Two of the top terms you can expect to hear when discussing pre-employment assessments are “accuracy” and “validity.” However, it’s important not to confuse them or use them interchangeably. That’s why it’s essential to have a working knowledge of what they mean and how they work together if you want them to be a truly valuable (and compliant) part of your hiring process.
Accuracy vs. Validity: A Breakdown
A test can be accurate and valid, accurate and not valid, or valid but not accurate. If that sounds confusing, you can take heart in knowing that the distinction between validity and accuracy is much easier to understand when you look at examples.
For instance, let’s say that you construct a carefully designed basic math test. The math test measures the test taker’s ability to perform functions like addition and subtraction. You ask a healthy sample size of people to take the test. Time and again, you get consistent, measurable results. So you can be certain that the test is accurate.
But is the test valid, too? Maybe — but maybe not.
The Difference Between Test Accuracy and Test Validity
If you give the aforementioned pre-employment test to a potential bank teller who needs to know elementary-level math skills, it will likely be valid for that position. Why? You can’t have a bank teller who is unable to add and subtract. What happens if you give the test to someone applying for a position that requires zero knowledge of math, though? The test will still be accurate but not valid because there isn’t a relationship between the test and the job.
The bottom line here is that test accuracy alone just isn’t enough in the candidate selection process. In fact, you could find yourself in hot water if you put faith only in test accuracy and not test validity, too. If you reject applicants because they’ve failed a test that isn’t actually relevant to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed for the job, you could be accused of discrimination. And that’s hard to defend.
Ensuring Your Tests Are Accurate and Valid
The most reliable way to ensure that all your pre-employment tests are both accurate and valid is to conduct a job analysis.
Job analysis lets you do a scientific, thoughtful study of a specific position. In the case of the bank teller, the job analysis would showcase exactly which tasks and responsibilities the candidate would engage in regularly and the minimum KSAs needed to perform a role adequately.
A well-constructed job analysis isn’t just a rehashing of a job description, though. It’s built systematically through a series of steps. Each step helps round out a better understanding of the position to be used in the creation of valid, accurate tests.
The first step toward constructing a job analysis is gathering information from subject matter experts who have a deep understanding of what the job entails. The information you gather can then be leveraged to craft a job analysis survey, which you’ll administer to a sample of workers and supervisors currently in the role you want to test for. Then, parse the answers, extract critical data, and cross-validate with the SMEs you talked to early on.
This procedure may sound involved, but it creates a highly dependable and legally defensible road map for constructing pre-employment assessments. Being able to use the job analysis to support the accuracy and validity of tests has helped countless organizations avoid litigation threats, win court cases, and ultimately make the best hiring choices.
Test Validity and Accuracy in Candidate Selection
Are you 100% sure that the pre-employment tests you use are accurate and valid? If not, you may be putting your company at risk. At Biddle Consulting Group, our passion is to help all our partners apply science in the design, validation, and administration of pre-employment assessments. Strengthen and protect your hiring process by getting in touch today.