Friday, December 29, 2006

My New Year's wish

baby new year
It's that time of year again. When gyms fill up with people who swear this will be the year they lose weight, and stick to their new schedule for all of two weeks. When people stay up until midnight for no other reason than to say they did. When we come up with resolutions only because we feel like we should. And who am I to buck the trend?

There are a lot of things I'd like to see happen in the field of personnel selection in 2007:

- Making utility easier to grasp and communicate
- Increasing the visibility of professional assessment
- Re-doing Schmidt & Hunter's famous 1998 meta-analysis
- Increasing the use of videos (e.g., for job previews)
- Developing realistic computer simulation tests

But then I figured...why limit myself to these goals, which are somewhat obtainable? Let's throw caution to the wind and come up with something crazy. So here goes.

The recruitment community goes bananas on a regular basis for social networking/relationship management/candidate sourcing aggregation websites. These are your LinkedIn's, your Jobster's, your MySpace's, etc. These websites do (at least) one thing well: they create huge searchable databases that can (supposedly) be "mined" for talent. Whether they actually work or not is largely up to the skill of the miner.

So here's my question: what has the assessment community provided? Where is our cutting-edge tool that helps employers get objective data about job applicants? The closest thing I've seen is, a UK site where employers can provide "reference scores" for previous employees. But it's targeted at students applying for temporary jobs. And it's entirely dependent upon hypothetically-good-but-often-inaccurate references. But it's a start.

Here's what I want in 2007: I want to see at least the start of an effort to aggregate objective measures of applicant proficiency in a searchable database. I want to look up Sally Garcia from Escondido, California and find out what her analytical skill is like, how she scores on the Big 5, and what her computer skills are. I want this to be based on quality assessment tools, and I want to be able to easily communicate with her about her scores and about potential job opportunities. I want the system to narrow down the candidate pool based on my position-specific requirements. And I want to be able to link it with the other networking websites (see above). Whether this data comes from the applicant or (preferably) a computer system that uploads results in real-time, I don't so much care. But I want to know where the data came from.

Is that so much to ask? Maybe we can just get started. I hope so, because it would be a heck of a tool and would vault the rep of assessment to somewhere close to where it should be.

Here's to hopin', and...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Seeking grads with "leadership experience"

According to a new report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers are greatly influenced by whether a college grad candidate has held a "leadership position."

In this survey of 267 of its members, NACE found this factor was rated highest, along with college major. Nearly three-fourths of respondents also stated they preferred candidates with relevant work experience.

My guess is few grads have held "leadership positions", which presumably adds to its cachet. But what exactly does this mean? What is a leadership position? Presumably we're talking about more than just being in a club; we're talking about being club President.

I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say that employers associate these positions with intelligence, drive, knowledge, and ability to lead groups of people. In most cases all you really can be assured of is that the person had sufficient motivation to throw their name in the hat.

Let's say I told you I was president of the Psychology Club at my university for two years. The club had over 200 members and I was responsible for leading monthly meetings and took the lead on all club-sponsored activities over that time, including publishing the club's newsletter, Psyched. (By the way, this is a total fabrication)

What do you really know about me? What if you found out that I was president for two years because no one else wanted it? That while there were 200 members, an average of 5 showed up for the monthly meetings? That our "activities" included going to the movies, and that the newsletter was published twice and was simply a brief e-mail to all members? Would that change how you thought about me?

As with any measure of training and experience, to get real validity out of this type of screening you need more information:

- What were the duties of the position?
- Did they compete for the position; if so, how were they selected?
- How long did they have the post, and what did they accomplish?
- Did they seek "re-election", and if so, what happened?

In their defense, employers of college grads don't have a whole lot to go off of. Grads typically don't have much job experience to draw from. So you're usually looking at coursework and GPA. On the plus side, we know GPA actually does a passable job of predicting job performance (probably because it's largely a proxy for cognitive ability). Sadly GPA was ranked third in this survey by employers.

So how could employers do a better job of screening college grads? The same way they screen everybody else! By relying on job-related, high quality assessment methods, such as situational interviews, work samples, and personality tests.

Here's another question for ya: do all jobs for college grads require leadership skill? Or is teamwork ability more important? How about customer service skill? Conscientiousness? I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hiring for attitude

There are very few Dilbert cartoons that make it to my bulletin board, but this is going to be one of them. Great illustration of the perils involved with hiring strictly based on attitude (versus, say, I dunno, knowledge, skills, and ability).

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Human Performance, volume 19(4)

The new issue of Human Performance is out and it's got some goodies for us, particularly if you're into organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) or emotions at work.

Quick, suppress yourself!

The first article related to assessment is by Moon & Lord and is an investigation of emotional regulation and its impact on task performance. In three studies of students at a Midwestern university (who I would like to suggest are such a commonly studied population that they deserve their own acronym of SAMU), the results suggested that individuals who are better able to quickly manage their emotional responses excel at task performance (measured by unscrambling sentences and editing stories). And no, it's not entirely related to verbal intelligence (they looked at that). More research is needed, but this could lead to a non-laboratory measure that would predict job performance, particularly in positions with frequent emotional interactions (e.g., call centers, nursing).

Performance problem?

The next study, by Klehe and Latham, tackles the issue of typical vs. maximum performance in the context of structured interviews. There have been quite a few studies of whether behavior description ("tell us about a time when...") or situational ("what would you do if...") interviews (BDIs and SIs, respectively) better predict job performance and this study adds to the story. What they found, by gathering data from MBA students in a Canadian university, is that both BDIs and SIs significantly predicted typical teamplaying behavior, but SIs also predicted maximum behavior. Again, more research is needed here, particularly since the participants did not have a great deal of job experience and previous research has suggested BDIs may be better for higher level positions. But certainly worth more attention, since in most cases we're more interested in day-to-day performance than maximum output.

Also interesting in this study: both performance measures exhibited significant negative correlations with age.

Feel it, feel it

The next relevant study is by Carmeli and Josman, and looks at whether emotional intelligence (EI) better predicts task performance or OCB. In this study of 165 employees from a "diverse set of organizations" in Israel, the authors used Schutte et al.'s (1998) measure of EI, which is based on Salovey & Mayer's framework. Scores on the predictor significantly predicted both task performance and OCB, although regression results were stronger for the former. The results of this study, in combination with Moon & Lord's study (above), strongly suggest we need more research to help us correctly match up measures of emotional regulation and job type in personnel selection contexts.

