Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SIOP Leading Edge Consortium

Feel like going to Denver in October?

That's when SIOP is going to have its annual Leading Edge Consortium. Previous consortiums have focused on executive coaching, innovation, talent, and leadership. This time we're fortunate that they've chosen to focus on Selection and Assessment in a Global Setting.

Speakers include individuals from companies like Cisco, Google, and Merck as well as consulting firms like SHL, Previsor, HumRRO, DDI, and Valtera.

Here are some of the session titles:

- "Global trends in HR"

- "Interviewing across cultures"

- "Cross border hiring"

- "Computerized adaptive testing"

Sure to be interesting stuff, particularly for anyone interested in attracting individuals from other countries and cultures.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Turn off qualified applicants in one easy step

Looking for a way to turn off qualified applicants in one easy step? The City of Bozeman, MT may have put its finger on it.

Turns out they have had--for several years--a requirement that all applicants seeking a position with the City must, after a conditional job offer that required a background check, turn over their ID and passwords for all social networks they're on, including Facebook and Twitter. After a firestorm of criticism, they decided to suspend the policy pending "a more comprehensive evaluation."

With all due respect to city officials...what were they thinking?

Put aside for the moment the potential problems of violating the terms and conditions of the social networking sites (which generally prohibit sharing passwords), and the potential legal issues inherent in finding information you shouldn't, what high-potential applicant worth her/his salt is going to give over their password information? Its akin to asking someone for their diary--and about as valid and relevant to job performance.

According to the City Manager, "choosing not to disclose log-in information did not hurt candidates’ chances of getting the job." Somehow I find that hard to believe.

I can appreciate wanting to perform your due diligence as part of the hiring process, and gathering as much information as you can, but there are tried and true methods of doing this, including detailed reference checks for every hire.

Maybe the proximity to great fishing interfered with judgment making.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer '09 Personnel Psychology

The Summer 2009 issue of Personnel Psychology covers a lot of ground. Take a look:

Kuncel & Tellegen demonstrate (with undergrads) that when inflating on personality inventories, people don't always max out their self-presentation; in fact for some traits a moderate level of endorsement is seen as more desirable.

Bledow & Frese describe how a situational judgment test can be used to predict not only overall job performance, but a particular construct--in this case, initiative. Participants were employees and supervisors at six banks in Germany.

This one particularly caught my eye. Yang & Diefendorff discovered (using ~200 employees in Hong Kong), among other things, that agreeableness and conscientiousness seem to moderate the relationship between negative emotions and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). Implication? If you're hiring for a job prone to negative emotions (e.g., customer service), consider adding a personality inventory to your screeening process to prevent CWBs.

De Pater, et al. studied both students and employees to determine that challenging job experiences reported by participants predicted promotability ratings above and beyond current job performance and job tenure. This has implications for both career development and performance management.

Want to know more about what executive coaches do? Then check out Bono et al.'s study of similarities and differences between practicing coaches that are also I/O psychologists versus those that aren't. (Turns out they do a lot of the same things)

Last but definitely not least, Aguinis et al. describe a web-based frame of reference training they used to decrease the amount of bias inherent in personality-based job analysis. The article describes in detail how the training was implemented, and it had quite dramatic effects. Useful stuff for anyone looking to add this tool to your assessment procedure (in this case they used Raymark et al.'s personality-related personnel requirements form, which they describe as superior to Hogan & Rybicki's performance improvement characteristics tool (which I've actually used and found quite user friendly).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fast Company disses interviews

Those of you who know about research in personnel selection know that while interviews have been shown to be predictive of job success, several other types of selection mechanisms often out-perform them. Cognitive ability is often mentioned as the holy grail of predictors, but in terms of overall utility and defensibility, I recommend work sample exams. So do the authors of a recent article in Fast Company.

As the authors (who also penned Made to Stick) point out, interviewers are often snowed by candidate interview skills. Often only when you make them demonstrate their skills do their true strengths and weaknesses reveal themselves. (Of course if you're going to interview--and almost everyone does--make sure it's structured)

A couple strengths the authors leave out: work sample (sometimes called "performance") tests are easier to defend legally, since you're measuring an observable KSA rather than a construct like intelligence, and they give candidates a more realistic preview of the job. Heck, after doing a work sample a candidate may decide the job's not for him/her. Finally, they tend to be well received by candidates, more so than many other types of assessment.

This is my favorite quote:

"...figure out whether candidates can do the job. Research has consistently shown that one of the best predictors of job performance is a work sample. If you're hiring a graphic designer, get them to design something. If you're hiring a salesperson, ask them to sell you something. If you're hiring a chief executive, ask them to say nothing -- but reassuringly."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Enthusiasm? I'd rather see cautious optimism.

