Tools for Assessing Talent

Telephone Screen Pass/FailGut InstinctWork Samples and ExamplesWork SimulationsPersonality and Intelligence AssessmentsRealistic Job Preview / TryoutSkills and Technical AssessmentsEmployment VerificationInterviewsBackground Checks Pass/FailPeer RatingsEducational VerificationReference Checks Resumes and Applications Medical Exams, Drug Screening, Pass/Fail  

Resumes and Applications (.35):

The HR professional or hiring manager screens the information provided to determine if the candidate meets minimum requirements for the position. A popular approach is to use “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” piles for incoming resumes. Biographical data measures have predictive validity of r = .35 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Reference Checks (.26):

Hiring decision-makers speak with people who have some level of experience with the candidate. Reference checks can range from undirected conversations with personal friends to behavior-based, focused sessions with the candidates’ professional contacts. Similar to interviewing, the more objective reference checks can be made (talking with past supervisors, adding structure, focusing on the characteristics needed for the position, etc.), the more they can be relied upon to actually predict candidate success in the position. The reference check process is interactive; with each party gleaning information about fit, and affecting the other party’s view of the same. Most reference providers will feed back their impressions about the potential employer to the job candidate based upon their experience during the reference check, and this affects the candidate’s view of the company and position. The predictive validity of references checks is r=.26 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Educational Verification (.1):

Information provided by candidate regarding educational background, degrees and grade point averages is substantiated. Results are usually pass/fail (either the candidate has the degree cited or not). Years of education have a predictive value of r=.10 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998), and verifying that the education or degree represented was actually attained becomes increasingly important in light of recent estimates that 41 percent of job candidates have lied about their education on their resume (Babcock, 2003).

Employment Verification (.18):

Past employment and related data, such as reason for termination provided by the candidate are confirmed. Results are usually pass/fail. Job experience itself has a predictive validity of .18 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998), and verifying the accuracy of employees’ claims of past employment is important as well, considering a recent report from ADP Screening and Selection Services asserting that 44 percent of applicants misrepresented their work history, as found during their performance of 2.6 million background checks in 2001 (Babcock, 2003).

Skills and Technical Assessments (.48):

The candidate completes a skill-specific assessment to measure technical ability, such as an MS Excel assessment.

Realistic Job Preview/Tryout (.44):

The candidate is provided with a realistic – and often hands-on – view of the position in an actual or simulated work environment. A realistic job preview will yield a pass/fail result – the candidate will either react negatively or positively to the environment and may self-select at that point not to continue in the selection process. Job tryout procedures have an estimated predictive validity of r = .44 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Personality and Intelligence Assessments (.31 – .51):

The candidates’ fit for the position is tested in one or more of the following categories: skills, personality, intelligence/cognitive ability, vocational interest, or assessment centers. Most assessments provide some sort of ordinal (scored) result. The predictive validity of testing and assessments ranges from r = .31 for conscientiousness tests to r = .48 for job knowledge tests; and integrity tests have predictive validity of r=.41 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Work Simulations (.37):

The candidate completes a work assignment that is similar to or identical to an activity that would be required in the position. Predictive validity for these ranges from r = .36 for assessment centers to r = .54 for work sample tests (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Work Samples and Examples (.54):

The candidate submits examples of actual work s/he previously completed.  These samples are reviewed for attention to detail, content, etc. as compared to the requirements for the position.  This is one of the most predictive factors for success on the job.

Gut Instinct:

Using tacit knowledge (intuition) in decision-making about a job candidate. Technically speaking, “gut feeling” is less a selection method and more the filter through which the results of all the other selection techniques is passed. However, its importance in the selection process is so paramount that it warrants a dedicated heading.

These elements involve one’s intuition or “gut feel” (Sternberg & Horvath, 1999). It is important to note that this intuitive approach can inform or skew the preceding two categories. It is easy to see that one’s gut feel about a candidate could affect his/her view of how the interview or reference checking went. It may be more difficult to see how tacit knowledge can affect quantitative data, but it can easily happen with assessments and testing. The hiring manager may have selected a criterion, an assessment, or series of assessments based on his/her gut feel (or perception of “face validity”) regarding what the job requires, as opposed to having done a rigorous review of the requirements of the position in consultation with experts in assessments. In discussing this issue, Heneman (1980) noted, “…there is the possibility that the decision-maker may interpret, or even ignore, valid information about applicants” (p. 56).

Malcolm Gladwell (2005) addressed this phenomenon is his book, Blink, by discussing the large percentage (58 percent) of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Fortune 500 companies in the United States who are six feet tall or taller, as compared to the much smaller percentage (14.5 percent) of the general male population in the United States who are in the same height range. “We have a sense of what a leader is supposed to look like and that stereotype is so powerful that, when someone fits it, we simply become blind to other considerations” (p. 140).

The “Pygmalion effect,” Merton’s (1957) self-fulfilling prophecy theory, provides us with another lens into how tacit and other less explicit forms of knowledge can affect perceived or real performance in individuals, which in turn affects our decision-making about them. This phenomenon, also called the expectancy effect, is often described by an experiment conducted by Rosenthal and Jacobson in which teachers were told that certain children, who were actually selected at random, had been categorized as “blooming” and were expected to experience dramatic gains in cognitive abilities in the upcoming school year (Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968). After eight months, the students were re-tested; and those identified as bloomers in fact showed greater intellectual gains than the other students. Dr. Rosenthal hypothesized that because the teachers communicated their high expectations to, and had more confidence in the bloomers, those students progressed more favorably.

Telephone Screen (Pass/Fail):

HR or the hiring manager contacts the candidate to ask a limited number of questions, such as if still interested in the position, salary range, and willingness to relocate. This process usually results in a “pass/fail” score.

Interviews (.11 – .51):

Hiring decision-makers meet with the candidate in person, via telephone, or other means to better determine fit. Interviews can range from conversational meetings with no real direction to behavior-based approaches and grading systems. The more objective the interview can be made (through structure, focus on the characteristics needed for the position, etc.), the more it can be relied upon to actually predict success in the position (Huffcutt, 1994, p. 190). The interview process is interactive, with each party gleaning information about fit, and affecting the other party’s view of the same. Unstructured interviews are estimated to have predictive validity of r = .38 while structured interviews enjoy a much higher validity of r = .51 (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).

Background Checks (Pass/Fail):

Criminal history, driving records, credit reports (when job-related), and other relevant information about job candidates are evaluated.

Peer Ratings (.49):

People who have worked as peers with the job candidate provide behavior-based data about the candidate’s behaviors, skills, and abilities.  This is one of the most predictive factors in job success.

Medical Exam/Drug Screening (Pass/Fail):

A medical professional who understands the job requirements and essential functions assesses the candidate for fit. Results are usually pass/fail (either the physician believes the candidate can meet the physical requirements of the position or not). While a medical examination is normally conducted after an offer of employment is made, it can result in the elimination of the job applicant.  Drug screening: A laboratory verifies that the candidate’s sample does not contain unacceptable levels of certain substances. Results are usually pass/fail (either drug levels are over the acceptable level or not). While drug screenings are normally conducted after an offer of employment is made, they can and do result in the elimination of job applicants.


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