Why is the quality of psychological assessment tools important
Yes, psychological assessment is important¹. If you are using it in your HR processes, there is a high chance you are familiar with different types of commercially available psychological assessment tools and what they bring to the table.
But have you given consideration to the quality of the assessment tools you use or are deciding between?
All are not created equal
There is a plethora of psychological assessment tools that are and can be used in the HR processes. For example, you might have heard (or might even be using one) of some common personality inventories, such as the Myers & Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI Test), the DiSC® Styles (Dominance-Influence-Steadiness-Conscientiousness) Test, Gallup’s CliftonStrengths assessment, etc².
But as Ben Dattner from Psychology Today³ put it, it is inappropriate to “just pick and use one” (be it personality inventories or any other psychological assessment tool). It is even worse to misuse the interpretation the chosen assessment tool provides by oversimplifying and/or overestimating their less-than-desirable results. The truth is, different psychological assessment tools differ in their quality, i.e., have vastly different levels of reliability and validity.
Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology has prepared a comprehensive presentation of some common types of assessments, used in HR processes⁴, as well as some considerations employers should take before choosing (purchasing or creating) a psychological assessment tool⁵. A quick sweep of both websites shows different advantages and disadvantages of different types of assessments as well as standards to follow when deciding what type of an assessment you want to conduct.
Aside from the legal regulations that govern the employment process, relevant professional and ethical standards and principles (e.g., The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing and The Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures) are something that HR specialists should be aware of and know. Only then can the psychological assessment in their processes be conducted in a fair and objective manner.
Why should I concern myself with the quality of psychological assessment tools?
W. Martin in a 2014 Harvard Business Review article⁶ wrote that a concerning number of HR specialists, surveyed in 2002, were unfamiliar with established research findings, especially about hiring assessments. Due to the complex nature of the HR world, this is understandable, yet problematic when less appropriate psychological assessment tools are used to make important decisions.
Less reliable and valid psychological assessment tools can, with well informed and careful application, be useful for certain organizational applications (team buildings, enhancing communication etc.). But their limited predictive power, lower reliability, lack of norms, and other measures (e.g., a social desirability scale in personality measures) makes them considerably less useful in hiring.
Processes used in hiring have a significant impact on the company performance. Using less reliable and valid assessment tools can, therefore, have extensive and long-term implications on the company. In the words of the 2016 meta-analysis’ authors¹:
“The validity of the personnel measure (or combination of measures) used in hiring is directly proportional to the practical value of the method. /…/ By using selection methods with low validity, an organization can lose millions of dollars in reduced production, reducing revenue and profits.”
Popularity and practicality do not equate validity
So why is the quality of psychological assessment tools so important? Because it can lead to forming inaccurate conclusions from the assessment results.
Low quality psychological assessment tools can lead to improper predictions of future performance and fit for the candidates assessed. Such users can be misled into believing that a certain candidate is, by far, the best fit for the job and the company, while, in reality, a more reliable and valid psychological assessment tool will depict a more accurate and in-depth picture of the candidate and might even invalidate previous conclusions.
Moreover, if the results of a psychological assessment tool with lower quality change depending on the situation of the candidate, i.e., measure states rather than traits, that indicates a lower reliability of the psychological assessment tool and, furthermore, its lower validity.
Additionally, if the psychological assessment tool proposes that individual differences do not play a part in better and worse fits of different assessed candidates for a job position, the interpretation based on such results does not allow for any kind of decision-making or argumentation for hiring a specific candidate rather than the rest.
Lastly, if there is no way of knowing if the assessment process was conducted appropriately, there is little to no proof that any inferences from such results will be valid and correct. The candidates might cheat on the abilities/skills tests, can be dishonest (even unknowingly) when answering personality-related questions, or the psychological assessment tools used might discriminate between candidates in their personal circumstances that are not and should not be part of the assessment process (e.g., a spatial abilities test where men do better than women).
Any of these circumstances proves that the results of psychological assessment tools of lower quality can, when lacking in-depth knowledge of the tool and used without precaution, do more harm than good.
Okay then, what should I look for in a psychological assessment tool?
First and foremost, we urge you to remember that practicality and popularity do not equate reliability and validity. That being said, the (predictive) validity of a psychological assessment tool does represent its practical utility - a professional and valid psychological assessment can bring a lot to your company.
But how exactly can you determine the quality of your psychological assessment tools? We’re gonna let you off with this cliffhanger and will talk to you about everything you need to assess the quality of your psychological assessment tools next week.
While you’re anxiously awaiting our next week’s blog, take a look at the HR Potentials website for more information about how we follow the professional standards of psychological assessment and ensure that our assessment tools are suitable for your needs.
Want to try scientifically valid tools in practice? Contact our representative and ensure yourself a free assessment of 15 candidates or employees today!
- Schmidt, F. L., Oh, I.-S., & Shaffer, J. A. (2016). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 100 years of research findings (working paper). ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309203898
- Mendoza, S. (2021). 5 top personality tests in business - which one should your company use? Senior Executive. Received November 15, 2022, from https://seniorexecutive.com/the-top-5-personality-tests-in-business-which-one-should-your-company-use/
- Dattner, B. (2008). The use and misuse of personality tests for coaching and development. Psychology Today. Received November 15, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/credit-and-blame-work/200806/the-use-and-misuse-personality-tests-coaching-and-development
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. (n.d.). Types of employment tests. Received November 15, 2022, from https://www.siop.org/Business-Resources/Employment-Testing/Test-Types
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. (n.d.). Information to consider when creating or purchasing an employment test. Received November 15, 2022, from https://www.siop.org/Business-Resources/Employment-Testing/Considerations
- Martin, W. (2014). The problem with using personality tests for hiring. Harvard Business Review. Received November 16, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2014/08/the-problem-with-using-personality-tests-for-hiring