Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Giving thanks for research

It's almost Thanksgiving here in the U.S., a time to give thanks, and I'd like to thank a largely unsung group of people. Thank you to all the researchers out there who try to help us put some science around the art we call personnel recruitment and selection. Thank you for all your work and insights.

What better way to celebrate this wish of thanks than by talking about a new issue of the International Journal of Selection and Assessment (v16, #4)! As usual it's chalk full of good articles, so let's take a look at some of them.

First, a study of applicant perceptions of credit checks, something many of us do for sensitive positions. Using samples of undergraduates, Kuhn and Nielsen found mostly negative reactions, especially for older participants, but they varied with the explanation given as well as privacy expectations. Worth a look for any of you that conduct large numbers of background checks (and if you do, don't miss the Oppler et al. study below).

Next up, a fascinating study of police officer selection in the Netherlands. Using data from over 3,000 applicants, De Meijer et al. found evidence for differential validity between ethnic majority and minority participants. Specifically, cognitive ability tests predicted training performance for minorities but not for those in the majority. Performance prediction for the latter group was low for cognitive ability tests and somewhat better using non-cognitive ability variables. By the way, the dissertation of the primary author, a fascinating look at similar issues, can be found here.

The third article is one of those articles that almost (...almost) makes me want to pay for it, and anybody interested in electronic applicant issues take note. In this study, Dunleavy et al. used simulations to show the tremendous impact that small numbers of applicants can have on adverse impact (AI) analysis. In fact, the authors reveal situations where AI can be caused or masked by a single applicant applying multiple times! The authors present ways of identifying and handling these cases. Scary stuff. Hope the OFCCP is reading.

Fourth, Lievens and Peeters present results of a study of elaboration and its impact on faking situational judgment tests. Using master students, the researchers found that requiring elaboration on items (i.e., the reason they chose the response) had several positive results. It reduced faking on items with high familiarity. It also reduced the percentage of "fakers" in the top of the distribution. Lastly, candidates reported that the elaboration allowed them to better demonstrate their KSAs. This could be a great strategy for those of you worried about the inflation effects of administering SJTs online.

Next, Furnham et al. with a study of assessment center ratings. The authors found that expert ratings of "personal assertiveness", "toughness and determination", and "curiosity" were significantly correlated with participant personality scores, particularly Extraversion. Correlations with intelligence test scores were low.

Last but definitely not least, Oppler et al. discuss results of a rare empirical study of financial history and its relationship to counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). Using a "random sample of 2519 employees" the authors found that those with financial history "concerns" were significantly more likely to demonstrate CWBs after hire. Great support for conducting these types of checks.

There are other articles in here, so I encourage you to check them all out. Thank goodness for research!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Does vendor size matter?

Yesterday I attended a demonstration by a smallish firm whose product automates the job application, exam administration, and applicant tracking process. We talked about a lot of different things, including how easy it would be for end users to understand.

After the vendor left, I had a discussion with another of the attendees about the meeting. But our conversation wasn't so much about the product as it was about the company. We talked about the small size of the firm and how much of an issue that is when selecting the vendor.

On the one hand, it would seem small firms are more susceptible to succession planning issues. They're typically run by a charismatic, passionate, and extremely talented individual whose energy continually sustains the business. What happens when they're gone? They may also not have the built in redundancies that larger firms have, as well as the capacity to handle larger projects.

On the other hand, in my experience it's the quality of the product and the support that matters most for an IT implementation, not sheer size. Does the vendor "get" the customer? Do they have experience with the relevant issues? Are they honest about the product's capabilities and time frames? These are the factors I've found to be most important.

What do YOU think? Is vendor size relevant? Is it a make or break issue? I've temporarily turned off the registration requirement for the blog, so anyone can comment. I'm interested in hearing from users as well as vendors.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New blog--and newsletter

Over at U.S. Research Associates, my friend and colleague Dr. Jim Higgins has started a blog, and a newsletter, devoted to topics such as personnel selection and employment discrimination. They're both worth checking out.

Jim starts his blog with a post about legally defensible competency modeling for selection. He offers some great words of advice to those of you thinking about (or already) using competencies for selection. For example: what validation strategy is appropriate? (hint: it's not content validation)

The first issue of the newsletter (November 2008) starts with the same article but includes several others you might be interested in. Topics include:

- Why employers lose legal challenges to their testing process

- Adverse impact analysis using binary logistic regression

- A review of several statistical analysis software packages

- An overview of criterion-related validation

- Multiple regression and the OFCCP

Good stuff! Jim also offers several free on-line training classes on topics such as criterion validation, adverse impact, and Microsoft Excel.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

SkillSurvey adds passive candidate search

About a year ago I posted about two new websites that automate the reference checking process--Checkster and SkillSurvey. Turns out it was one of the most popular posts I've ever done, so there must be an interest out there in making this headache-inducing process easier. I'm still a big fan of both services, and had the pleasure of meeting Yves Lermusi, CEO of Checkster, at this year's IPMAAC conference.

Anyway, I got an email the other day from SkillSurvey about some cool new functionality they've implemented. Back when I wrote the original post, it occurred to me that one eventual outcomes of having all this reference check data is the database that's being generated. Imagine the sourcing possibilities if each reference gives contact information on 5 other individuals in their field!

Well, SkillSurvey apparently had the same thought and this new function (with the somewhat cumbersome name of Passive Candidate Compiler) allows users to search their own database. A lot of recruiters already maintain a database of reference-givers, but this automates the whole process, saving tons of time.

Pretty slick if you ask me. Next step? How about access to the entire database?

Friday, November 07, 2008

The red clothing effect

A little fun for our Friday...

I'm not a big fan of interviews. Particularly ones that are unstructured (e.g., different questions for different candidates, no rating scales, etc.).

Why? Aside from the fact that research has shown them to be much less predictive of job success, they're problematic because most people think they are above average interviewers (they're obviously not), that they're particularly good at picking up things like deception and lies (once again...they're not), and that interviews are done easily and quickly (they shouldn't be).

Another reason interviews are tricky is they're susceptible to all kinds of perceptual errors. Some of the more common ones include:

- The "Halo" effect: something about the candidate biases the way you see other things about them. My favorite example is having positive feelings toward someone because they went to your alma mater.

- The contrast effect: your opinion of a candidate is biased because they followed a particularly good or bad candidate.

- The fatigue effect: the way you evaluate candidates changes over the course of a day or week because you get tired of interviewing.

This is just a sample of cognitive biases that enter into the interview process. Other typically non-job related factors come also into play, such as someone's height.

Now we may have to add the red clothing effect. A recent study of undergraduates at the University of Rochester found that the color red, compared to other colors, led heterosexual men to find women more attractive (it had no effect on female participants' perception of other females).

The researchers validated this (albeit with small samples) using a variety of experiments, including digitally altering the shirt color of the same image. They even looked at other factors such as willingness to ask out on a date (hint for straight women: chose red over blue).

The silver lining for us is that color had no impact on perceptions of likability, kindness, or intelligence. Still, it's something to be aware of that could potentially have important consequences. After all, remember what happened to Neo.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Webinar on using blogs for recruitment

We all know blogs can be a great way to share information. But what about using them for recruiting purposes?

I wrote about this a while back--how blogs can be used as information "push" and "pull" mechanisms or even as a retention tool--but if you're interested in learning more, check out this webinar on Thursday November 6th put on by Bernard Hodes and the American Hospital Association.

Speaking of webinars, in this time of budgetary challenge, make sure to check out all the free webinars offered by places like HR.com and HCI. Could be a good time to focus on internal competencies. Just be wary of giving out your email address too freely--unless you like lots of email.