"I'm really excited about this job. Hurry up and pick me."

How would you feel if a candidate said that to you? A bit...confused? Well that's essentially what Paul Westphal told his new bosses in winning his bid to become the Sacramento King's new head coach.

Granted, Westphal had several things going for him:

1) He has been an NBA coach (Suns, Supersonics).

2) He's led a team to a winning season, something the Kings sure could use.

3) He's coached at the college level and also been an assistant coach; this should add some depth to his experience.

4) To his credit, he seemed to know what his new bosses wanted--i.e., enthusiasm and a reasonable salary. This could pay off in terms of his ability to get along with management (more about this below).

So what's the problem? Several, potentially. Here's how the article summed up the selection: "Westphal won the job largely on his NBA experience and enthusiasm for the job itself."

Here are my concerns:

1) Enthusiasm is not a proven predictor of job performance, yet his active pursuit of the job seems to have been a deciding factor. We know pure interest in the job does a horrible job of prediction. Pure experience isn't a great predictor either.

2) The search, according to the article, took only 47 days (which sounds quick to me). Yet apparently, "Westphal had grown impatient enough that sources say he was close to pulling out of the race." What does this say about an applicant? Maybe nothing. But it could signal something about personality (or desperation).

3) The screening seems to have relied primarily on interviews and "reputation." Is this the best way to pick a coach? What else might we do? (simulations, role plays, talking to previous players, etc.)

4) There's a big assumption being made here: that he was solely (or primarily) responsible for the wins of previous teams he coached. As we know, team performance doth not lie with leader alone. As one article commenter noted, the General Manager may be the common denominator leading in recent years to less-than-stellar team stats for the King. Will a new coach solve the real problem?

To be honest, I don't really want an applicant to be off the charts enthusiastic. It suggests overconfidence, a frightening lack of self-insight, or an attempt to snow me. Are there times where the enthusiastic candidate is the right one? Absolutely. All I'm suggesting is that we be wary. Personally, I'd rather see cautious optimism, which indicates an understanding that what they bring to the job is only part of the equation.

But heck, enough with the negativity. Here's hoping the Kings make it to the finals next year!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

SIOP offers multimedia presentations

As part of its learning center, SIOP is now offering audio and video content from its conferences and events. Price ranges from $100-150 depending on membership status and whether or not you attended the event.

You can hear/see samples here, including presentations on personality in the workplace, reducing turnover using selection, and global talent management.

Good stuff. Hope other professional organizations follow their lead.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Emotional competence

I don't write a whole lot about emotional intelligence (EI), mostly because I still haven't seen a consensus around its conceptualization and measurement, but there continues to be significant interest in it. And on that note, there's an excellent article in a recent issue of JOB that I think is worth discussing.

In a nutshell, Kim, et al. studied nearly 200 matched subordinate-supervisor pairs in four South Korean hotels. The employees worked either at the front desk or were waiters--folks that likely would benefit from emotional competence.

Emotional competence, you say, not emotional intelligence? Yes, the authors prefer the term competence for several reasons:

1) Self-report inventories such as those used in this study may not be appropriate for measuring abilities.

2) Self-report measures usually measure typical behavior rather than maximally possible behavior, which an ability test hypothetically does.

3) Self-report measures of EC have low correlations with tests of cognitive ability.

I commend the authors for distinguishing between these concepts. In fact, it leads me to wonder whether we should go a step further and say emotional confidence or emotional report. However, this does raise some troubling issues with respect to the similarity and differences between the concepts and is a good illustration of why many I/O types shy away from this topic (it may also have something to do with there being many instruments that claim to measure EI).

Anyway, back the study. The measure they used for EC was a 16-item scale using 7-point Likert-type scales. An example question was, "I am sensitive to the feelings and emotions of others."

The authors found uncorrected correlations of .15 between EC and the two work performance measures of task effectiveness as well as social integration (both p<.05). In addition, they found support for their hypotheses that the relationship between EC and job performance was mediated by "interpersonal proactive behaviors", measured here by supervisors as the extent to which the employee engaged in feedback seeking behavior and relationship development with the supervisor. So not huge correlations, but useful. The strength of the correlation is in line with what we often see for uncorrected self-report measures such as personality inventories.

To their credit, the authors chose employees who likely would have need of some type of emotional awareness. This of course would be one of the big questions if one were considering this type of selection tool, and the decision as always would rest with the results of a detailed study of the job. What the Uniform Guidelines would have to say about supporting this measure using content validation is another story for another day!