Also interesting: significant correlations between gender and EI (females higher), age and EI (negative), and education and EI (positive).

Threat assessment

Next up is a study by Cullen, Waters, and Sackett, looking at stereotype threat in an applied setting. Results of this analysis of thousands of men and women who took the SAT in 1994/1995 were not supportive of stereotype threat theory using "math identification" as the categorizing variable. The authors call into question the generalizability of the mostly lab-based research into stereotype threat, which is often suggested as an explanation of score differences between individuals of different ethnicities on standardized tests. I sincerely hope we see a lot more applied research in this area, as this has direct application to the "validity vs. adverse impact" debate.

Do you really want to help/hurt me?

Last but not least is a study by Sackett, Berry, Wiemann, and Laczo of OCB and counterproductive work behavior (CWB) among 900 employees at a Midwestern university (or, EAMU). By the way, someone needs to tell Paul Sackett he only gets ONE published article per journal edition. Anyhoo, results confirm that OCB and CWB are two separate constructs instead of two aspects of a single continuum. Keep this in mind when choosing your criterion measure.

Also interesting: significant correlations between age and OCB (positive), and between gender and CWB (higher among men).


Side note: This was Jim Farr's last edition as editor; Wally Borman takes over for volume 20(1). Thanks Jim!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Computer simulations and assessment

I've written before about the potential use of computer simulations for personnel selection.

Now the news is full of articles about organizations using simulations for training and investigating multi-user graphical environments for new employee orientation and mentoring.

The idea is pretty simple: candidates would navigate a 3d environment (with accessibility built in for those with disabilities) that mirrored as closely as possible the actual work environment. As the candidate moved around and made choices, the computer would collect data--about judgment, knowledge of content areas, interpersonal skills, etc. This data (their scores) would be stored and matched later to requirements of specific positions. It would be like video-based testing and modular testing, on steroids.

It's actually rather surprising more hasn't been done in this area considering how long sophisticated branching computer simulations have been around. Development costs are certainly an issue, but there are ways to deal with that (e.g., combining resources, developing in-house) and the challenges are not insurmountable.

I even have a name for it: choose your own job. After all, jobs are an adventure, right?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Conducting recruitment and selection audits

Great post by Michael Harris over at EASI blog about EEOC's recent warning to employers that they conduct audits of their HR systems.

"Ok, fine," you say, "but how exactly do I conduct an audit? What am I looking at?" you say.

Great questions. And I just happen to have something that might get you started.

Several months back I gave a presentation at WAPELRA's fall conference titled, "Cubicles, not courtrooms: Creating defensible selection procedures."

One of the handouts from that presentation was a flowchart that is intended to focus attention on some of the critical areas that need to be analyzed to ensure your assessment system is working right. Hope you find it helpful!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Outplacement updates

Readers may recall a few posts back that I wrote about surfing layoffs for potential job candidates.

If this seems like a strategy you'd like to implement, boy do I have a resource for you. AIRS, a company that provides various recruiting services, has a free newsletter you can sign up for that will deliver into your inbox every other Monday a summary of recent layoff news, including the number of individuals affected and in some cases, type of employees and date.

Yes, you have to register, which of course means giving them your name, e-mail, address, phone, height, weight, eye color, name of favorite grandparent, possession rights of any children, and photocopies of your fingerprints. But it's such a small price to pay for helping us find qualified applicants.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gallup poll yields lessons for employers

Results of a new Gallup poll illustrate strongly the disconnect between the perceptions of working for the federal government and what many candidates are looking for. And although the report focuses on implications for the federal government, there are lessons here for any organization.

The report, titled "Within Reach But Out of Synch" is based on data gathered online in September/October of 2006 and includes responses from 2,596 individuals.

Gallup broke out the respondents into three groups:

Generation Y : currently 18-29 year olds (born 1977-1988)

"Government-Go-Gets" (G3) : "scientists, engineers and computer science professionals and individuals who work in law, public policy and the social services", sectors considered by Gallup to be key prospects for the future federal workforce

Managers : individuals who currently hold managerial or supervisory positions in the private or nonprofit sector and could potentially transfer to the federal sector


There's quite a bit to chew on in the report, but I think this quote sums up the overall picture nicely: "the federal government must sharpen its competitive edge in terms of marketing and branding, and even more challenging, by offering high performing work environments that value innovation and creativity, and provide opportunities for growth and advancement."

I don't think this is a conclusion that is limited to the feds--this is a lesson for every organization hoping to lure high potential applicants.

Among Gen Y'ers, the workplace value ranked highest was growth potential, followed by intellectual stretch. For both managers and G3, compensation/benefits was ranked highest, followed by intellectual stretch. However, within G3 the results were more nuanced--for example, mission match was the most important for those in the social services. This speaks to the value of parsing out your target group(s).

Chart 3a (page 6) is probably the most eye opening. It illustrates dramatically how the private sector blows the feds away when it comes to perceptions of innovation and creativity, attracting the best and brightest, and providing a competitive environment. Where does the government win? In perceptions of benefits and job security. Surprisingly perceptions of pay were not overly one-sided, with 59% giving the nod to the private sector.

When it comes to job search, the vast majority of responders reported if they were going to look for a job with the feds they would turn to the agency's website. Job searching websites were also a popular choice.


Take-aways from the poll:

1. Organizations need to take their workforce planning data (you do have the data, right?) and figure out what aspects of their workplace they need to showcase and what they need to shore up in order to attract candidates for their target jobs.

2. Intellectual stretch was rated highly by all three candidate categories. This means things like being intellectually stimulated, being able to use your education, and allowing you to be innovative and creative. What is your organization doing to allow your employees opportunities to do these things?

3. For the feds (and government in general, I would bet), this is a wake-up call to think seriously about how they are perceived. Is there some truth to these perceptions? If not, put some serious effort into marketing (and, if needed, brand identification). If there is, focus on how workplaces can be more supportive of creativity and innovation, and how you can spread the word about merit-based hiring practices and the wonderful folk you have on staff.

