Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NPR piece on Jobs 4.0

Good, brief piece this morning on NPR about Jobs 4.0, a job site devoted to opportunities for those age 40 and over.

The segment raises some important points about the U.S.'s aging workforce, age discrimination, potential advantages of older workers, and the subjective feelings involved with not being able to find work.

Steven Greenberg, the founder of Jobs 4.0, also has a blog.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hewitt study quantifies value of high performers

In a recent press release, Hewitt Associates (a large HRO and consulting firm) reported results of a study that underlines the importance of attracting and retaining top talent.

Here's the key line from the press release:

Results showed that the flow of pivotal employees--defined as employees in the top quartile of their peers in pay progression--into and out of an organization is a strong predictor of changes in Cash Flow Return on Investment (CFROI) and shareholder value.

Here's the CliffsNotes version: After analyzing data from more than 1,000 employers and 20 million employees, Hewitt found that for the average Fortune 500 company a 10-point increase in their "Talent Quotient" (TQ) adds approximately $70-160m to its bottom line over the next "few" years.

Sounds similar to some previous research you've seen, right? Like...oh...McKinsey or Watson Wyatt, or heck you might as well go back to Brogden.

So what exactly does this study tell us? Well, first we need to understand what a "Talent Quotient" is.

According to Hewitt, there are two forms of TQ:

"TQ Attract" is the proportion of pivotal employees joining an organization to the total number of new hires in a given period. So essentially the percentage of your new hires that turn out to be stars.

"TQ Retain" is the proportion of pivotal employees leaving an organization to the total number of employees leaving in that period. So pretty much the percentage of folks leaving that you don't want leaving.

Hewitt uses both of these concepts and links them statistically (along with employee satisfaction) to firm performance. I'm thinking this is another way of slicing utility analysis, and to the extent that it links sound HR practices to the bottom line, I'm all for it. As long as folks don't forget that fighting the "War for Talent" may lead to myopia.

FYI, Samir Raza and Mark Ubelhart of Hewitt discuss TQ in Chapter 3 of Workforce Wake-up Call. Wayne Cascio's book Costing Human Resources is a great source for information on demonstrating the value of HR.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Genetic discrimination, the old fashioned way

Legislation has been introduced again this year in the U.S. Congress to prohibit (among other things) employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on genetic information.

Some people are concerned that specific conditions in someone's genetic profile (susceptibility to cancer, etc.) would be used against them. But Dogbert reminds us that discrimination can be much more basic.

This "similar-to-me" bias is just one of many biases that can crop up during candidate and employee evaluation, such as interviews. Some things to keep in mind!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wonderlic releases revised Personnel Test

Any day I get a chance to post about the testing company with my favorite name, it's a good day.

That day is today, and that company is Wonderlic.

Many of you are no doubt familiar with Wonderlic, one of the oldest testing companies around. It's also one of the most famous or infamous depending on how you look at it. The Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT), a test of cognitive ability (intelligence if you prefer) has been around since the 1930s and has been used by many organizations, including the military and (more recently) professional football teams.

In 1971, the Wonderlic received some unwelcome media (along with the Bennett Mechanical Comprehension Test) when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Griggs v. Duke Power that the company had misused the test (essentially they didn't do the leg work to tie WPT scores to successful job performance). And yes, Griggs is also the case where the Supreme Court articulated the "adverse impact" theory of employment discrimination. In fact, if you haven't read Griggs, I highly recommend it, for historical purposes if nothing else.

Anyhoo, Wonderlic recently announced the release of a revised version of the WPT, appropriately named the WPT-R. What's new? Some changes to content, and some changes to format. It's still a 12-minute test, available via bubble sheet or online, scored by Wonderlic.

Click here to see some sample questions from the WPT-R.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Mystery video

Have you ever had a great candidate on the hook but lost them?

Maybe the process took a little too long, maybe the engagement just wasn't as strong as it could be?

What could you do to prevent situations like this?

Well, I have a challenge for you.

Take a look at this video. And after you do, ask yourself these questions:

1) Did you figure out what the "punchline" was before you saw it? (this is more for my own curiosity, since I didn't!)

2) How could you use something like this?

3) If you already create job preview videos, why aren't you doing something like this?

Feel free to share your answers!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

ATP Conference in Palm Springs

Tired of cold weather?

Feel like being spontaneous?

