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Management Assessment: Does One Test Fit All?

The short answer to this question is "absolutely not". Test publishers develop or provide a wide range of instruments, some of which can be used by relatively inexperienced people. Some of these are marketed in a way that suggests or promotes their applicability to employee selection. They are often useful when combined with others, in the hands of a properly trained expert. Alone, they are unreliable, and can be very misleading because they provide a superficial analysis. You need much better information than a single instrument can provide.

Some psychologists and publishers have developed computerized systems for generating reports, some of which are quite elaborate. They usually rely on a single technique for asking questions, and all rely on the designer's ability to anticipate the personalities of millions of people. We have experience with some of these, and based on that experience would recommend them to no-one. Both validity (essentially, this is a measure of accuracy) and reliability (consistency) are questionable.

The one-test approach lacks two essential ingredients:

  1. It provides neither a sufficiently rich, nor a sufficiently accurate view of the individual candidate. People respond differently to different kinds of questions: what works for one person will not always work for the next. Critically, the most common scaling technique is not resistant to faking: people who know what the job requires are sometimes motivated to answer questions with the "right" answer, rather than with what is actually true for them. While this can be done with almost all instruments, without independent information (i.e. from other measures that ask different questions) it is impossible to verify the results.

  2. It does not allow knowledgeable input from an expert human being. In fact, such instruments are designed for use by people who lack the necessary expertise to interpret sophisticated measures. You must rely on an anticipated pattern of responses that may not be reliable developed by a person you do not know, and of whom you cannot ask questions about the interpretation.

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