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By Maeve Allsup
Oct. 12 — Whether applicants can do the job should be the focus of pre-employment screening testing, rather than how they’ll get it done, according to Aaron Konopasky, senior attorney adviser for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Modern technology is simplifying the job search process, making it increasingly easy to apply for hundreds of positions in a very short amount of time. As a result, many employers are facing much larger applicant pools, and are turning more to skills assessments to quickly identify the most qualified candidates.
Employers should make sure these assessments, whether purchased from vendors or developed in-house, are designed so that all applicants can demonstrate the ability to do the job if they have it, Konopasky told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 7. This will help employers stay compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and others, he said.
“As a preventative measure employers should try to formulate their qualification standards and assessments in a way that isn’t too focused on particular physical movements,” Konopasky said.
“It is possible to make the test too specific on a physical level,” Konopasky said, “you can end up constructing a model of a particular type of worker rather than of the job itself, which could cause ADA compliance issues.”
This is where it may be important to formally validate the assessment itself, said Eric Dunleavy, an industrial and organizational psychologist at DCI Consulting Group.
“When used properly, the results of these tests often correlate with performance and other important work outcomes,” Dunleavy told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 30. In order to effectively use these assessments, an employer may want to verify via research that its chosen assessment is relevant to the position of interest. Validation research is one way to justify subgroup differences on test results should they exist, he said.
“The research literature shows us that these types of skills and abilities assessments often produce differences in favor of non-minorities,” Dunleavy said, “and there are a variety of theories explaining this phenomenon.” However, it can be permissible to have adverse impact if tests are demonstrated to be job related, he said, “and this is why it may be important for employers to validate the inferences made from their selection procedures. Test users should talk to their legal representation on this issue.”
Human resources departments face increasing pressure to conduct the hiring process in a standard way that is both compliant and efficient, Eric Friedman told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 5. Using these tests will reduce exposure to HR legal risks and help employers hire more accurately, said Friedman, founder and CEO of eSkill, a Chelmsford, Mass.-based company that sells customizable software for skills testing. “Using a test that is tailored to match a job’s requirements, as determined by a job analysis, is more compliant than using an off-the-shelf test or not using a test at all,” he said.
“As for determining what test scores are objectively good and meaningful, we suggest giving your new assessment to employees whose relevant knowledge and skill you know. Their scores, and feedback on the selected test questions, are the most valid ways to confirm whether the test is appropriate and obtain scores to serve as a benchmark.” Friedman said.
However, the type of test best suited for an employer’s needs will vary, according to Jeff Luttrell, director of the North Carolina Society for Human Resource Management state council.
Larger companies likely have the in-house resources to create their own exams, Luttrell said, but he says small and mid-size companies shouldn’t attempt this. “Because there are a lot of unknowns when developing an exam it’s important for these employers to purchase one that has been verified,” Luttrell told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 7.
Whether tests were created in-house or purchased from a vendor, employers should keep several things in mind to screen applicants well and avoid compliance issues:
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