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Selection vs. Development Assessments

Selection vs. Development Assessments

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

September 02, 2010

This post is written for the everyday manager, HR manager, coach, or consultant that doesn’t have the time or interest to learn about validation, reliability, confirmatory factor analysis, correlation coefficients, and adverse impact. However, you’re using assessments, and you know just enough to be dangerous. Oh yeah, that pretty much describes me. Maybe you too.

I’ve written about assessments for leadership development before. While there are lots of them to choose from, the common ones used for development tend to be 360 degree assessments (multi rater) and personality preferences (DISC, Kolbe, Hogan, FIRO-B).

Most of my work involves development assessments. That is, the manager takes an assessment, the results go back to the manager, and a coach helps to interpret the results and come up with a development plan.

Here is where I see managers and organizations get into potential trouble: they want to take that favorite development assessment and use it to make selection decisions. They may get a copy of the assessment from a naive or unethical HR manager or coach, or, they might just “ask” the individual directly for a copy.

In most cases, it’s done with good intentions. Managers want to make a smart hiring or promotion decision, so they are trying to learn as much as they can about the candidate. Also, if they do end up hiring the person, they can get a jump-start on their development.

I’m guessing some of you are already doing this, even if you’ve been warned not to.

So what’s the harm?

Here’s the problem:

I’ll start with the legal/HR stuff you’ve probably already heard: if it’s not tested for “validity” (it measures what it’s supposed to measure) and “reliability” (it’s consistent over time), you could get your #%* taken to court and sued.

A disgruntled candidate could claim that you used the results of that assessment to make your hiring decision and it was bogus. Therefore, selection assessments require a stack of research and are held to a much higher standard than your average free online personality assessment or horoscope. And let’s face it – if someone takes one of these things for development – and it’s bogus – who cares? However, if someone doesn’t get hired or promoted because or it, it’s a big deal.

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