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Your guide to using assessment tools the right way

During the hiring and selection process, the aim is to get the best talent. You, as a hiring manager, can do this by gathering as much relevant information as possible. However, the traditional method of using a resume and interview alone is not enough. Why? Because candidates can include misleading information to impress interviewers. 

What do applicants lie about?

According to research, 46% of the resumes submitted by job applicants contain lies. And these are what applicants lie about:

  • 21% – fraudulent degrees
  • 27% – falsified references
  • 29% – altered employment dates
  • 33% – inaccurate job descriptions
  • 40% – inflated summary claims

To get more reliable and valid data about the applicants, you can use assessment tools. But did you know that not all assessment tools are created equal? In order to avoid adverse impact and potential litigation, use only assessment instruments that are specifically developed and validated for hiring. 

Benefits of using appropriate assessment tools

When the right assessments are implemented properly, some of the benefits you can realize include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased retention rate
  • Decreased costs associated with turnover
  • Increased efficiency in the hiring process
  • Reduced personal bias
  • Increased defensibility in the hiring process

However, when misused, these tools can be useless, harmful, or lead to litigation. If you are ready to invest in your people, enhance your talent initiatives and add data to your hiring process, consult US DOL’s “Employer’s Guide to Good Practices: Assessment and Testing.” It helps organizations identify appropriate tools and properly implement a successful assessment program. 

How to properly use assessment instruments?

The Department of Labor shared 13 important assessment principles that you must follow.

Principle #1: Use assessment tools in a purposeful manner

“Assessment instruments are helpful when used properly, but can be useless, harmful, or illegal when used inappropriately. Often, inappropriate use results from not having a clear understanding of what you want to measure and why you want to measure it. You should be clear about what you want to accomplish with your assessment program in order to select the proper tools to achieve those goals.

In selecting your assessment instrument, always consider the knowledge, skills, abilities, characteristics, and personal traits you want to measure, and the population to be assessed. Once you are clear about your purpose, you will be better able to select appropriate tools and use those in an effective manner. Only use assessment tests that are appropriate for your particular purpose.”

Principle #2: Use the whole-person approach to assessment

“An assessment instrument may provide you with important career- or training-relevant information about an individual. However, no assessment tool is 100% reliable or valid; all are subject to errors, both in measuring job-relevant characteristics and in predicting job performance. Moreover, a single tool only provides you with a limited view of a person’s qualifications. Using a variety of tools to measure skills, abilities, and other job relevant characteristics provides you with a solid basis upon which to make important career and development decisions and minimizes adverse impact.”

Principle #3: Only use assessment tools that are UNBIASED and FAIR to all groups

“You should review the fairness evidence associated with these instruments before selecting tools by examining the assessment manual and independent reviews.”

Principle #4: Use only RELIABLE assessment instruments and procedures

“If a person takes the same assessment again, will he or she get a similar score, or a very different score? A reliable instrument will provide accurate and consistent scores. To meaningfully interpret assessment scores and make useful career or employment-related decisions, use only reliable tools. Assessment manuals usually will provide a statistic known as the reliability coefficient, giving you an indication of an assessment’s reliability. The higher the reliability coefficient, the more confidence you can have that the score is accurate.

Reliability (“r”) is expressed as a statistical coefficient between 0.0 and 1.0. r = 0.90 or above is “excellent”: 0.80 – 0.89 is “good”: 0.70 – 0.79 is “adequate.”

Principle #5: Assessments must be valid for the purpose they are being used

“Validity is the most important criterion when selecting assessment tools. It refers to (1) the characteristic the assessment instrument measures, and (2) how well the instrument measures the characteristic. Validity is not a property of the assessment instrument itself; it relates to how the instrument is being used.”

It is important to note that a reliable tool is not necessarily valid. If you use a reliable measurement inappropriately, it’s invalid. 

“Validity is established in reference to a specific purpose; it may not be valid for different purposes. For example, an assessment that may be valid for gauging someone’s job knowledge may not be valid for predicting his or her leadership skills. You must be sure that the instrument is valid for the purpose for which it is to be used. Selecting a commercially developed instrument does not relieve you of this responsibility.

The assessment manual usually provides a statistic, the validity coefficient, which will give an indication of its validity for a specific purpose under specific circumstances. It measures the degree of relationship between assessment performance and job performance (i.e., job-relatedness of the assessment).”

A v-score of .35 or higher means the test is “very beneficial” in determining the presence of desired characteristics. 0.21 – 0.34 means the test “is likely to be useful” to the employer. A v-score of 0.11-0.20 means the usefulness of the information derived will “depend on the circumstances” under which the test is being used. A test is “unlikely to be useful” under any circumstances when v= 0.11 or less.