Then maybe you should consider the 2007 Association of Test Publishers Conference in Palm Springs, CA.

The conference takes place February 5-7 and has some tantalizing presentations, such as:

Converting from Paper-Based Tests to Computer-Based Tests: The Practical Issues

Head to Head: Online Technology Vendors Sound Off

Creating Computerized Performance Assessments

Video, Audio, and Simulations Over the Web

Cross-Cultural Testing: Issues and Practice

That's just a very small sample of the all the conference goodness. Another highlight is Dr. Frank Schmidt receiving the Career Achievement award. Full conference program is available here.

Cost? A mere $695 for ATP members, $750 for non-members.

I don't know about you, but sunny and mid-70s sounds heavenly right now!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Life on the stand

The most recent issue of TIP (The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist) has an article written by the always-entertaining Frank Landy. Dr. Landy frequently provides testimony in cases of employment discrimination and in this article gives us a peak into a day into the life of an expert witness.

For example, in the very first case he was retained for as an expert witness (race discrimination in fire fighter promotions), the chief lawyer for the other side (a U.S. attorney) followed him into the bathroom and whispered that he would destroy Frank's career. Frank, being the card that he is, asked the attorney which career and told him his wife would buy him flowers or candies to destroy one, preferably two or three of his careers.

In the same case, it turned out that there were some errors made in data input/analysis, and even though they represented approximately .01% of the data, the other side claimed that Dr. Landy had done it intentionally and it was unethical, illegal, disrespectful, etc.

Sounds like fun, huh?

How about this exchange between a defense attorney (DA) and Dr. Landy (DL), who was providing testimony regarding the effect of stress on driver behavior:

DA: Dr. Landy, I have examined you (sic) resume and it's really impressive. Let me see if I have this right. You went directly from college to graduate school, right?
DL: Right.

DA: And then you were in graduate school for 5 years, right?
DL: Right.

DA: And then you obtained a position at Penn State and rose to the level of professor, right?
DL: Right.

DA: And you have written books, and taught classes, and done research and published papers, right?
DL: Right. (I'm feeling pretty good by now!)

DA: Well here's my question Dr. Landy: Have you actually had a real job since high school?
DL: Excuse me?

DA: What part of that didn't you understand Dr. Landy?
Well, I guess the word "real."

DA: You don't know what I mean by a real job?
Not exactly.

DA: Let me make it simple for you. Have you worked at any job since high school where you actually got dirt on your hands?
(Pregnant pause by me.)

DA: Dr. Landy?
(Smile by me.)

DA: Dr. Landy?
Actually, when you define it that way, No, I haven't had a job where I got my hands dirty.

Now here would be one of my cross-examination questions for their witness:

Dr. X, what relationship is there between getting one's hands dirty and knowledge of the effect of stress on driving behavior?

Still, a fascinating window into what it can be like on the stand. If this seems as unpleasant to you as it does to me, let's use it as another reason to avoid discrimination claims at all costs. If you don't find this unpleasant, well....have you considered a career as an attorney?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Goodyear discrimination complaint costs $925K+

Goodyear Tire & Rubber has entered into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) over a sex discrimination complaint.

I wrote about the complaint last year. The OFCCP claimed that Goodyear was discriminating against females applying for entry-level operative and labor positions in violation of Executive Order 11246.

So what's it gonna cost? Goodyear will pay out $925,000 in back wages and interest to 800 women.

What else will it cost them (aside from bad press)?

- Goodyear will hire 60 women from the class, as long as they make it through a re-designed selection process.

- The company will conducted annual training for managers at one of its plants on EEO and affirmative action (I'm thinking training company-wide would be a good call?).

...and last but not least:

- Goodyear will submit semi-annual compliance reports to the OFCCP for at least two years and will report on any adverse impact the new selection procedures have.


Monday, January 22, 2007

New legal feeds

The Employment Law Information Network has created several new feeds broken into two groups:

Federal feeds, with several categories, including:
- Affirmative action
- Age discrimination
- Disability discrimination
- National origin
- Race discrimination
- Religious discrimination
- Sex discrimination
- Title VII
- Employment law verdicts

And state law feeds for:
- California
- New Jersey
- New York

Hopefully new states coming soon!

You can subscribe to them individually or all at once. I've been a big fan of ELIN for a long time and find their newsletters to be very good summaries. I have high hopes for these feeds!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Hiring for attitude"

One of the most common pieces of advice given to hiring supervisors is "hire for attitude." This phrase is often used by consultants as a key "ah-ha" part of their sell because it just makes so much intuitive sense.

