Friday, February 29, 2008

OFCCP Webinar on March 6

On Thursday, March 6, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will be having a webinar. The webinar will start with an overview of the agency's policymaking agenda but the main event will be an extended Q&A session.

The presenters will be OFCCP Deputy Director David Frank and Lynn Clements, Acting Director of OFCCP's Division of Policy, Planning, and Program Development.

Reasons to care:

- They oversee several laws relating to recruiting and hiring

- They go after employers (PDF file)

- A little something called the Internet Applicant Rule

You can sign up here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

HEXACO personality model receives more support

Although the Big 5 model of personality (generally broken into Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) has received wide empirical support, not everyone agrees it's the final word on a taxonomy for normal adult personality.

One camp believes (with reason) that honesty and humility play a consistent role in differentiating people and predicting behavior, and should be added to the Big 5 and the most recent issue of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology contains a research report that lends credence to this view.

In the article, the authors describe three results of their research:

1. Honesty-Humility was found to be distinct from the Big 5 using data from an actual selection situation.

2. Honesty-Humility scores were found to predict scores on an integrity test and a business ethical decision-making task--adding predictive value beyond the Big 5.

3. Perhaps most interestingly, this result was replicated when honesty-humility was judged by those acquainted with the target person.

Implications? This adds weight to the argument that the Big 5 may need to be expanded to include additional personality dimensions--particularly if we're using it to predict behavior such as job performance.

There are other good articles in this issue, including ones on job performance ratings, counterproductive behavior in a service environment, post-retirement work, and others.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feds to increase fines for hiring undocumented workers

Just in case you needed another reason to fill out the I-9 when you hire someone, the federal government announced on Friday it will soon increase fines 25% against employers that hire undocumented workers.

Need another reason? Okay, Homeland Security and DOJ are working to increase criminal penalties for "the most egregious" offenders. By the way, this is one of the very few instances where there are CRIMINAL penalties associated with failing to cover all your bases when hiring someone. Yup, this means jail time.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

New HR Tests feature: Shared items

I read a lot of blogs and other websites. I try to include links to the most interesting things here, but I don't always get around to it.

So I've created a Shared Items site using Google Reader that's available here. If you're interested in receiving links to articles I found interesting, it is now available to you either through the webpage, by signing up to receive e-mails, or by using the feed.

If you use Google Reader, it's a simple click to add the feed to your list. If you don't, copy this shortcut and add it to your feed reader. I've also added the ability to sign up via e-mail and feed on my main page.

I'll still be referencing content here but I'm going to try to stick as much as possible to original content and analysis. This is just a way for those of you out there, like me, who have an unhealthy addiction to information.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Acting Quotient

Think about your favorite actor or actress. Think about their performances and the different characters they've played.

Now think about what you know about that person given their performances:

- How quickly would they learn?
- How good of a team player would they make?
- What are their customer service skills like?
- Would they show up to work punctually?

Do you have any idea what the answers to these questions are? Probably not. That's because they're good at what they do--modifying their behavior to fit different roles.

Why do I bring this up? Because lately I've been thinking about how much stock people place in the most common screening mechanisms--applications, resumes, and interviews. These selection mechanisms all allow enormous opportunities for candidates to alter their behavior to fit what they think you want to hear, or to downright fib. Another up-and-coming selection method, on-line training and experience (T&E) measures, offer similar opportunities.

This is one reason why testing doesn't perfectly predict performance--because what you see isn't always close to what you get. What's worse, we tend to think we can spot the fibbers--which just plain isn't true. We're not nearly as good at most things as we think we are.

A person's real performance can be seen as true score or typical performance, and researchers have looked into the extent to which people self-inflate. The academic term for this is impression management. But for our purposes let's just think about an individual's ability to pull the wool over the employer's eyes--their Acting Quotient (AQ).

What causes someone's AQ to be higher?

- The person is a good actor or actress. It's just a natural skill. They know what their strengths are, and the play to them. They're good at reading you, and they modify their behavior to fit the subtle cues you're giving them. In fact people can vary their acting method depending on what kind of question you ask!

- They're very motivated to get your job. This could be good (my skills match your needs), this could be bad (I'm about to get fired).

- They understand what you're looking for. Again, this could be good (they did their homework) or less impressive (they know someone who works for you already).

Okay, now the important part. What can we do to mitigate the impact of someone's AQ?

- Ask difficult technical questions whenever possible. Not all jobs lend themselves to this, but whenever you can ask questions that require job knowledge and aren't easily predictable.

- Conduct extensive reference checks. Rely heavily on off-list checks. Talk to co-workers and customers, not just supervisors.

- Triangulate and be patient. Make application/resume review and interviews a small portion of your selection process. Make no decisions until all the information is in.

- Have a bias for work sample/performance tests. Make someone show you they can do things--not just tell you they can.

Now on the bright side, many if not most people (including myself) aren't very good at acting. Sure, I can put a positive spin on my accomplishments, but I'm not very good at making things up out of whole cloth. Which is good, because it means when I interview, like most people, what you see is generally what you get. But that doesn't mean there aren't Academy Award nominees out there, and it doesn't mean we can't do better at hiring the right person.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New MSPB study has gems

A new study out by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), "Attracting the next generation: A look at federal entry-level new hires," while focused on the federal government, has good information for all of us. The study of recent federal hires uses data from over 1,000 survey participants as well as personnel records. Some of the insights include:

- Both those under 30 and those 30+ were most likely to find out about the job through a friend or relative. On the other hand, those 30+ were more likely to use USAJOBs and agency web sites, whereas those under 30 (not surprisingly) were more likely to discover jobs through school job fairs or placement offices. In addition, those under 30 were more likely to use "non-government job sites."