Principle #6: Assessment must be appropriate for the target population

“An assessment tool usually is developed for use with a specific group; it may not be valid for other groups. Assessments should be appropriate for the individuals you want to assess, that is, your target population. For example, a test designed to predict the performance of office managers may not be valid for clerical workers. Tests designed to assess nurse practitioners are likely to be inappropriate when applied to the construction trades.

The manual should indicate the group or groups the assessment is designed to assess. Your target population should be similar to the group on which it was developed or normed. In determining the appropriateness of an instrument for your target group, also consider such factors as reading levels, cultural backgrounds, and language barriers.”

Principle #7: The instructions and other documentation must be comprehensive and easy to understand

“Each assessment has manuals on how to use them. But, are the instructions for administration and interpretation understandable? Is the information sufficiently comprehensive to evaluate the suitability of the instrument for your needs? Carefully evaluate the documentation provided by the publisher to be sure that the tools you select do the job you want them to do and furnish you with the information you need. If the documentation is not understandable or complete, you run the risk of selecting inappropriate instruments.

Assessment manuals should provide information about both the development and psychometric characteristics of assessments. They should cover topics such as procedures for administration, scoring and interpretation, the recommended uses of an instrument, the groups for whom the tool is appropriate, and assessment norms. They also should include a description of the validation procedures used and evidence of validity, reliability, and fairness.”

Principle #8: Ensure that administration staff are properly trained

“Assessment instruments must be administered properly to obtain valid results. Consult the publisher and administration manual for guidelines on the qualifications and training required for assessment administrators. These requirements will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the assessment. Some publishers may run training sessions for administration and interpretation. 

Administration staff also should be trained to handle special situations with sensitivity. An example would be responding to a request for accommodation based on a disability.”

Principle #9: Ensure that assessment conditions are suitable for all takers

“There are various extraneous influences that may affect the reliability and validity of an assessment procedure. For example, noise in the room, poor lighting, inaccurate timing, and damaged assessment equipment may adversely affect assessment takers. Staff should ensure that the environment is suitable and that administration procedures are uniform for all takers.”

Principle #10: Provide reasonable accommodation in the assessment process for people with disabilities

“To ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have an equal chance to demonstrate their potential, accommodations in the assessment process may be necessary. Under the ADA, reasonable accommodation may involve ensuring physical accessibility to the assessment site, modifying equipment or the process, or providing qualified assistance to the assessment taker. For example, administering a Braille version of an assessment, allowing extra time to complete the test, or supplying a reader may be appropriate. It is important to become familiar with the types of accommodations that can be made without invalidating the results. If reasonable accommodation involving assessment administration cannot be made, consider alternative strategies.”

Principle #11: Maintain assessment instrument security

“All materials used in the assessment process, whether paper-and-pencil or computer-based, must be kept secure. 

The purpose of the assessment often will dictate the importance of security for the materials. Security is also the responsibility of the developers. The security of an assessment may become compromised over time. To protect security, the developers periodically introduce new forms of assessments.”

Principle #12: Maintain confidentiality of assessment results

“Assessment results are highly personal. Workforce development professionals must respect the assessment taker’s right to confidentiality. The  results should be shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know. This would include staff involved in interpreting assessment results or making work-related decisions. Personal information should not be released to other organizations or individuals without the informed consent of the assessment taker.”

Principle #13: Ensure that scores are interpreted properly

“Assessments are used to make inferences about people’s knowledge, skills, abilities, traits, interests, and values. The inferences should be reasonable, well-founded, and not based upon stereotypes. If the scores are not interpreted properly, the conclusions drawn from them are likely to be invalid, thus leading to poor decision making. Ensure that there is solid evidence to justify your assessment score interpretations and the decisions you make based on those scores. The manual should provide instructions for properly interpreting assessment results.”

These 13 principles by the US DOL will help you select the right assessment program and use assessment tools the right way. You can be more confident when making decisions and have a greater return on your investment.

Assessments provide a powerful and unbiased data point to every talent related decision. Better decisions always lead to better outcomes and help your organization achieve GREAT results faster. Best in class companies use assessments in hiring, onboarding and development of their employees. What are you waiting for? We are here to help demystify the employee assessment market and debunk some myths and rumors surrounding assessments.

Empower your organization with PXT Select™

If you are still looking for a reliable and valid assessment, one of the tools we recommend  is PXT Select. One assessment generates a suite of reports that will provide insights and reliable data about your candidates that can be used throughout an employee’s lifecycle: from hire to retire. Find out how your organization can benefit from PXT Select by connecting with us.

Reference: Testing and Assessment: A guide to good practices for workforce investment professionals


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