A good hiring decision can make all the difference. Successful hires can elevate the entire team by hitting the ground running and catching on quickly. Meanwhile, poor hiring decisions can hold back an organization; choosing the wrong person for the job can disrupt productivity and require extensive training and supervision from leadership down the road.
Often, more resources are dedicated to helping or removing bad hires than to making good hires in the first place! An ill-fitting employee could be with you for a long time, which means those costs will also stick around. The road to termination is often a long one, requiring a series of escalating disciplinary actions and shortcomings if employers want to avoid any accusations of wrongful termination.
When it comes to making poor hiring decisions, the old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure certainly applies. This is where Biddle Consulting Group comes in. We help companies make smart hiring decisions using pre-employment assessment tools. Our data-backed testing and validation services allow companies to test for virtually any position in a variety of industries. These services include:
- Job analysis.
- Structured interviews.
- Multiple-choice and written exams.
- Work sample tests.
- Physical ability tests.
- Minimum or desirable qualification assessments.
In the following sections, we’ll dig more into the pros and cons of each approach, how Biddle ensures tests are accurate and unbiased, and why it’s often a best practice to use more than one hiring method at a time.
A job analysis is the careful and scientific study of a job. The goal is to document, using high-quality data, a job’s duties and their relative importance to employee success. It also identifies the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that enable a person to perform at a high level of proficiency. These form the foundation for nearly all valid pre-employment assessment tools.
By creating this foundation, we’re able to help hiring managers truly understand the requirements of a specific position and dig deeper than just a general understanding that may or may not be correct. The job analysis process helps screen out incompatible candidates, using the proper minimum job qualifications, and ultimately aids in improving the overall performance of a company’s hires. It’s also an essential part of ensuring that hiring practices are based on actual job qualifications rather than any conscious or unconscious bias.
Our job analysis methods involve first working with subject matter experts (SMEs) to gain an initial understanding of a job’s essential duties and tasks. We then craft a survey based on this information and give it to a sample of employees and their supervisors, after which we analyze the collected data. This analysis allows us to provide the employer with objective and quantitative data on the requirements of a job and then cross-validate the data with SMEs who link critical job tasks with the KSAs required to perform them.
It’s important to note here that not all data is created equal. A pre-employment assessment needs to be based on a solid, objective foundation. That’s why our trademarked, guidelines-oriented job analysis (GOJA) process was specifically designed to address the requirements of the Federal Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures as well as knowledge gained through established court precedence. GOJA is a key factor in why our pre-employment tests have never lost a court challenge.
With our job analysis, clients have the information necessary to either develop valid pre-employment tests themselves or work with Biddle to develop those tests. Either way, these tests offer employers a stronger way to gauge candidate qualification than certain hiring methods.
Structured vs. Unstructured Interviews
Broadly speaking, there are two types of interviews: structured and unstructured. Let’s look at the differences between these two approaches.
An unstructured interview has three major flaws, which are also its defining characteristics:
1. No standardized questions.
In unstructured interviews, hiring managers usually begin with a few seed questions to start the conversation. After that, the remaining questions are created in real time based on the applicant’s responses. The result is a far-ranging conversation that lets the hiring manager get to know the candidate.
This also means that each candidate effectively experiences a completely different assessment. This lack of uniformity can put some candidates at a disadvantage and makes it more likely that an interviewer will be swayed by things like personality, verbal ability, appearance, and a general sense of connection with the applicant. In other words, the extemporaneous nature of the process makes it susceptible to personal bias — either explicit or implicit.
2. No standardized scoring criteria.
Because each candidate is asked different questions, it’s impossible to develop high-quality structured scoring criteria against which to judge responses. Instead, the interviewer is left to base their judgment on a vague notion of overall performance and qualifications. This is extremely difficult to document and, more importantly, to defend in the event of a legal challenge.
3. Low validity.
Numerous scientific studies have been conducted on the efficacy of unstructured interviews, and nearly all of them reach the same conclusion: They have low validity. In other words, how a person scores on an unstructured interview has little predictive power regarding how they will perform on the job.
Unlike its counterpart, a structured interview employs carefully designed and crafted questions that, ideally, are based on a careful job analysis. Because a standard set of quality questions is given to each applicant, it’s possible to craft high-quality and valid scoring criteria that compare the actual performance of each applicant against an objective standard.
In a structured interview, great effort is made to administer the questions in a structured manner that includes well-written instructions and opportunities to view the questions in advance. In many cases, these interviews include a panel of people, which provides a broader perspective on performance, allows for more diversity in the hiring process, and minimizes bias with increasing reliability.
It should be noted here, however, that an interview is only one aspect of hiring. Even structured interviews are inherently limited by the small number of questions that can be asked in a predetermined amount of time, and they favor highly verbal candidates.
In the end, we recommend a multi-modal approach — one that uses interviews in conjunction with other types of pre-employment testing, including written or physical ability tests.
Biddle has spent years perfecting the process of developing written and multiple-choice tests. We help companies develop their own from scratch, and we offer consulting services for those who already have written tests to help ensure the effectiveness and objectivity of these assessments. We even offer our own online testing platform for those who need a better way to administer tests.
