Do Your Job-Applicant Tests Make the Grade?

By Frazee, Valerie | Personnel Journal, Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Do Your Job-Applicant Tests Make the Grade?


Frazee, Valerie, Personnel Journal


Test validity is a tricky subject. So, if you want an 'A' from the EEOC, you'd better listen up, take notes and ask questions.

Consider this your crash course in testing validity. It's really more like a "Cliff Notes" version of the full body of information out there, but it should help you prepare if you're considering including pre-employment testing in your screening process.

It's difficult to judge in a short period of time whether the applicants described on the resumes in front of you really are the best for the job. You have to wonder how well they'll fit in or how they'll respond to deadline pressure. The answer? Some think it's tests created to measure personality, IQ, integrity, job skills and other subjects on the market today. But are these tests really valid?

Establish validity, as defined by the EEOC. You have to prove to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that a test is valid when there are observable differences in the scores of different subgroups of the population for a particular test. For example, if historical documentation shows that males and females score differently on math skills and verbal skills, then a test of these skills would be subject to scrutiny. Basically, to use this test you would need to show that the characteristics it specifically tests for are, in fact, job-related.

The best way to make sure you're complying with EEOC validity guidelines is to put together a thorough job analysis for the position you're planning to test for. Simply put, this analysis is a more detailed and comprehensive form of a job description. Victor Artese, VP of research and development for Wonderlic Personnel Test Inc., based in Libertyville, Illinois, advises taking a close look at the different tasks that are required for the position, to identify the critical knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform it successfully.

Artese explains that The Department of Labor has conducted more than 75,000 job analyses and published the results in the "Dictionary of Occupational Titles"which includes 13,000 job titles. So, if you like, start with what the government says are the critical factors of various jobs.

Once you have a clear understanding of the job function, William Harris, Ph.D. of Pinkerton Services Group, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, suggests obtaining some straightforward guidelines to help you establish the validity of the tests you're thinking of administering. You can obtain this information from several sources:

1) "Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures" is available from the Bowling Green, Ohio-based Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology: 419/353-0032.

2) "Model Guidelines for Pre-employment Integrity Testing" is available from The Association of Test Publishers, based in Washington, D.C.: 202/857-8444.

3) "The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing" is available from The American Psychological Association, also in Washington, D.C.: 202/336-5500.

Understand the difference: content validity vs. predictive validity. According to EEOC guidelines, there are really two major kinds of validity that the EEOC acknowledges in terms of testing for pre-employment purposes: a test that has content validity or one that has predictive validity. …

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