But what exactly does that mean? The core idea usually is that since things like knowledge and skills are trainable, you should focus your hiring efforts on looking for things about people that aren't likely to change--their persistent habits, ways of looking at things, and attitude. You may have seen something like this:

So assuming we buy this argument (more on that later) how do we hire for attitude? There are many ways to approach this question, but it becomes somewhat easier if we replace "attitude" with "personality." Personality can be thought of as the persistent way individuals think, feel, and behave, and is a topic that's been red hot in assessment circles for the last 15 years, ever since Barrick & Mount's study.

What do we know about personality testing? We know that it can work, particularly when you match the job needs to the aspect of personality you're testing. In fact, personality tests can work even better than the vaunted intelligence test depending on the type of job (the more complex the job, the better intelligence tests do at predicting performance).

We know that personality tests tend to have less adverse impact than some other forms of testing, like intelligence or physical agility tests. This tends to lower your exposure to discrimination lawsuits.

We know that not all personality tests are created equal--like any other kind of test. There are really only a handful of time-tested personality inventories that I would recommend.

We know that personality testing isn't something you should just try your hand at--for two main reasons: (1) you'll need to understand theories of personality that have been supported (e.g., Big 5), and (2) if your hiring practices are challenged in court, the level of evidence you'll need to defend a personality test is higher than, say, a simulation that mirrors actual job behavior. Bottom line: unlike interviews, personality tests are something you should let someone else put together.

Finally, we know that you shouldn't immediately go with a personality test regardless of the job. You wouldn't recommend a typing test, regardless of the position, would you? Then why recommend a personality test when maybe, just maybe, there are other aspects of the job that are more important (writing ability, oral presentation skill, learning ability)? Some people would argue that things like writing ability and oral presentation skill can be taught--I say, maybe. I think it depends a lot on the person. And what sort of training operation does your organization have? You can train on these things, but will you?

When it comes to hiring right, there are no magic pills. It takes work to figure out what selection approach is best given the needs of the job, the organization, the available labor pool, etc. It's not rocket science, but it ain't color-by-numbers either. Can "hiring for attitude" work? Yep. Just make sure to look before you leap.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Journal of Applied Psychology (v92, #1)

There's a new issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology (one of the most read research-focused journals related to recruitment/assessment) out, so let's see what it's got! Caution: this issue is a whirlwind smorgasborg, so there's a lot to look at.

First up, an study of conditional reasoning tests (CRTs) and how "fakeable" they are. Don't know what a conditional reasoning test is? Here's an example. Anyway, this study found that CRTs were fakeable when the purpose of the assessment was given. On the plus side, no differences were found between student, incumbent, and applicant samples. Will we ever figure out the faking problem? That's one of the big questions in assessment right now.

Next, a meta-analysis that looked at the unique contribution self-efficacy measures might make to the prediction of job performance after accounting for personality (Big 5), general mental ability, and job/task experience. Results? Not a big contribution after accounting for the other factors. Self-efficacy did predict performance in low-complexity jobs, but not medium- or high-complexity jobs. It also predicted task performance, but not job performance.

On a related note, the third article relevant for us reviewed the research on goal orientation (GO) and whether it predicts performance. (GO is essentially how you view performance--are you focused on learning or on completing, or not completing, the task? More details here) The authors of the current study found that having a learning orientation or avoiding performance predicted performance (in opposite ways) and state GO tended to out-predict trait GO. (State being related to the task at hand, trait being a persistent aspect of someone) Even more interesting, state GO added predictive power above and beyond cognitive ability and personality. I may have to get this one.

The next article is, I must confess, one of those that you really need to read in order to fully understand. And by "you", I mean me, because I can't get the whole gist from just the abstract. Essentially what the researchers found is that bias against Black men can be reduced through a structured free recall intervention. Donations to the "get Bryan more subscriptions to research journals" are accepted with gratitude.

Speaking of articles I need to actually read, the next study looks at how we might group college-bound individuals beyond simply looking at standardized test scores. After studying over 2,700 entering college students, the researchers found that individuals could be grouped into one of five categories based on factors such as biographical data and scores on situational judgment tests. To be honest, the press release does a better job of describing this than I can.