We’ve seen how written tests can operate as the most powerful hiring tool at a company’s disposal. Nearly anything an employer might want to measure related to hiring can be assessed with a written test. There are several reasons for this.
For one, written tests can be carefully designed to measure the job requirements most relevant to performance and the needs of a specific employer.They also allow for more questions than other formats. The more questions an employer can ask, the better they can get to know the candidate and their skills.
Perhaps the most important factor, however, is that written tests generate objective quantitative data, which can be analyzed statistically. This helps remove bias from traditional hiring practices and even improves the objectivity of other strategies, like structured interviews. Each question can be examined to determine whether statistically significant differences exist between subgroups (like gender or racial identity). This helps identify possible biases the employer should remove.
Moreover, written tests scale better than other pre-employment assessments. Most written tests can be administered to large candidate pools in an efficient and cost-effective manner — either online or in person. Online tests, specifically, can be scored electronically, which makes the results nearly instantaneous. This is especially advantageous in an environment where an increasing number of employers are looking to hire in geographically diverse locations.
Written tests even offer a surprising amount of predictive power when it comes to measuring skills or abilities that require hands-on work. However, in cases like these, written tests can only act as an approximation. For companies that want to see how candidates can handle certain tasks in real-world situations, they should complement written tests with other testing and validation services, like work sample tests and physical ability assessments.
Work Sample Tests
Nothing shows that an applicant can successfully perform a job like simply having them demonstrate the skills needed to do it well. This is the premise of a work sample test. Based on a comprehensive job analysis, the goal is to identify those tasks that are critical to successful performance and then develop a scenario that requires applicants to demonstrate their prowess.
Sometimes, it’s possible to create an exact replica of a particular situation. For example, we offer a series of proprietary Microsoft Office simulations that mimic the skills necessary to be proficient in Word and Excel. This type of high-fidelity recreation is not always possible, which means employers have to settle with getting as close as they can.
This requires a greater level of creative thinking to ensure an accurate representation of a candidate’s skills while working within a budget. Biddle Consulting Group has a tremendous amount of experience in this area. From hands-on work sample tests to fully computerized high-fidelity assessments, we can help ensure you’re getting the most out of what you have to work with.
Ensuring an accurate and objective assessment is important in all work sample tests, but that is especially true for assessments like physical ability tests. For jobs that have a significant physical component, an inability to perform certain physical functions would lead to failure on the job or even to injury and death.
Firefighters, for instance, need to be able to carry heavy gear in a variety of environments and terrains. As a result, nearly all fire departments require new hires to demonstrate their ability to physically perform key elements of the job.
Whether hiring a firefighter or a warehouse worker, it’s not enough to claim that a job has specific physical requirements. It must be demonstrated to the degree that, if challenged in court, an employer can defend that claim. When hiring, the employer is responsible for identifying the physical traits crucial to the job and defining a way to measure them. As in all pre-employment assessment tools, this is best done by conducting a job analysis.
Physical ability tests must be carefully designed and validated to ensure that any adverse impact related to specific demographics doesn’t exist — and that failure to pass the test is not due to overly stringent standards. It’s also necessary to keep in mind the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Is physical ability an essential function of the job, or can you make reasonable accommodations?
Biddle has developed a variety of physical ability and agility tests. We have created timed running scenarios for correctional officer positions, obstacle courses for special agents, and simple vision and hearing tests for a variety of other positions.
When developing any sort of physical ability test, it’s important to remember that tests of physical ability are particularly prone to legal challenges. Biddle can help you ensure you’re measuring the right things and that your testing is legally sound.
Basic and Preferred Qualification Development
It’s often taken for granted in hiring, but determining the basic qualifications for a position is a powerful way to screen incompatible candidates early in the process. It can also help companies narrow the talent pool to individuals who have the qualities necessary for the job.
Minimum job requirements don’t necessarily have to be a set group of prerequisites, such as a four-year degree and two years of experience. Rather, the goal in determining basic requirements is to figure out the skills a candidate needs as well as how to assess whether potential hires possess those skills.
Preferred qualifications require the same type of assessment, but the difference is that these are not strictly necessary for competency — instead, they’re additional qualifications that would be nice to have. Knowing a second language might be helpful in certain situations, but perhaps it isn’t strictly necessary in day-to-day performance. A candidate that possesses preferred qualifications is often one that requires less initial training and can get up and running at a faster rate.
It’s not always easy to determine what’s a preferred skill and what’s a basic qualification. Is a particular certification, for instance, nice to have or totally necessary? How do you find the answer?
Using job analysis, we work with SMEs to determine the minimum level of competency necessary to achieve acceptable performance on a particular job. We then craft a series of statements representing those minimum qualifications, which can then be used to initially screen applicants for a position. It’s a simple but effective way to ensure that any candidates reaching the interview stage possess the minimum qualifications necessary for the job.
Biddle has decades of experience supporting employers with their pre-employment testing needs. We have developed testing and validation services for organizations representing nearly every sector of the U.S. economy. In addition, employers who find themselves on the receiving end of litigation frequently seek us out to serve as expert witnesses. Our highly trained consultants have Ph.D.- and Masters-level training and many years of technical experience in the field.
If you’re ready to use pre-employment assessment tools in your hiring process or need expert opinions on your current setup, Biddle Consulting Group can help. Contact us today to find out how we can help.