Those Seven Deadly Sins

By Inwald, Robin | Security Management, April 1990 | Go to article overview

Those Seven Deadly Sins

Inwald, Robin, Security Management

YOU WANT BETTER EMPLOYEES. Test vendors can help you. You want a yes or no answer. They are willing to give it, and it will not be anything like those psychologists' reports that actually put the burden of making the hiring decision back on you. It's a great sales pitch-you will get a go/no-go, honest/dishonest, violent/nonviolent rating that is validated and accurate and reliable. Not only that, but if you want a short test - even if that means the test has little chance of being reliable -you can administer as few as 30 questions to get your answers. Maybe next week you can purchase a 10-item test ! This sounds reasonable to most people. But what exactly is behind the glossy brochures and fancy sales talk? In many cases, it may be carefully worded promises-or what I call the seven deadly sins-from vendors who admit privately they are just trying to cash in on the increasing demand for a replacement of the polygraph and the decreasing availability of high quality ob applicants. The good news for them is that there is no regulation in this industry and little likelihood that any regulations will be put into effect for a long, long time. The bad news is that, sooner or later, some intelligent people will realize there is little substance behind the spoken and implied claims that these tests effectively predict those individuals who will later steal from their employers.

Let's keep the record straight. I,, myself, am a test vendor. With a Phd in psychology, a diploma from the American Board of Professional Psychology and the American Board of Forensic Psychology, and 10 years' experience conducting predictive research studies on how well we test developers can foretell the future, I am truly amazed and embarrassed by what has been going on in the testing industry.

Someone needs to tell the truth about the misinformation being spread to the public about honesty tests. I had hoped it would be the American Psycholooical Association (APA). Many psychologists and APA members are concerned about the test-selling craze, but APA is a large, bureaucratic organization whose wheels turn slowly. A task force has actually been formed to review honesty tests, but before it has even gotten off the ground, threats of lawsuits have been received. Psychologists, who often chose their profession out of a desire to help individuals, will now be especially cautious before making any formal statements about these tests or the companies that sell them.

I do not mean to criticize any particular test, since no tests are flawless. I also do not mean to disparage the well-meaning, efforts of some individuals to aid employers in reducing internal theft. Rather, I am commenting, on the unfortunate manner in which many tests have been presented to the public and hope the following, points will be viewed in that light.

Therefore, without naming, names, I hope to clear up the seven deadly sins of some honesty test vendors.

1. "Our test has been fully validated." There is really no such thing as a fully validated test since validation is a process that does not have a definable end. The most that should be said about a test is that it has x number of independently published or presented predictive validity studies and such-and-such are the findings, The determination of whether a test has been validated enough" to be used in the marketplace should be left to independent panels of test and measurement experts. To date, no such panels exist in this industry.

To determine a test's accuracy for yourself, ask for the published research studies and the technical manual, and ask exactly what it has been validated for. Listen for statements implying the test will predict those who will steal from you or who will be dishonest, then ask for the proof in published research studies. You could perhaps have an unbiased university professor or other professional review the studies with you.

Watch out for studies that have been printed by the test company and not actually published in blind-reviewed professional journals. …

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