4. For the love of Pete, make sure your careers website makes for a good candidate experience. The Army's webpage is frequently cited as being one of the best.

Poor OPM

Ya gotta feel for OPM after looking at this report. Of all the federal agencies polled about, OPM scored lowest on both "awareness of agency mission" (24%) and "interesting place to work" (1.92%). Undoubtedly this is due in part to its relatively small size and somewhat nebulous mission. If it's any consolation, OPMers, I think you do great work !

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

State Department revamps FSO exam

And now, from the "speed over quality" files, comes a report that the State Department is revamping the testing process for Foreign Service Officers.

For more than 70 years, this exam process has been a model for best practices in merit-based selection. Candidates for these positions must undergo a day-long testing process, consisting of a rigorous written test covering a variety of issues followed by an oral interview.

Now, in the face of the upcoming retirement wave and "talent war", the department is shifting gears in light of a McKinsey study. The emphasis will shift from the written test (which will still exist in a truncated form) to "resumes, references, and intangibles such as 'team-building skills'."


- The current testing process is widely acknowledged to be a valid predictor of performance.

- Making it through the current process is an enormous sense of pride for FSOs and most likely results in increased retention.

- The current process contributes to the reputation of the department, making it the only public-sector organization to be ranked in the top 10 by a recent Business Week survey of college undergrads and career recruiters.

Apparently these changes are being made to be better able to compete with private sector employers and to speed up the process. Ironic, since they don't seem to be having a problem attracting candidates (the selection rate is approximately 1-2%). In addition, I have to wonder, if the written test is the bottleneck, why it couldn't be offered more often, be computer-based, etc.

Unfortunately, these changes could have the opposite of the intended effect: highly qualified candidates may be less likely to apply as the cachet of joining the ranks lessens. Even if they apply, they will be selected based on a likely less valid approach that focuses more on resumes and standardized applications rather than on a proven written test.

Sadly, this seems to be a trend among federal government agencies, as the State Department now joins the Army in a seeming campaign of standards reduction.

BTW, active discussion of this over at IPMAAC's listserv.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Video interviewing with HireVue

Friday I had a discussion with Mark Newman, the COO and co-founder of HireVue.

What is HireVue? The company's bread and butter is video interviews. But as I found out from my conversation with Mark, there's a lot more here than meets the eye.

First, the basics.

Video capturing candidates can be accomplished in two main ways:

1) The customer has webcams on-site--say, at a career center or college recruiting location. Candidates come in and take interviews either at a scheduled time or you could do first-come-first-serve. HireVue charges $19.95 per interview for these.

2) The candidate wants to do the interview at their home or a location of their choice. In this case they can either use their own camera or HireVue can ship one to them. Cost: $149 per interview.

Candidates are able to see what they're going to look like and have up to 2 minutes to answer each question. They can pause the recording at any time to collect themselves, and once the interview has been recorded it is uploaded to HireVue's servers and is immediately available for viewing.

The 'owner' of the account (typically a recruiter I would think) can then send information to the hiring manager/subject matter expert(s) to rate the interviews and the system can combine ratings of multiple judges.

Now, the complexity...

Here's where things get really interesting:

- This system isn't just for video interviews--you can combine a video interview with multiple-choice questions or essay questions, and you can filter results based on answers to any of these types of items.

- You can record an "introduction" video that candidates see prior to taking the test. This could be anything from a "Hi, thanks for coming" to a full blown job preview video that's already been recorded.

- Although the system uses a basic "number of stars" system to judge candidates, you can easily provide a detailed rating scale to the raters on screen while they are viewing the candidate.

- The graphical menu that pops up when viewing a response allows you to quickly move back and forth among different candidates to compare answers to a particular question.

HireVue's been doing all this for about 18 months, but I just found out about it. Apparently most of their business is coming from word of mouth.

Possible downsides? Some folks might be more nervous taking a video interview than a panel interview (I'm not one of them). Some might be turned off by what they perceive to be an impersonal process. You'll need DSL or above speeds. You may have some raters who simply don't like the feeling of reviewing videos. Finally, the quality is not perfect--it's enough to make out what the person looks like and general emotions, but you won't be staring at beads of sweat. You can see an example of the quality and the interface here.

For me, the biggest advantage of something like this is flexibility. For situations where it's particularly difficult to get panels together this would be a boon. Also, it's more flexible for candidates in that they could come in on their own time and if they get the jitters, no big deal--they could always come back, with no loss of face.

The company's looking to personalize the product in 2007 by doing things like integrating it better with customer websites so it feels more seamless.

More details about HireVue can be found here and here.

One last good piece of information I gleaned from Mark: the webcam they prefer is the Logitech Communicate STX. I think I just thought of another Christmas gift for myself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The feds rock

Bet you don't hear that very often.

Surfing around today, I came across one of those resources that you hit yourself for not finding sooner.

It's IPMA-HR's Federal Section.

"Wow, Bryan, that sounds fascinating," you're thinking. Well, check it out, that's all I ask. The page has links to a variety of excellent presentations including:

Attracting, Maintaining and Motivating the Best and the Brightest

Categorical Ranking

Recruitment Branding

Attracting Talent - A 21st Century Approach

That last presentation has within it an example of job preview videos created by OPM that are well worth a look. These types of videos are common in the private sector, much less among government agencies--and it's unfortunate that more organizations aren't taking advantage of this technology.

So kudos to the Federal Section for offering such a wealth of information and kudos to OPM for the example they continue to set.

Next up:
I had a very interesting demo this afternoon from HireVue, so I will be posting about that shortly!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

7 tips for retaining high performers

Good, brief, article on about steps you can take to retain your high performers. I would argue that in addition to increasing retention, these practices help your organization increase its reputation, and thus attractiveness to potential recruits.

So what are some of the suggestions?

- Most of the time things aren't "life or death", so don't stress out. (Note: people working in the medical profession or on a battlefield please disregard)

- Create a comfortable environment that fosters creativity (hmm, sounds familiar for some reason)

- Involve people. I agree as long as this doesn't include three meetings a day.

- Show that you value work-life balance.

- Subsidize training opportunities. I am a big believer in this lever; it's a leap of faith to assume your next employer will be as generous.

- Create a fun, relaxed environment. Again, this is easier said than done in some situations, and you don't want to create a noisy, distracting environment. I say focus on the small stuff (e.g., brief joking around), avoid "fun committees" like the plague.

- Host regular social events. In my experience this typically leads to collective groans. If the group is already fairly cohesive, this can help to encourage that. But if your group isn't getting along, I don't think a social event is going to magically transform them into a lean, mean, productive team.

If I may, I'd like to add...

- Listen to your workers, and then do something about their concerns/suggestions, even if it's "we hear you, thank you, but we've decided to go a different direction because of X."

- Select supervisors because they have some modicum of people skills, not just because they're the technical expert. Surveys repeatedly show that poor supervision is high on the list for disgruntled employees.

- Related point: make sure your supervisors know how to supervise. This means training, and not just any 'ol training--intense, lengthy workshops with examples and role plays.

- Recognize good performance. Surveys also reveal that folks often feel undervalued. This doesn't have to take the form of a formal recognition program; in fact most of the time all people want is the occasional pat on the back for a job well done.

- And the corollary: do something about poor performers. Letting folks get away with doing less work for the same pay tells high performers that you're spineless, or worse--that you see no difference among your workers.

These may all seem like no-brainers, but I continue to be surprised at how many organizations fail to put these practices into place.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New issue of Personnel Psychology

The Winter issue of Personnel Psychology showed up in my mailbox yesterday, and although there's only one article that directly addresses recruitment/assessment, it's a good one.

The study by McDaniel, Rothstein, and Whetzel analyzed whether publication bias exists in the validity information presented in technical manuals of 4 test vendors. To be honest, I was shocked that only 2 of the 4 showed evidence of moderate-to-severe bias. In both cases, the publisher tended to report only statistically significant correlations.

Unfortunately the names of the test vendors were not given; they were specifically omitted to avoid stigmatizing the vendors and to make the article easier to review. IMHO both of these reasons are weak, but that's neither here nor there. Still, a great introduction to the "trim and fill" method and provocative results that have implications for any meta-analysis.

Another reason this article is interesting is it references a chapter written in 2005 by Sue Duval where, using the same "trim and fill" method, the criterion-related validity reported by McDaniel et al. in 1994 for structured interviews (.27) was found to be likely be an overestimate, and the true value (.21) is closer to that of unstructured interviews. As McDaniel himself points out in an upcoming publication, this is not the last word on the validity of structured interviews, but it certainly gives one pause! That study, combined with the 2005 study by Roth, Bobko, and McFarland on work sample tests really cry out for a re-do of Hunter & Schmidt's seminal paper.

By the way, big props to Dr. McDaniel for allowing access to so many of his publications.

Monday, December 04, 2006

How to turn off qualified candidates #432

Today's lesson in how to turn off qualified candidates: limit their creativity.

Policies to limit cubicle clutter are well-meaning, but like non-fraternization policies they end up having a chilling effect. These types of policies send a strong message: We consider you expendable, so don't get comfortable or try to establish any long term bonds.

You mine as well just hand folks a list of competing employers.

Granted, things can get out of control when messiness interferes with job performance. But these situations should be handled like any other: on an individual basis. Why punish everyone (and yourself) for one person taking things too far?

The simplest solution, if one is needed, is to have a general policy stating it is everyone's responsibility to maintain a well organized, professional workplace. Folks are put on notice, but don't have to worry about whether they've got one too many pictures of their family up on their wall (yes, that's a real example from the article).

In this era of increased personalization (think Web 2.0) most organizations should be projecting an image that says: We want you to be yourself, we want your creativity, and we recognize you have a life outside of work. Highly qualified workers expect nothing less.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Recruiting 24-7


In a competitive employment market, you have to be ready to jump on any opportunity to recruit qualified applicants. In this post I'm going to look at two methods of recruiting that help you take full advantage of ready job candidates.

Method 1: Surfing layoffs

Are you prepared to jump at the chance to recruit workers who get laid off?

One of the most common suggestions for organizations is to focus on passive candidates. These folks are demonstrating skills similar to what you need and verifying employment and conducting reference checks is much easier.

Individuals that have just been laid off (as long as it's not for performance reasons) are pseudo-passive: they've been demonstrating transferable skills and are likely highly motivated to find similar work elsewhere.

Case in point: recently a coal mine shut down near here and 600 miners lost their jobs. Within 24 hours other mines across the country started calling in, expressing interest in hiring those that had been laid off.

Will you be ready to do the same when these situations present themselves?

Method 2: Recruiting customers

This method of recruiting has gotten increasing emphasis during this holiday season, but like surfing layoffs it's a strategy that should be used year-round.

The idea here is, again, to identify individuals who have transferable skills. The best customer recruiting is done on the spot. Although these folks aren't always passive, you are getting a chance to see them in action, demonstrating job-related competencies (e.g., patience, curiosity, product knowledge) and not in the "this is my maximum performance" interview setting.

This isn't just for retailers. It's for any organization that has "customers"--people calling for information, people signing up for services, etc.

These techniques should supplement your primary recruiting technique--establishing a reputation as an employer of choice--but they can be valuable tools in your belt, particularly in crunch times.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Helping applicants help themselves

helping each other up a mountain

Most organizations do a passable job at conducting interviews and administering other types of tests (let's be optimistic).

They also do an acceptable job of recruiting, although there is great room for improvement, particularly in the public sector.

But one area that nearly all organizations could improve in is job-person matching--specifically, helping applicants figure out which jobs to apply for.

In a recent article on ERE Charles Handler writes about using quality assessment methods to help applicants figure out what job would be a good fit.

Imagine going to an organization's career site and being offered two options:

1 - Know what job you want? Click HERE to apply for a specific position.

2 - Not sure what job you want? Click HERE to find out what jobs might match your interests and abilities.

After selecting option 2 (and being amazed that a career website is so easy to use) the applicant is taken to another page where they're given two more options:

1 - Know your abilities and interest? Use THIS simple checklist to describe yourself.

2 - Want more information about your skill levels? Click HERE to take a variety of assessments to help you describe yourself.

And so on. The information that comes out of the self-assessment is used by the applicant to complete an easy-to-use inventory of their skills. This information is then used by the system in several ways. The first is by recruiters, who can pull up lists of individuals who meet position requirements.

But the more empowering use of the data comes when the system spits back a list of jobs that the candidate most likely would qualify for (organized into logical categories). It also tells the applicant how to proceed--how to find out which jobs are currently open and how to apply for jobs that aren't.

The beauty of the system is that it's entirely automated, the site is very sticky, and people aren't just slogging their way through an enormous job application.

Let's compare that to the candidate experience at most websites today:

1) You have to find the career link. Most of the time this is easy, but often the link is tucked away at the bottom--almost like the organization doesn't want you applying in the first place.

2) You have to navigate a dizzying array of options while your eyes try to process a multitude of links (the fact that Google's lesson in simplicity hasn't been adopted by more organizations is truly mind boggling).

3) You have to figure out which category of job you're looking for--from a large list of sometimes duplicative titles.

4) You have to figure out what specific job title you want--if you can even find the listing of job titles to begin with (hint: put the classification link at the top of the page!).

And you're not even to the application phase yet, which these days usually means about an hour spent navigating an ATS product that was designed by folks with zero training in human factors.

For many organizations, it's time to go back to square one: what should our application experience feel like, and how can we help applicants help themselves?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Are you LinkedIn?

If you haven't heard of LinkedIn, now's the time to check it out.

What is it? It's a networking site--similar but not identical to many others you've probably seen, such as MySpace.

Why should you care? A number of reasons.

First, unlike sites like MySpace or Facebook, it's devoted to business connections. This isn't about posting pictures of your dog, it's about finding talented people to develop business relationships with.

Second, it's the most popular of these types of websites, which includes sites like Spoke and Ryze. Take a look at its traffic trend.

Third, it has more than 8 million members, 4 million of whom are outside the U.S. That's a large pool to draw from--for job applicants, for connecting with colleagues, for whatever.

Fourth, because a lot of recruiters already have found it. The company estimates it has 60,000 recruiters combing its database. A recent article in Business 2.0 profiled Glenn Gutmacher, a recruiter who spends up to an hour a day on LinkedIn combing through his 3,500 contacts to reach approximately 3.5 million potential hires for Microsoft.

Anyone can join for free, but you have to invite someone to be part of their network. There are a number of tutorial-type videos on YouTube, like this one.

This is another place to source (at a cost), but beyond that I think this is a great opportunity for recruitment and assessment professionals to find each other. If you sign in, look me up. I promise I'll accept the invite.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Background checks lead to...hiring more African Americans?

person questioning
From the "that's counter-intuitive" file comes a study in the October issue of the Journal of Law and Economics.

The researchers crunched survey data from over 3,000 establishments in four U.S. metropolitan areas -- Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. There are quite a few interesting results in this paper, but perhaps the most eye-popping one is that employers that did a criminal background check for the most recently filled position were MORE likely to hire an African American applicant. Specifically, 8.5% more likely (statistically significant at the .01 level for you stat geeks).

"Well, okay, sure, but that's because of the position being filled. The jobs that require criminal background checks are more likely to have African American applicants," you say. (Or at least, that's what I said) And that's true. But here's the thing: the result sticks even after controlling for proportion of black applicants.

So what's going on? The researchers conclude that this is evidence that in the absence of cold, hard, data folks fall back on discriminatory decision making styles.

What do I think? I think I'm going to spend the $6 to buy the article. And I think this could provide additional support for doing background checks. Just make sure you know what you're doing.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

New issue of JOOP

The December issue of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology is out so let's take a look.

First up, an article about reactions to performance feedback. Unfortunately the sample is not described (nor the measures) but the results were that leaders who received numerical/normative feedback responded better than did leaders who received text feedback--regardless of the source. Support, perhaps, for the typical practice in assessment of providing numerical scores; I'm guessing more important than type is whether feedback is provided at all, which we know is so important for feelings of procedural justice.

The next article that looks interesting is a study of teams and whether a multidisciplinary group is necessarily the best bet in all cases. The study of health care workers found that having a multidisciplinary team was related to success if defined as quality of innovations generated but not number of innovations generated.

Next up is a study of almost 52,000 school teachers in Israel. The research question? The impact of promotions on absences. The findings? The higher the person was promoted (in terms of level), the greater the decrease in absences. This impact was stronger for individuals with less tenure. Conclusion? If someone's having an abscene problem, promote them as high in the organization as you can (a little Thanksgiving Day humor for you, there).

Last but not least is a longitudinal study of 54 British symphony orchestra members (apparently a notoriously difficult group to study). Looks to me like the qualitative interview data yielded some rich information regarding the musicians' motivations and commitments. I'm always looking for good job analysis information; if you're sourcing or hiring for musicians this could give you some fresh perspectives.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Unproctored online testing

There's a very interesting thread going on over at IPMAAC's listserv about the appropriate and potential use of unproctored internet testing that started with this post from Eric Palmer from the City of Forth Worth.

Some of the back-and-forth has been about how common unproctored internet testing is (which says something about the profession's knowledge of its own practices), but the more interesting aspects have to do with candidate perception, logistics, reliability, and validity.

IMHO internet testing, along with modular testing, is the future of professional assessment for many hiring scenarios, particularly as we move more and more towards an employment society based on knowledge work and providing services. You simply cannot beat the utility of administering quality on-line exams--regardless of how you verify the scores (seems to me the best way is to re-administer similar items to the final candidate pool).

That said, decisions regarding how to assess should always be based on the KSAs/competencies required by the job and operational needs. But the ability to gather and track data, the ability to quickly link test results with job performance and other candidate information, and the flexibility of a "one stop shop" for testing simply cannot be ignored.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Job tenure part deux


Remember a few posts ago I wrote about thinking carefully about job tenure when evaluating candidates?

Well, a new survey out from Robert Half International shows many managers are stuck in the old days.

87% of 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies said length of time a candidate spent with previous employers was very or somewhat important important when evaluating that candidate.