- The most common forms of assessment used were (mostly unstructured) interviews and reviews of transcripts. Narrative statements, written exams, and job simulations were (unfortunately) used much less often--despite evidence of their superior ability to predict job performance.

- Agencies also relied heavily on the "point method" for reviewing training and experience--i.e., the more training/experience you have, the higher your score. This despite evidence that the correlation between experience and performance is complex and peaks fairly quickly, while education does not generally predict performance very well. Not to mention that they make little sense when hiring for entry-level jobs.

- There were very few differences between age groups when it came to what applicants wanted in a job. For both the under 30 and 30+ groups, salary and benefits came out tops. The only significant differences came when looking at pensions (more popular among those 30+) and health insurance and tuition reimbursement (more popular among those under 30). Job security was also mentioned by both groups as a big draw to the federal government.

- Those under 30 were much less likely to predict staying with the feds for their entire career (although still an impressive 45%), and more likely to predict eventually moving to the private sector.

- "Length of the process" was by far the biggest obstacle faced by applicants in their pursuit of a federal job.

MSPB recommends federal agencies make several improvements to their recruiting and assessment efforts, including:

- Use more predictive assessment tools instead of relying on training and experience measures.

- Use a balanced set of recruitment practices to reach all the various segments of the job market. MSPB points out that conducting a proper job analysis and identifying true minimum qualifications can help cut down the number of unqualified applicants.

- Market what is important to applicants. For federal agencies this means job security, benefits, and the ability to make a difference.

- Evaluate the hiring process and remove any obstacles that are unnecessarily lengthening the process.

- Avoid stereotyping based on generational assumptions, since the data indicate substantial similarities between age groups in what they want out of a job.

Again, good information for all of us. There's a lot more information in the report.

Friday, February 15, 2008

2008 PTC-NC Conference

The Personnel Testing Council of Northern California (PTC-NC) is hosting its annual conference on March 20-21 in Concord.

They've lined up quite an agenda with some great presentations. Here's a sample:

- Disparate Impact and Employment Testing by Michael Harris

- Situational Judgment Testing by Jim Outtz

- Personality Assessments by Bob Hogan

Oh yeah, and I'll be doing a session on demographic application patterns and adverse impact of an on-line T&E system.

For more information contact Jerimiah Honer at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Providing test information helps reactions

Providing applicants with pre-test information and preparation material may not help them pass, but it helps those that don't pass feel better about the process. These were the results of a study by Burns, Siers, and Christiansen reported in the March 2008 issue of the International Journal of Selection and Assessment.

Other articles include:

- An analysis of reactions to selection methods in the Netherlands. Interviews, work samples, and resumes came out on top.

- The development of a new measure of test anxiety, the Self- versus Other-referenced Anxiety Questionnaire.

- A study of validity transport statistics.

- A detailed comparison study of the FIRO-B, an assessment of interpersonal relations.

- A similar study of the PAPI-N, a personality measure.

- A study of how attitudes toward rating systems impact peer rating behavior.

- A look at how well multisource feedback on leadership competencies predicted subsequent interview performance (hint: pay attention to your supervisors and peers).

- Last but not least, a verification that "psychological hardiness" is an important facet related to success in high-stress occupations (in this case, U.S. Army Special Forces).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Poking fun at personality tests

Scott Adams pokes fun at personality tests in today's Dilbert (link here after Sunday), but there is some truth behind the jabs.

For instance:

- It's too easy to make and distribute employment tests, and no governing or approval body to assist consumers in separating the rare wheat from the mostly chaff (e.g., "SIOP Certified").

- Tests can make it easy to label people--heck, I bet half of you reading this know what your Myers-Briggs type is. And that's not good--both because no test is perfect and because no one should be known simply by a test score.

- Often the questions on personality tests frustrate the taker--the scales aren't continuous and sometimes force what seem like bizarre comparisons (e.g., "Do you prefer pancakes or walks in the park?").

These are problems that have plagued tests, particularly personality tests, for a long time. What are we going to do about them?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

IPMAAC Sponsor/Exhibitor Opportunities

Information has been posted on how you can become a sponsor or exhibitor at the upcoming IPMAAC conference in Oakland, California.

IPMAAC is the leading professional organization focused on employee assessment and selection. The annual conference attracts a wide variety of professionals, including individuals at all levels of government, professors and students, and consultants and other professionals from the private sector.

Click here to see a sample of presentations from previous years.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Using personality tests to prevent turnover

Turnover is costly and a major headache for most employers that becomes an even bigger problem when the labor market tightens. Can different hiring practices help solve the problem?

Perhaps, says Texas A&M professor Ryan Zimmerman, whose work in the area has recently been profiled in various places, including the national press, recruiting websites, and SIOP (article no longer available except cached version).

So what has Dr. Zimmerman found? We'll know more when his meta-analysis research is published in an upcoming Personnel Psychology issue, but in a nutshell his research found that three aspects of the Big 5 have been linked to turnover:

- Agreeableness
- Conscientiousness
- Emotional stability

Zimmerman argues that selecting for people based on these qualities is just as powerful as, say, how the job is designed.

Some things to consider while we wait for the research to be published:

- Survey after survey show that quality of supervision is a powerful retention factor (check out the Gallup 12 to see an example). This suggests selecting good supervisors may be an equally powerful factor.

- Other research, including some by Zimmerman himself, suggests person-organization (P-O) fit may also be a significant contributing factor to turnover. P-O fit is a combination of both the person and the environment, so personality would be just one side of the equation.

- Many people forget there is positive and negative turnover--not all turnover is bad because there are some people who simply aren't a good fit for the job. Simply finding a correlation between one factor and turnover is the beginning of the story, not the end.

- Average job tenure, particularly among younger generations, is around 2-3 years. So is turnover really what we should be focusing on?

Stay tuned here for more details when the research gets published.