Next one up is a doozie. Dr. Collins, who has done other work in the area of employer knowledge and applicant behavior, found that when applicants aren't very knowledgeable about an employer's products or services, less information (e.g., a banner ad, a sponsorship) is better in terms of generating interest. On the flip side, when products and services are well known, more information is required to attract applicants (e.g., brochures, employee endorsements). I'm thinking an employee blog would be an example of the latter, as well? Good stuff, with a more readable summary here.

Next, an examination of what predicts workplace aggression. This meta-analysis of 57 research studies found that both individual and situational factors predict aggression and the pattern is specific to the target of said aggression. A must for those interested in predicting workplace violence, I'm thinking. A previous article by some of the same authors is available here.

Last but definitely not least is a study of the impact that emotions (affect) have on perceptions of organizational justice. As we know, perceptions of organizational justice (e.g., procedural justice) are strongly correlated with important behaviors like likelihood of applying for a job, referring the employer to others, and filing lawsuits. So what does this study have to tell us? That both state and trait affect influence justice perceptions, with state effects (get it? affect, effect?) generally slightly stronger.

Why is this last study so important? Because people generally don't file lawsuits because they believe Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in 1991, has been violated and the employer will fail to show that the selection process was job-related and consistent with business necessity. No, they are honked off because they were treated poorly or the process seemed squirrelly. They talk to other people who feel the same way, and BAM!, class action lawsuit. So take your time when coming up with your assessment process, and treat your applicants with respect, if not because they're human beings, then because you're likely saving yourself thousands of dollars and countless hours defending a lawsuit.

Whew! What an issue. Shelley Zedeck (the editor) must have had a busy last few months!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Survey reveals hiring ramp-up for public sector agencies

According to the IPMA-HR HR Bulletin, their 2007 Hiring Outlook Survey revealed that public sector agencies plan on doing a substantial amount of hiring this year.

The survey of 656 IPMA-HR members was conducted from 1/10-1/17/07.

  • 75% of respondents plan on hiring this year, up from 68% in 2006
  • Employers are planning on hiring in larger numbers
  • As with previous years, most new positions will be in public safety
  • Need will also be strong in public works and finance & management
  • Only 12% of respondents plan on conducting layoffs this year, down from 16% in 2006 and 18% in 2005
  • 89% of respondents indicated they currently have vacancies
  • Fewer organizations are purposely leaving positions unfilled for budgetary reasons
I'll put up a link to survey results once (if) they're posted.

The power of family-friendly policies

According to the IPMA-HR HR Bulletin,

"A bill, S. 80, has been introduced by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) to give federal employees paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child. The “Family Leave Act” would provide new birth mothers with up to eight weeks of paid leave and new fathers with five paid days of leave. Employees who adopt would be entitled to at least five days of paid leave.

“This measure will provide hardworking American families with the necessary flexibility to care for their newborn and newly adopted children,” said Senator Stevens. “It will provide time for mothers to recover after childbirth without having to worry about the financial burdens that come with unpaid leave. Thousands of Alaska women work for the federal government and could benefit under this new program.” The measure would also provide for what Stevens calls “responsible parenting leave”—eight hours of paid leave to attend a child’s educational activity and/or to take children to the doctor."

As a father-to-be, I can tell you that anytime someone mentions "paid family leave", my ears perk up. Idiosyncrasies of the bill aside (e.g., 8 weeks for the mom but only 5 days for the dad and only 5 days for adopting), what is the recruiting power of a policy like this? A lot of people assume there is paid maternity/paternity leave, but in my experience this is uncommon.

California recently enacted a paid family leave program that is paid 100% by employees (estimated average cost of $46 a year per worker). It's not perfect, but it's a start.

I'll tell you one thing--I would consider a policy like this to be a big plus in the employer attractiveness column. And I'm bettin' I'm not the only one.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Weddle's top 30 job boards

According to Weddle's, the top 30 job boards in 2007 according to readers (some 50,000 recruiters and job seekers) are:

6FigureJobs (executive careers)
Absolutely Health Care
America’s Job Bank
Best Jobs USA
Dice (IT)
HRJobs (
Indeed (vertical search)
JobsintheMoney (financial jobs)
TheLadders (jobs that pay $100k+)
LatPro (Latino and Hispanic jobs)
USAJOBS (jobs with U.S. government)
Yahoo! HotJobs

Assessment conference in Delhi, India

The Defence (sic) Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) in Delhi, India is organizing a conference on assessment in personnel selection that will take place in Delhi on November 23-25, 2007.

According to the conference website, the conference will cover "psychological aspects of job analysis, criterion oriented personnel selection, psychometric properties, issues in transition of selection systems, systems approach to psychological assessment, and ethical issues related to personnel selection."

Important dates:

5/30/07 - last day for submission of full paper
8/15/07 - last day to register for the conference

Contact is Dr. S. Subramony of DIPR; email is or

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reference checking

Good, if a little laundry-list-like, post over at ERE on reference checking by John Sullivan.

Given how spotty reference checks are (in my experience), this is an area where we can generate a lot of improvement. It's sad that what should be the most rich, relevant source of information about a candidate--their previous experience--is marred in most cases by fear of lawsuits (which are highly exaggerated), unstructured questions, and an overall lack of rigor.

I still think MSPB's reference checking report is one of the best I've seen. Don't let the word "federal" in their reports turn you off.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Q&A #2: David Hamill

My Q&A with thought leaders in recruitment and assessment continues with David Hamill. David is currently the Director of Workforce Development for Marriott International. David is also Past President of IPMAAC and a former senior research psychologist for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

I think if you read David's responses and compare them to Dennis Doverspike's, you'll see some recurring themes...

(Note: As last time, links are provided by yours truly)

BB: What do you think are the primary recruitment/assessment issues that employers are struggling with today?

DH: Finding and holding onto top talent! There is a war for top talent across all businesses including state and federal government agencies. Organizations must develop and maintain relationships that they can draw talent when needed and put valid selection procedures in place that do not discourage high-potential candidates from pursuing a position. Once a selection is made, organizations need to have a solid engagement strategy that helps to retain, develop, and promote their associates. Employing valid and fair selection practices does not go far enough if employees only leave the organization soon after being hired.

BB: What is an example of an innovative or creative recruitment/assessment practice that you've seen recently?

DH: I’m familiar with a program that was designed to attract hourly associates that offers a complimentary gift cards and free daycare while the candidates apply, take an assessment, and interview with an organization. This often eliminates a barrier to simply applying for a position. I also think the use of online, multi-media or interactive assessments will help to streamline the application process and enable organizations to expedite the on-boarding process.

BB: What is a research topic in this area that you think deserves increased attention?

DH: Unproctored assessments and the use of IRT/CAT assessments is an area that needs much research and thought leadership. We (I/O psychologists/assessment professionals) have successfully converted paper based assessments to the computer. However, this is hardly adequate in leveraging technology to improve prediction. Technology can greatly improve the richness of the test content, minimize the cognitive demand, assess previously un-tapped job domains, improve test security, expedite the hiring process, and provide tailored feedback to applicants. Before organizations can truly embrace online assessments, we need to develop some standard best practices with proven results.

BB: What subjects are you personally interested in, and what are you learning?

DH: I’ll limit this one to my professional interests, since my interests in fly fishing will never pay the bills. On a professional note, I am interested in developing online assessments that are fully integrated with other HR systems like performance management systems, compensation, training/learning platforms, and recruitment initiatives. I am also interested in getting more experience in working with international applicants and colleagues.

BB: Have you read any books or articles lately that you would recommend to the professional community?

DH: The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders by John Zenger and Joe Folkman; Love’EM or Lose’EM: Getting Good People to Stay, by Beverly Kaye & Sharon Jordan-Evans.

BB: Is there anything else you think recruiters/assessment professionals should be focused on right now?

DH: Partnering better with key business leaders/strategic business units to develop tools and procedures which help them achieve their mission and business goals. In addition, we need to prepare better for recruiting and assessing international populations who are becoming part of the landscape.

Thank you David!

Friday, January 12, 2007

SIOP Conference Registration open

Registration is now open for the 2007 SIOP Conference, to be held in New York City on April 26-29.

The conference program won't be available until mid-late February, but we do know what the half-day workshops (held on the 26th) will be. Here are some you might be interested in:

- Building Legal Defensibility Into Your HR Processes

- Are We Ready? Strategic Human Resource Management and the Maturing Workforce (including how to recruit and retain older workers)

- Leading a Thriving Consulting Practice: Building the Foundation, Operating Practicalities, Clients, and Their Needs

- The State of the Art in Personality Assessment (focusing on alternatives to multiple-choice self-report surveys)

- An Update on the Science and Practice of I/O Psychology (worth going just to see/hear Frank Landy)

- Early Identification and Development of Senior Leadership Talent: The Secret Insider's Guide

- The Role of E-HR in Human Resource Transformation: Build, Buy, or Outsource, and at Least Twenty More Questions Answered

- Fits about Fit: Can You Have Too Much of a Good Thing and Is There Anything You Can Do About it? (includes a focus on the possible downsides of having too many of the same type of person in an organization)

- Talent Management: The Promise and Paradox of Potential

Cost? Two sessions cost $400 for SIOP members and affiliates, $650 for non-members.

Register here.

I'll try to do a similar summary for the actual conference sessions, but chances are I'll get about 20 sessions in and pass out (there are an unbelievable number of session choices at every SIOP conference. Check out 2006's program).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Q&A #1: Dr. Dennis Doverspike

This is the first in a series of Q&As with experienced professionals and academics in the area of recruitment and assessment.

This Q&A is with Dr. Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP. Dr. Doverspike is a professor of psychology and Director of the Center for Organizational Research at the University of Akron, as well as a consultant in I/O psychology and human resource management. He is also the chair of the IPMAAC Scientific and Professional Affairs Committee and a regular contributor to IPMA publications.

(Note: links within answers provided by yours truly)

BB: What do you think are the primary recruitment/assessment issues that employers are struggling with today?

DD: By the time I write this and it appears in print, I will probably change my mind as I have never been good at predicting present or future trends. However, I would argue for two issues:

1. How to mix science and technology in a practical, effective, and legal manner. In particular, how to make the best use of computer and internet based screening and recruitment while still complying with legal requirements. This is especially true in the area of unproctored internet based assessment.

2. How to balance the competing demands of recruitment and assessment (selection). We tend to go through cycles in where the emphasis is placed. For awhile it was almost 100% recruitment, and then we seemed to start shifting back to the assessment process, now the emphasis seems to be about 50%-50%. But the question or challenge remains, how can we recruit large numbers of highly qualified applicants, and how do we know they are really highly qualified.

BB: What is an example of an innovative or creative recruitment/assessment practice that you've seen recently?

DD: I will answer this question in three ways. First, devil's advocate, I have not seen any innovative or creative approaches. We have a new technology, but the approaches themselves come out of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Many of our "innovative" approaches consist of the computerization of very old approaches. The one truly new advancement, Schmidt and Hunter's utility and meta-analysis theories, has still not had much of an influence on practice, especially on legal guidelines.

Second, I guess this would be angel's advocate, there has been a shift to 1) a greater concern with fairness and justice and the perceptions of the applicant 2) with seeing HRM as being an advocate for the employee. I see these trends as related in that they both reflect a great concern with human factors, especially the view of the applicant or future employee.

Third, especially in the public sector, I believe the innovation has not been so much in product as in process. That is, some of the innovations in recent years have not had so much to do with new approaches or methods of assessment, as much as they have had to do with finding new ways to do bigger, more complex projects, in less time and at lower cost.

BB: What is an area of research in this area that you think deserves increased attention?

DD: The science, or art, of recruitment is less developed than the science of assessment. I believe there is a real need for research of all types on how to target recruitment so as to more effectively deliver a large number of high quality applicants.

Going one step further, and there are obvious exceptions, as a field we have tended to look for solutions that work across jobs. In a sense, we assume that our solutions will work across all types of jobs. Meta-analysis would tend to support that finding, but I think it is an overstatement. I believe our field could advance substantially if we devoted more time to the study of specific individual jobs. In the 1980s we tried to do this with a series of studies that involved detailed protocol analyses of jobs followed up by the development of very specific computerized tests based on the identified cognitive requirements. I still believe that the in-depth analysis of specific jobs accompanied by the development of very specific tests of job-related information processing abilities would contribute to both science and practice.

BB: What subjects are you personally interested in, and what are you learning?

DD: My time is limited so it does not matter what I am interested in or want to learn. Usually what I look at is driven by the projects I am working on. But in an attempt to answer the question, I believe that one area that may contribute to advances in selection is "taxometrics." Taxometrics is fairly complicated statistically, so it does take a lot of time to start to understand its possible implications. I remain very interested in the concept of basic fairness in testing, including what that means in terms of the difference between individual and organizational utility. I have always been interested in gerontology, although as I grow older I find I cannot accept aging, so maybe that is not the best area for me. However, it is clear that with our aging workforce, we need to know a lot more about dealing with older workers.

