Many organizations use assessments in hiring and career development. If used properly, they can bring tremendous value. There are legal considerations regarding the use of assessments. Today’s post is not going to focus on the legal aspects of assessments.
Rather, I received a reader question about “sharing with an employee the results of a personality test.” It’s a logical question. If an employee takes an assessment, at some point they will want to know the results.
To help us understand more about assessment conversations, I asked Lilly Lin, director of talent measurement consulting at PAN – Performance Assessment Network. PAN is the world’s leading provider of talent measurement solutions. Their assessment catalog includes solutions to hire, develop and retain talent.
Lilly, I’m accustomed to using the word assessment (versus test). To make sure we’re talking about the same thing, is there a difference between a personality “test” and a personality “assessment”?
[Lilly] These words are generally used interchangeably depending on the person referring to the ‘test’ or ‘assessment.’ Some employers prefer the word ‘assessment’ so as to soften the experience for the candidate, as many candidates might have flashbacks to ‘tests’ that they took back in grade school which may result in test anxiety when completing the assessment. However, some test publishers may use the word ‘assessment’ to suggest that what they are offering is more robust or in-depth than a ‘test.’
Briefly define what personality assessments are and why they’re valuable in the workplace.
[Lilly] Personality assessments are instruments used to identify underlying traits of an individual as they pertain to work. They can take on various forms:
Likert-type items (e.g., “I have a hard time making decisions” – answered on a scale of 1=Strongly Disagree to 5=Strongly Agree)
Forced-choice items (e.g., Pick one: “I like to be the life of the party” OR “I tend to shy away from crowds”).
These assessments can help employers determine whether an applicant has the right makeup or personality required for the job. For example, if hiring for an accountant, and employer might be more apt to consider a candidate who scores high on detail orientation and introversion whereas an employer seeking out sales candidates might be looking for the opposite.
One note of precaution: employers interested in using these types of assessments for hiring should ensure that correct evaluative measures have been taken to link this assessment to job performance. Loose selection of particular personality characteristics as potential indicators of job performance could lead to legal ramifications for the employer. Employers should consult an I/O psychologist to help them appropriately validate the use of the personality assessment for the job for which they intend to use it.
I know we’re not talking about the legal side of assessments but, you mentioned the validation. Why is validation important when selecting assessments?
[Lilly] Validation is critical to ensure that the assessment being used is job-relevant and legally defensible. This also helps to create buy-in for use of the assessment as many hiring managers need to see how the assessment impacts bottom line outcomes before accepting the process.
Back to the assessment conversation. When a person takes an assessment, who typically receives the results of that assessment (i.e., the employee, the manager, HR, etc.)?
[Lilly] Best practice suggests that the recruiter or HR partner assisting with the selection process should receive the results and advance the candidate onto the next phase of the selection process (usually an interview) if he/she passes the assessment. Some companies allow their hiring managers to view the results of the personality assessment before conducting the interview. This practice, however, is risky as it could skew the manager’s perception of the candidate and inadvertently impact the interview process.
Candidates should only receive their results after they’ve been hired, and only if the results are going to be debriefed with the employee by someone who has been trained in how to interpret the results. Some companies (e.g., Hogan) have very strict processes associated with certifying assessment interpreters. Other companies may deliver a group training session to help results interpreters understand how the reports are structured and provide FAQs or skill practices.
So if a candidate becomes an employee, then it would be appropriate to share the assessment results. But if the candidate doesn’t get hired, are they ever privy to their assessment results?
[Lilly] No, it is not recommended to share test results with the candidate, as that could result in ‘practice effects’, where a candidate could recall his/her responses after taking the test a couple of times and alter future responses in hopes of being able to pass the test in the future, or lead the candidate to question the selection process.
Last question, what should an employee expect when they meet with someone about their assessment results?
[Lilly] A good thorough results review should last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. During that discussion, in addition to walking the employee through the different scales, they should also be given a chance to react and share other bits of information that either confirm or conflict with the results.
Additionally, review of these results should be coupled with a broader discussion about how the employee can use this information to develop him/herself. Best case scenario is that the employee will be able to pair this information with a behavioral assessment which can shed light on how his/her personality impacts the behaviors that he/she exhibits in a work context.
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My thanks to Lilly and the folks at PAN for sharing their expertise. Assessments can bring a tremendous amount of value if they are selected and used appropriately. If you want to learn more about behavioral assessments, check out the PAN blog or follow them on Twitter.
PAN logo and images use with permission. Other post image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby