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In today's competitive environment, finding the best fit candidate for the job has increased significantly in terms of both complexity and importance to the success of organisations. Therefore, firms are constantly attempting to develop different methods of screening and selecting the best candidates from a pool of prospective employees.
One method which has been proven to have high general predictive validity, a key measure of a method’s effectiveness, is the psychometric testing of cognitive ability, or cognitive tests. As a result of its high validity, some assume that such a method should always be used. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the negative implications that can result due to the inappropriate use of cognitive tests in the selection process.
Firstly, it is key to note that research has shown predictive validity to increase when two selection methods are combined. Therefore, it is essential for HR managers to be aware of which methods, when combined together, enable them to identify the best fit candidate. Secondly, the effectiveness of the selection method is not dependent on the validity levels of the method alone. In other words, there are other key factors that must be considered when deliberating on which method to use.
One such aspect is the cost of the method. While cognitive tests may be the most accurate predictor available for certain jobs, some firms may find them too costly to implement them and test all the prospective candidates. Another aspect is the duration. The firm may not be able to afford the time it takes for the tests to be administered. Some firms are able to undertake lengthy screening and selection processes while others simply do not have the finances or time to do so.
In addition, cognitive tests must be reviewed by an individual or a panel with certain skills, knowledge, and expertise; for instance, in designing, administering, and analysing the tests to ensure the process is as effective as possible. Not all firms are able to call on the services of such a qualified person without incurring further costs.
In the event of the firm being able to afford the time and costs associated with cognitive tests, it must ensure that the tests reflect the findings and outcomes of the job analysis. It is key for the HR manager to develop an effective and comprehensive job analysis, which includes analysing the task, specifying the role, and identifying the competences and attributes needed to fill that role. As daunting as it may seem, particularly for HR officials in SMEs, effective job analysis and person specification is critical and is the first step towards the design of an efficient selection process.
Continuing with the negative implications of the inappropriate use of cognitive tests, HR managers must be aware must be aware that the selection process is a two-way street. Firms are not only selecting prospective employees, candidates are also selecting potential employers. Not every job offer is accepted. Based on that, the recruitment and selection methods of some firms may deter certain candidates from applying, which means a smaller pool of talent for the firm to select from.
One type of candidate that is likely to be deterred by cognitive tests is the candidate applying for a low-skilled job. The nature of the job means it is not sensible for cognitive tests to be used as they do not measure competences relevant to the tasks, and they also deter workers who may be highly qualified to perform these tasks.
Other situations include the selection of a senior manager or executive, who has already been filling a position requiring high intelligence, and therefore cognitive tests may not be an accurate measure or an effective way of differentiating between candidates. Also, studies have shown that some candidates for senior roles find the testing of their intelligence to be insulting.
Nevertheless, it must be noted that the high validity of cognitive tests are positively correlated with how complex a job is. Meaning, the more complex the job, the higher the predictive validity of cognitive tests. Therefore, HR managers tasked with finding a person for a highly technical and complex role, may have to use cognitive tests, regardless of the seniority of the role being filled.
It may still be useful to ensure the test is testing aspects of intelligence that can be used to differentiate between a pool of already highly intelligent candidates. