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Tomorrow's Forecast? A 70% Chance of Hiring a Productive Employee.
August 6, 2014 8:00:00 PM EDT   By Mike Russiello

When meeting with customers and prospective customers, I often hear questions like:

"How do I know the test results are accurate?"

I can relate to this concern. After all, when we purchase anything to perform measurements, like a scale in our bathroom, a measuring cup in the kitchen, or a tape measure, we want it to be exact. We want precision. Otherwise, what's the point?

Unfortunately, employment testing doesn't offer the degree of precision you'd obtain from a scale or ruler. You can't use it to pinpoint someone along an absolute scale of job performance, at least without performing an extensive and often impractical research project.

Instead, employment test results function as an indicator of the likelihood of strong, medium, or low job performance, rather than an absolute measure of it. They are rarely perfectly accurate, but they provide information that can be very useful when making hiring or promotion decisions.

The key point is that, over the long run, incorporating pre-employment test results into your hiring and promotion decision-making will improve the quality of your decisions significantly.

Consider weather forecasts

Consider the weather for a moment. A weather forecast is usually not completely accurate. However, we still rely on the weather forecast when planning outdoor activities or deciding how we want to spend a free day. We know it's not always right. But it's close enough of the time that we let it guide our decisions to some degree.

Thinking back to our questions about accuracy, we don't ask if the weather forecast is precisely accurate - we know it's not. Instead, we ask whether our decisions are better when we incorporate the weather forecast into our decision making over the long term. I'd bet that for most of us the answer to that questions is an emphatic, "Yes."

How does the test help me?

Now let's illustrate how employment test results improve our decisions in the same way as the weather forecast does. If we plot job performance vs test score for a given job and a high quality employment test, we are likely to see a graph that looks something like this.

Job Performance vs Test Score Scatter Chart

Notice that as test scores go up, so does job performance. This means that the test can improve your decisions. Notice also, however, that the spread of job performance for a given test score can still be fairly high.

Now let's compare some candidates, whose scores are indicated on the graph below.

Job Performance vs Test Score Scatter Chart for several test takers

Person A scored lower than Person B. But, given the spread of performance scores, it's still possible that Person A's actual job performance will match or surpass Person B's. Now consider Person C. This person scored very high on the test, and it's very likely that Person C's performance will exceed both Person A and B.

If all other things were equal, we'd want to hire Person C. However, there may be other factors involved in our decision. For instance, Person C may have a poor reference, or may not have as much experience as Person B. The actual decision requires judgment by the hiring manager, using all the information gathered during the selection process.

Now let's go back to the weather for a moment. Let's say you want to go sunbathing at the beach. The weather forecast calls for cloudy skies but you look out your window and there are no clouds to be found. In the end, you must evaluate all the information you have and make a judgment. Over the long run, you will make the right call a lot more often if you have the weather forecast available in addition to what you see when you look up at the sky. Employment tests work the same way, the information they provide makes your hiring decisions better over the long run.

Summary

So, the key issue is not how accurate the tests are. Rather, it is:

"Is the hiring manager likely to make a better decisions with access to the employment test results?"

As we've shown above, for high quality employment tests, just as for high quality weather forecasts, the answer is almost certainly an emphatic, "Yes."

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