Finally, and this is a big shift for me, recently I have started to work with our Engineering Department in the areas of MEP (Minority Engineering Programs), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education), and SLD (Significant Learning Disabilities). This has included working with children who are in the autism spectrum. This has been a very enlightening experience and returned me to my clinical roots.

BB: Have you read any books or articles lately that you would recommend to the professional community?

DD: Malcolm Gladwell's books--blink and The Tipping Point. blink in particular is an excellent book that takes a huge body of social cognitive research and presents in a style that is both interesting and engaging. He also does a good job of being faithful to the original research. In addition, especially in the case of blink, there is a great deal that is applicable to the interview and selection.

Most of my reading is research articles or textbooks, and I am not sure those are books or articles I would recommend to the professional community. That is why I recommended Gladwell's books.

If you are a golfer, save your money and take lessons instead of buying books.

BB: Is there anything else you think recruiters/assessment professionals should be focused on right now?

DD: Focused on? Sure:

1. How to appeal to the ipod generation?
2. How to appeal to baby boomers?
3. The impact of the new OFCCP rules on applicants, and when they come out, the new EEOC rules on applicants.
4. The rapidly changing field of unproctored internet-based testing.
5. Making sure that HR is seen as a profession.


Thank you, Dr. Doverspike!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Maternity store discriminates against moms

In what has to be one of the most bizarre cases I've heard lately, Motherhood Maternity (which also owns Mimi Maternity and Pea in the Pod) settled a lawsuit filed by the EEOC that claimed the company failed to hire women because they were pregnant and retaliated against a woman who complained about it.

In addition to monetary relief ($375,000 total), the company must adopt an anti-discrimination policy, provide training, post a notice regarding the lawsuit, and report to the EEOC twice annually regarding pregnancy discrimination complaints.

Discriminating against qualified job applicants because of pregnancy status is a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and complaints about violations of this law have risen in recent years, along with the monetary benefits awarded to plaintiffs.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Manpower and the changing temp landscape

cogs inside head
Good article in the latest Economist about employment-services giant Manpower.

The article covers a lot of ground, including company history, acquisitions, and changes in strategic focus.


- Only 13% of Manpower's revenue comes from America. France is the company's biggest market and source of about 1/3 of its revenues.

- Traditional temp work now accounts for 70% of its profits, down from 96% in 1999. CEO Jeff Joerres expects this to drop to 50% within five years.

- As providing temps has become a low-margin business, Manpower has expanded into placing permanent employees and training/coaching (dovetailing with its purchase of Right Management in 2004). A newer development is training employed individuals who are hoping for a promotion.

- The article references a 2006 survey of 32,000 employers in 26 countries Manpower conducted where it found 29% of respondents said they would have hired more professional staff if candidates had had the necessary skills. That figure was 45% for U.S. employers.

- Finally, this juicy and spot-on quote:

"...once people have been hired, the attrition rate can be expensively high--particularly for the most talented. This owes as much to the lack of training and career development opportunities as to salaries...the leading Indian firms, such as Infosys, have been addressing the skills gap and high turnover rates by establishing in-house universities."

p.s.: Just a thought: I wonder if they've ever considered changing their name. Manpower reminds me of the old Ace Hardware tune ("Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man") or the Culligan motto ("Hey! Culligan man!"). Mmm....discrimination...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Assessment in the mainstream press

The January 2007 issue of Prosper magazine has an article on assessment, and it provides us with a good example of what's written about our area in the popular press.

With apologies to Steven Colbert...

Tip of the hat for:

- Providing so many good examples of the utility of good tests, including: higher caliber of candidates, reduction in drug test failures, higher retention rate, and fewer probation failures.

- Reminding test users to consider language issues (e.g., do you need to have the test translated?).

- Correctly pointing out that medical tests can only be performed post-offer.

- Emphasizing that instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and DiSC Profile are not appropriate personnel selection tools.

- Highlighting the fact that knowing the job (i.e., performing a job analysis) is essential.

- Correctly advising employers not to use a single test as the sole decision maker.

- Reminding readers that understanding test results can be tricky and an I/O psychologist can help in interpretation.

- Cautioning employers about using another organization's benchmarks.

