Quick Buyers Guide to Using & Choosing Assessments in New Zealand

October 2012

In our experience, many managers and business owners are keen to either introduce objective assessments of job candidates and existing staff for the first time, or look at reviewing the processes currently in place to ensure they are delivering effectively and providing value for money.

The benefits of reducing the risks of poor recruitment decisions and identifying talent in the team are clear, but when it comes to choosing a tests and assessments for your business, or reviewing the effectiveness those already in place, where do you start?

The shortest and most effective route is to contact us on 0508 736 753 as independent consultants who can recommend psychometric tools most appropriate to your organisation rather than those confined to one suppliers brochure.  However, for readers keen to discover for themselves, the guide below will take a couple of minutes to read and potentially save your organisation and your career

There are four criteria that anyone with hiring and staff management responsibilities should consider before going down the route of using psychometric assessments in the workplace.  The pitfalls of getting these criteria wrong have cost organisations dearly, so here’s an opportunity to learn from their collective mistakes.

1. Is this Test Any Good?

Buyers are faced with a mountain of differing tests and assessments, each one claiming to be the latest and greatest and backed up with assertions of their effectiveness.  Many are either free or very cheap internet-based assessments, which we would urge you to treat with the same caution as most ‘too good to be true’ internet offers.  Just as you wouldn’t trust your health with cut-price on-line pharmaceutical products, or your bank account details to an allegedly ousted African royal family with millions to give away, would you trust internet test freebies to determine whether a sales candidate is going to put hundreds of thousands of dollars onto your bottom line, or as trusted guide of where to direct your career?

The acid test for psychometric products is their reliability and validity.  The best products on the market have as much as twenty years of empirical research behind them before they were launched on the market. Independently researched findings of whether a psychometric test actually does what it claims to do can be sought from the New Zealand Council of Educational Research (www.nzcer.org.nz) and the British Psychological Society (www.bps.org.uk).  If you go directly to the publishers, insist on seeing their products reliability and validity reports, and do give us a call if you run into barriers in determining whether the product is all it’s cracked up to be.  Several well used and misguidedly respected psychometric products common in New Zealand have abysmal reliability and validity rating and rank no better than horoscopes in determining whether a candidate is likely to be effective in the job.

Also, ask what training and qualifications users must have to administer and feedback the tests you are considering.  Most personality assessments worth a second look require at least five days training to use, and can only be purchased by appropriately qualified people.  Tests that require no or minimal training are best avoided.

We are always available to answer your questions on the usefulness of tests with objective advice, and only recommend psychometric tests that have passed strict validity and reliability standards.

2. Is the Test Relevant to the Job?

A common pitfall that can land employers in hot water with tribunals is picking tests that are not relevant to the job, especially when they are used inconsistently to screen out people from selection in recruitment and promotion.  An example would include using complex numerical reasoning tests when the job requires no more than basic arithmetical ability.

Ensuring ability tests are pitched at the skill requirement of the job and personality traits sought relate to the competencies and desired behaviours in the position description are essential steps before purchasing tests and assessments.

In short, you need to know what you are looking for before you buy something that measures it, which is usually achieved through job analysis to determine the criteria to go onto the position description.

There are good psychometric products on the market designed specifically for every skill level from production line staff to executive directors once you have done the background work.

3. Is the Test Relevant in New Zealand?

This is the yawning bear-trap waiting to swallow unsuspecting New Zealand businesses.

Psychometric tests worth a second look are referenced against a norm-group to ensure anyone who takes one is measured relative to other similar people; for example a sales manager completing a sales personality assessment is compared with other sales managers to see where s/he is likely to perform in relation to his/her peer group, and what an employer is likely to need to do to get them from good to great performers.

Many tests and assessments in marketed in New Zealand do not have NZ-specific norm-groups and measure your kiwi candidates against American or British people working in American or British organisations with American or British values and beliefs.  This may not sound like a big deal, but it is for two reasons:

Firstly, there are differences in the way different countries people respond to tests and questionnaires.  When we brought over a very successful UK developed sales aptitude test, we ran comparative validation studies on 200 New Zealand sales people and found distinct differences between UK & NZ sales staff responses to the questionnaire, which we accounted for when using the test.  Had we taken the easy route and not bothered, some good NZ sales job applicants may have lost job opportunities or had unfair personal development plans placed on them and employers would have lost out on good sales staff too.

Secondly, New Zealand isn’t America or Britain.  We have a unique blend of ethnic diversity, a distinct set of cultures and values and need to ensure we measure kiwis against kiwis.  Any employer who uses a non-NZ norm group as a tool to screen out staff could fall foul of fair selection tests in law; and rightly so.

So, the third question for a prospective supplier of tests and assessments is ‘Has this test been kiwi-fied?’  And insist on the proof that it has.  Some suppliers will insist that their US norm groups are fine and that there is no difference between the countries, but the fact is that they haven’t done the validation tests to find out and are therefore not in a position to make that statement.

Also note that personality measures such as DISC and MBTI are not normed against any reference group, making their application in recruitment meaningless, despite what their sales people and brochures tell you.

4. How Good are the Suppliers?

This relates to both their professional abilities and service delivery.

If you are going to make the most from the results of personality questionnaires, you need to be assured that the supplier has the depth of knowledge, skills and experience to support you in interpreting and implementing the findings of difficult feedback discussions from time to time.

Your  supplier doesn’t have to be an Occupational Psychologist to do this, although that helps!, but should be qualified to at least New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER) Level-C, plus have the depth of on the job experience.  Someone who became an instant expert when they bought a franchise is unlikely to fit the bill.  Always ask for confirmation that professionally qualified and experienced people are available when you need them.

When it comes to service delivery, ensure a supplier is going to only enhance your selection process rather than slow it down.  All online test providers produce near-instant reports, but is the professional support as accessible when you need it?

When you get satisfactory answers to these four questions, then you have covered the basic requirements to determine whether a proposed psychometric test or assessment is going to benefit your business, or simply raise more barriers to success and risks to integrity.

Better still, give us a call and we’ll do the donkey work for you and recommend assessments that work!