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Creating a baseline from your employees gives you only half the answer
August 24, 2014 8:00:00 PM EDT   By Mike Russiello

It's only natural.

graphic showing Earth with only half of the planet visible

A new customer recently shared his plan to test a group of his current employees to develop a better feel for our test results. After a short conversation, he could see that while this approach can be helpful, only by testing applicants over time would he get a full understanding of how well the test differentiates good from bad performers.

When you start using a particular employment test, it's difficult to know how to interpret the results relative to your own applicants. Most test result reports, including HR Avatar's, provide lots of statistics and other information. But since you need to subjectively incorporate these results into your decision process, you want to develop an 'intuitive feel' for what the results mean relative to your specific applicants.

To develop a feel for how the test relates to future job success, you need to have something to compare the test results to. An obvious solution is your current employees, since you can compare their test results to their job performance. So, you can test a bunch of employees and compare their test scores with their performance evaluations.

So, why not?

This approach validates whether test scores correlate with good performance. But what about the unsatisfactory performers? What if they also score well on the test?

Unfortunately, if we assume that unsatisfactory performance results in termination from your company, very few of the employees you test will be unsatisfactory performers. So, you won't be able to tell if the test separates the good from the bad performers just by testing your current employees.

In other words, testing only your own employees will tell you if high test results equals good performance but not if low test results equals poor performance. You only have half the answer.

So, what should you do?

It's not that you shouldn't test your staff to get a better feel for how the test results relate to job performance in your company. However, you just need to recognize that doing so only gives you half the answer. Until you have a good feel for how well the test differentiates candidates in your specific company, you should give the test scores less weight in your decision process. Then, as you test more and more job applicants and compare their test scores with their resumes, references, interviews, and other sources of data you collect, you will gain a better feel for how well the test differentiates between good and poor performers. As you gain this experience, you can weight the test results more heavily in your decision process.

Keep in mind that pre-employment tests should be used as an input to your decision process and almost never as a single pass/fail hurdle. Give the test results weight in your decision-making proportional to your experience with the test, rather than trusting it implicitly from the get go. As you gain confidence in the test results, you can begin to assign the results more weight as you make your selection decisions. Testing your current employees can help you get halfway there, but only consistently testing your applicants can get you all the way.

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