets HR heads, while IPMAAC tends to focus on practitioners.

Why join?

1) Networking. IMHO the biggest benefit. Great group of people dedicated to their field, extremely knowledgeable, and willing to lend a hand. IPAC's forum is one of the best.

2) Top notch conference. If you're looking for the latest research and best practices on employee selection, this is where it's at, and members get a discount. Check out some of last year's presentations.

3) Leadership opportunities. Looking to distinguish yourself in the field through a leadership post? IPAC's always looking for people to step up.

4) Training. Staying on top of this field can be challenging. Hooking yourself into an organization dedicated to being current is a great idea.

5) Speaking of staying up-to-date, did I mention the monthly newsletter?

Interested in joining? Head on over to this page.