Wag of the finger for:

- Stating that in the U.S. it is a legal requirement to "have the assessment instrument deemed reliable and valid." There is no legal requirement to show evidence of validity unless you're sued (say, for discrimination). That said, it is obviously best practice is to validate your selection instruments.

- Stating that assessment instruments have historically been used "primarily for sales personnel and senior-level executives." Actually serious assessment began in the military and has been used for virtually every type of job. If there's been an interview, there's been an assessment.

- Suggesting that organizational psychologists and psychometricians "avoid using the term 'test'." If this is true word hasn't reached me yet. I can think of several recent publications that used this word.

- Incorrectly stating that drug tests can only be administered post-offer.

- Recommending that employers use tests that ask applicants to compare themselves to others. Actually we know that people do a lousy job of comparing themselves accurately to other people.

- Suggesting that you should always check to see if the test should be in the language of the reader. If the job requires proficiency in the language the test is written in (and you've documented that), then this is not an issue as long as the reading level is appropriate.

Criticism aside, I do appreciate the publicity for our field! (and, honestly, I've seen much worse)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

State of Iowa airs dirty laundry

The state of Iowa has made available demographic statistics regarding their hiring practices and it's raised some eyebrows. The data shows that while 20% of whites referred for interviews received one, only 12% of minorities did--a clear violation of the 4/5ths rule.

There's a number of reasons why this event is significant.

First, it shows that none of us are immune to investigation. This data was gathered by request of the governor, which resulted in a task force to investigate claims of discrimination.

Second, it reinforces how important applicant flow statistics are. A lot of folks think disparate treatment when they hear about employment discrimination and forget a little thing called adverse impact.

Third, it's a great source of information for other jurisdictions to use as benchmarks (e.g., 22-23% of individuals interviewed were hired).

Fourth, it reminds us how expensive employment litigation can be, even for the public sector. The state has paid out $850K for discrimination lawsuits since 2000--and I'm betting that doesn't include all the time and money spent defending themselves against the suits.

Fifth, it illustrates how statistics can be interpreted different ways. The data shows that once minorities got to the interview stage they were hired in similar proportions, which seems to indicate something going on at the previous stage. It may be systematic discrimination, it may also be that there is some systematic lack of qualification(s). We won't know until they look at it more carefully.

Last but not least, it brings to light the somewhat, how shall I say, unconventional remedies often sought by plaintiffs. In this case the NAACP wants the state to "test supervisors and managers for subconscious bias."

I almost want this to proceed just so I can see what that test looks like!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More on Google hiring

Another day, another article about Google hiring practices.

I've posted about this before--about how Google recently changed its processes to focus on fewer interviews, triangulate on candidate KSAs, and expand the scope of predictors beyond GPA and college diplomas.

I wish I was as excited about this new article, but truth be told I have some concerns about the messages they're sending.

- Laszlo Bock, their VP of "People Operations" had this to say about interviews:

"Interviews are a terrible predictor of performance."

Hmmmm....I seem to recall reading some evidence that refutes this (granted, it's looking like we need to take another look at the validity coefficients). If by "terrible" Bock is implying that biodata is far superior to structured interviews, I'd like to see what data he's looking at. Perhaps he meant the data Google collected showed poor correlations between their interview scores and subsequent job performance?

- This led to this rather unfortunate quote from the article author:

"...academic research suggests that...grades and interviews...are not an especially reliable way of hiring good people."

Again, research suggests otherwise. Yes, support for using grades to predict performance is limited at best. And yes, unstructured interviews are not only unreliable but unwise from a legal perspective. But structured interviews with well-designed questions and rating scales can be very effective.

That said, I still believe Google is setting the proper example for modern assessment in several ways:

- By focusing on what the data shows. Google collected a substantial amount of data that allowed it to look carefully at which background characteristics predicted job performance--both task-based and citizenship behaviors.

- By tailoring assessment to the needs of the position. Separate "surveys" were developed for different job groups (e.g., engineering, sales, finance, HR).

- By not rushing to embrace point-based T&Es in automated systems but instead taking the time to go with something far better (biodata).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The ROI of blogging

Charlene Li over at Forrester Research does some interesting work. And although Forrester doesn't post all of its content for free, they did post the slides from a recent teleconference that Li did regarding the ROI of blogging.

This is really good stuff for anyone interested in measuring how much bang for their buck they're getting out of blogs, or if you just have an interest in "corporate" blogs.