Now those you that like to poke holes in numbers will sagely point out that this 87% figure is actually made up of 42% who said "Very important" and 45% "Somewhat important" and because no one knows what "somewhat" means, the 87% figure is probably inflated in importance.

But even still. Almost half of respondents are obviously paying attention to previous job tenure. And in so doing, making many incorrect judgments.

Predicting job performance is hard enough, even with a rigorously conducted job analysis and a sophisticated assessment center. Whenever you get human judgment involved sans data to back it up, trouble ensues.

Paying attention to job tenure rather than possession of critical competencies is like choosing a house based on the exterior paint color. Remember, we know that amount of job experience correlates weakly with job performance. In fact where it does the best job is in the first five years--meaning anything after five years likely gets you zip. And that's for medium complexity jobs--for low-complexity jobs five years is overestimating.

To make matters worse, more job experience, at the same employer, may indicate a lack of will or ability to promote. And that's what you're rewarding?

This is the problem with resumes. And snap judgments. Take interviews, for example. Research shows interviewers make judgments within seconds about the quality of candidates. But that doesn't necessary mean they're right. Allow me to quote from Malcolm Gladwell's recent book, Blink: "The first impression becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: we hear what we expect to hear. The interview is hopelessly biased in favor of the nice."

When it comes to sound assessment, there are no short cuts. Time must be spent--at the front end (determining job competencies) and during the hiring process. Good results take time and effort--it's that simple, and that challenging.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Updated: Las Vegas Metro PD taps applicant family members

The most recent IPMA-HR News reports that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) was awarded the "HR Innovations in the Public Sector" grant from IPMA-HR and CPS.

The $25,000 grant is for a LVMPD program called Household Inclusion Recruitment and Employment, or HIRE, and it's quite interesting and potentially controversial.

The idea is LVMPD will ask job applicants to complete a short supplemental questionnaire to describe the "composition, names, ages, interests and employment needs" of immediate family members. An HR staff member will then contact and speak directly with family members looking for a job to see if there's an opportunity within LVMPD.

The recruitment assistant would also "determine the family's hobbies, interests, religious or civic affiliations, long term goals, and other factors that could become an obstacle or an aid to employment within the department."

The idea seems to be to remove barriers that might prevent a qualified applicant from joining the agency, and to increase the pool of talent.

Here are my thoughts:

1) It is indeed innovative. Although attempts have been made to take advantage of professional networks to identify talent, I know of little effort being made to take advantage of family or personal relationships. It occurs to me that creating and sourcing networks in this way has huge potential. In fact I'm surprised no one has tried to create a more formalized network among employed individuals (e.g., you're not interested in the job but your buddy who works down the hall might be).

2) I see some potential privacy and discrimination complaints emerging from this. I'm sure the questionnaire is voluntary, but any time you ask people to identify things like religion or civic affiliations yer just askin' for trouble, IMHO.

3) This could be the best thing for nepotism since changing one's last name. Nepotism's already a huge problem in many public sector organizations--from both merit and morale standpoints. I don't see this program helping.

It will be very interesting to see where this goes, and I truly wish them luck with it as I happen to know some of the LVMPD HR folks and I'm sure their hearts are in the right place. Just be careful what you ask for.

Update: Check out LVMPD's advertising campaign.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The moderator problem

Months, maybe years, are spent analyzing a job (or jobs), talking with subject matter experts, documenting, carefully creating assessment instruments, and administering exams in a standardized manner. You gather performance data post-hire, run your correlations, and...wham! Your numbers look terrible. You're not predicting anything.

The test(s) didn't work...right? Maybe, maybe not.

The "holy grail" of test validity is showing a strong correlation between how someone did on the test(s) and how they perform on the job. This type of evidence is often referred to as "criterion-related validity."

Sounds great, but there are some big hurdles to jump when collecting this type of data. I'll mention three.

First we have to grapple with what is considered "strong." In some circles the correlations lauded in professional selection would be scoffed at. For example, .3 is often considered to be a respectable value (e.g., DOL's guide).

Second is what has been called "the criterion problem". This phrase covers quite a bit of ground, but the essential idea is when we measure job performance, there are a few questions to be asked and answered. What is "performance"--number of customers helped? Opinions of supervisors? Extra-role behaviors? More than one of these? All of these? How do we measure performance? Number of customers helped per hour? Supervisory performance ratings? If you use ratings, what factors are rated, using what rating scales?

Third, what, and how, will you correlate with test score? A single rating? Multiple ratings, combined somehow? Will you be correcting any of the statistics for (un)reliability, range restriction, etc.?

Related to these issues is what I'll call the moderator problem. We know that many factors go into job performance, not just someone's competencies they bring to the job. These include things like motivation, mood, and home life on the employee's side and supervisor, co-workers, physical work environment, and resources on the part of the organization--just to name a few.

So here's the deal: Your job analysis may be sound. Your tests may be great. Your pass point(s) perfect. The problem could be something entirely different--it could be something happened with the individual(s) being measured that had nothing to do with work. It could be that it had everything to do with work--say, a horrible supervisor, or unsupportive co-workers.

The point is that the information is not being captured, assumptions are being made, and a lot of hard work may be thrown out. Simply because we're not taking a broad picture of job performance.

How do we solve this problem? Think very carefully before using criteria correlation as a source of support for tests. Don't simply plug numbers into Excel and run the correlation. We need to think about what aspects of performance really are important for the job--just like we thought about competencies. We need to measure in a way that captures these important aspects. Above all, we need to treat this exercise as a complex procedure--because it is.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The great recruiting discrimination debate

computer making sound

Just had a chance to listen to a webinar from back in May called "The Great Recruiting Discrimination Debate."

If you haven't watched/listened to it, I highly recommend it. It's one of the best I've heard. It gives very specific examples of discrimination both large and small and has a wonderful panel of folks including both recruiters and EEOC staff. It focuses quite a bit on the obligation of recruiters to refrain from discriminating on behalf of clients.

You can access it by clicking here and clicking on "Watch the Webinar." Note that you may need to disable your pop-up blocker (in IE you can do this simply by pressing and holding CTRL then clicking on the link).

The second round happened on November 14th and I'm hoping they'll post that soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New issue of I.J.S.A.

Must be new journal time! First J.A.P., now the International Journal of Selection and Assessment's December issue is hot off the presses.

So what are the highlights? Let's look:

First, an article by Levashina and Campion on faking behavior during employment interviews. They review the research and propose a model to guide future studies.

Next, a research study by Birkeland, et al. meta-analyzing faking of personality measures. Main findings? Applicants inflate their scores compared to non-applicants (not surprising) and these differences were larger on direct Big 5 measures. (Doesn't change the fact that these inventories have been shown to predict job performance.)

Next up, another research study, this one by Harold, et al., analyzing how verifiability of biodata items impacted results among a sample of call center incumbents and applicants. Findings? Again, no shocker here--verifiable items won out. Interestingly, the mean scores were not significantly different between the two groups.

Here's where things get (more) interesting. The next piece is an article by Van Iddekinge et al. looking at rating face-to-face (f2f) versus videotaped interviews. Using a simulated selection setting, the researchers found f2f interviews received higher scores compared to video interviews of the same people. In addition, the correlation between f2f and video interviews was pretty low (r=.31) compared to correlations among raters of the same f2f interviewee (r=.73).

Next up, a study by Krause et al. of promotions into a training academy for high-level executive positions in German police departments. The authors found that scores on a 2-day assessment center added significant prediction power (of academy scores) above and beyond cognitive ability tests.

Second to last, an article by Dancer & Woods (sounds like a singing group) analyzing the 16PF (Fifth Edition) and FIRO-B factor structures. Using a sample of over 4,000 executive assessments over a 9 year period, the authors found support for a five-factor structure for the 16PF but did not find support for a three-factor structure on the FIRO-B. A sixth factor, Social Independence, emerged when analyzing the two measures in combination.

Finally, the last study is by Thomas Timmerman and investigates (not for the first time) the issue of criterion validity of narrow v. broad personality trait measurement. The sample included 203 call center employees (these poor call center employees, always being guinea pigs) and results provided support for Extraversion and Openness to Experience predicting turnover, but also support for several narrower facets.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New issue of J.A.P.

open book

The November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology is out.

There's not as much in this issue about recruitment and assessment as usual, but let's see what we've got:

1) An article by Dr. Alexander Stajkovic further developing his idea of "core confidence." Dr. Stajkovic suggests that core confidence predicts performance, attitudes, and subjective well being in a way not addressed by current work motivation theories. This article (like nearly all JAP articles) is not on-line, but some of his other pieces are available here.

2)A piece by Stephen Stark, et al. that looks at identifying items that exhibit differential item functioning (DIF). The method they review can be used with both traditional items as well as IRT.

3) An article by Morgeson and Humphrey describing what they call the Work Design Questionnaire. Basically another instrument for potential use in analyzing and describing jobs. Looks like a draft of this document is available here and some of Dr. Morgeson's presentations are available over here.

4) Finally, a study of the effects of skew on coefficient alpha.


They've had HOW many jobs?

train tracks switching

One of the most common holdovers from the work world of yesteryear is that staying in the same job for a long time shows loyalty, and moving from job to job frequently indicates disloyalty, or worse--flakiness.

Well, it's just ain't so anymore. In the mid-70s people spent about eight years at one job. Now it's about four years.

And how many jobs do you think the average American has before retirement? Try seven.

I've heard hiring supervisors bemoan the fact that kids these days just don't stick with a job. And they're right--among 20-34 year olds, the average job tenure is only 2 years. But this isn't necessarily a negative.

I usually ask this question: Would you rather have a stellar employee for 2 years or a nightmare for 10? People these days, particularly the younger demographic, switch jobs a lot for many reasons:

1) Because they can--the unemployment rate is low, and barring some economic disaster this will continue to be the case in many sectors.

2) Because they're looking for a variety of experiences. In some fields (e.g., IT) things change so often that you literally can't get a well rounded resume WITHOUT changes jobs frequently.

3) Because they get bored. Yes, this is a luxury of the current job market, but the reality is it's up to supervisors to keep their staff challenged--and not just younger workers, but everyone. We live in a fast-paced society with tons of information streaming at us constantly. If you don't let people get creative and use their strengths to guide them in new directions, they'll go with someone who will.

Be warned, however: Job switching CAN indicate performance problems, which is why we always do thorough reference checks.

For more related stats, check out the BLS.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Smorgasbord


Lots of good stuff today...

Rate thyself
Not that we needed another reason to question self-ratings, but according to a recent Hudson survey of 1,854 U.S. workers, 92% of managers consider themselves to be an excellent or good boss. These must be the folks that are having the Lake Wobegon children.

The same survey showed that 26% of managers felt they did not receive sufficient training for their positions, only 54% of workers who felt they would be offered a supervisory job actually wanted it (more likely among men and those with children at home), and only half of workers felt they regularly were told about strategic and organizational changes.

Hidden talent pool
Most HR folks know this (or should), but people with disabilities are dramatically unemployed in the U.S. (about 30-40% of those that want to work aren't). In my experience affirmative steps to hire those with disabilities primarily comes in the form of "bonus points" or special programs to highlight those with disabilities. It would not surprise me if this had a stigmatizing effect, as programs like this often lead to question like, "Do I HAVE to hire the person with a disability/veteran/other under-represented group?" The focus should be on merit, and some statistics cited in the above article can be used to highlight this sector of the workforce: namely, accommodation costs are usually low (under $500), turnover among individuals with disabilities is much lower, and attendance is on par or better, as is job performance.

Worker shortages
Speaking of employment...debate continues to rage about current and projected labor shortages in the U.S. This article mentions trucking, welding, and restaurant jobs as some of the most in need of workers, but what caught my eye was a quote from a gentleman from the Center for Immigration Studies, who points out that there are lots of unemployed folks willing to take jobs--just not at the wages employers are offering. In my experience it's a bit more complex than that.

Yes, there are situations (particularly in the public sector, and particularly for state government ; see pages 12-15) where wages aren't competitive, but consider:

1) There are many jobs where they are; and

2) In many cases it's not finding people, it's finding qualified people.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hiring presentation

Just got a copy of a presentation I did in July down in Clark County (for those not familiar with WA, Clark County is just north of Portland, OR). The presentation is about 2 hours long and covers a variety of topics, including legal aspects of hiring, best practices, applicant perceptions, utility, etc. PLUS, a game of jeopardy at the end. (How many presentations can say THAT).

A few notes before you watch it (because I know you're dying to!):

1. Only people with a microphone are clearly audible. In the vast majority of the video, this is me, although I try to repeat peoples' questions and comments.

2. This is actually four separate video (VOB) files that I spliced into one. So there may be some rough transition spots.

3. The quality is passable but not outstanding--I tried to keep the file size manageable but still visible/audible. Some of the footnotes aren't visible but I'm more than happy to post those.

4. On a related point, the audio is slightly detached from the video. Instead of being frustrated by this, try to see it as a fascinating experiment in perception.

Let me know if you have any comments or long as it's not about my fashion sense.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

New blog format & apologies

You may notice some changes to the blog format. This is because I just switched to Blogger Beta .

Why? Several reasons:

1) Blogger now allows you to label your posts--if you look at the sidebar on the right you'll see a new "Labels" section. This allows me to tag posts with subjects and allows you to filter posts by only that label.

2) It allows easier changes to the template. Blogger Beta allows you to drag and drop
widgets .

3) Posting and updating is now faster.

4) There are more feed options.

5) It's linked to my Google account, not to a separate Blogger account, making account access easier.

BUT all these changes come with a price: these posts may get republished and you may get posts that you've already received, now with labels. So I apologize about that.

That's pretty much it. Hope you like the changes. Oh, and one last thing: I changed the comment protections so now you don't have to be a member of Blogger to post a comment.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New rules for electronic document discovery

As of December 1, 2006, several amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will become effective.

Why do we care? Because they have to do with discovery of electronic documents.

And why do we care about that? Because
increasingly electronic evidence is becoming a key issue in lawsuits, on both plaintiff and defense sides.

You can read
more about these changes but I'll cover the high points:

1) These changes won't alter existing practice--they simply formalize and standardize existing practices in federal court. But the fact that these changes are coming is likely to put this issue even higher on the radar of anyone involved in, or interested in, filing an employment lawsuit.

2) These changes explicitly reinforce the fact that electronically stored documents are subject to discovery. Lesson: don't assume that because it's not a printed document no one will ever know.

3) Parties have a substantial burden to protect these documents once litigation is "reasonably anticipated." Lesson: don't start deleting files and e-mail once an employee complains. In fact, the duty to preserve is more stringent than the duty to produce.

4) These changes establish a process by which the parties should resolve disputes over the production of these documents.

5) Parties do not need to provide documents that are not "reasonably accessible" unless ordered to do so by the court. Lesson: although some evidence may be overly burdensome to produce, be ready to argue why.

6) We're not just talking about Word documents and e-mails. This category of evidence includes photos, instant messages, and voicemail (among others).

7) We're not just talking about files on your PC/laptop and the server. We're talking flash drives, PDAs, cell phones, etc.

This is not an area to tred lightly in, so if you have any questions on this topic, who ya gonna call? An attorney.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

SIOP Awards Nominations

It's award nomination time.

SIOP has announced that its 2007 awards are now available for nominations. You can nominate someone online and details of the awards can be found here .

Restrictions: you must be a SIOP member, an
APA member, an APS member, or sponsored by one of these professional organizations to nominate someone. All nominees must be SIOP members except for the Katzell Media Award .

'nother example of our profession giving some props to individuals but I'd sure like to see some
employer awards .

Monday, November 06, 2006

OFCCP posts new Internet Applicant Rule FAQs

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Compliance Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has posted 12 additional FAQs on the Internet Applicant Rule that was released last year.

So what do they have to say? Here are some tidbits:

- "Basic qualifications" do not HAVE to be documented in a job description as long as they are documented somewhere (e.g., in the job announcement) if they are used to screen applicants.

- Searching a database to find candidates who are the best "fit" using a "hit" feature is not considered a "data management feature" per the Rule, thus using this technique DOES result in candidates being "considered" per the Rule.

- ** One way to avoid having to maintain mountains of resumes when conducting searches is first to narrow things down using whether or not the person is even interested (e.g., by using salary or geographic preference). **

- ** An employer may consider someone to be disinterested in a job after 2 OR MORE inquiries have gone un-responded to. **

There's lots of other good stuff in here, especially dealing with situations where you contract out for your screening services. Check it out!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Keep an eye on Spock

Yes, I said Spock.

It's a new
website coming on board soon that has been featured in VentureBeat , CNET , and in the November issue of Business 2.0 .

So what is it? It's a people search engine. No, don't yawn. This has been tried before but not like this. Plug in "engineers" in Google and you'll get back links to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (they're like a good penny), professional organizations, etc. What you won't get are specific people.

That's what is all about--you will be able to plug in subjects and get actual people. And when it launches (no date yet), it will have profiles for 100 million people. Results will be based on tags submitted by registered users.

Can't wait to see how this turns out, and I'll keep you posted.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Who exactly are you screening in?

roulette wheel
Job applicants aren't stupid. They know you're looking for certain keywords when you review their resume or application. And simply switching to ATS hasn't changed the game, just the way it's played .

You may think that you're screening in the candidates with the most targeted qualifications. But are you really? Or are you just letting in those that are the best at playing the game?

Video, video, video!!

Video, whether for resumes or jobs, is getting more and more and more play these days.

As more and more video sites popped up, it was only a matter of time until a more vertically integrated service model came along, and it has in the guise of .

Brightcove has two major
functions : helping publishers of video, and helping with video search. That's pretty nifty in its own right.

But they have
larger aspirations about being a key partner in the distribution of video across the spectrum. Video-on-demand has been a buzzword for a long time, but we may actually be getting there, we just need the hardware .

What has this got to do with recruitment and assessment? Plenty. Imagine:

- The ability for candidates to download recruitment material, including realistic job previews, to their TV.

- The ability for candidates to easily upload video resumes to organizations.

- The ability to stream material, like practice tests, to individuals that have applied for specific jobs.

And this is just the beginning, and just from my not-so-creative brain. Video is not going away and it's up to organizations to figure out how to take advantage of these technologies to connect with and attract talented individuals.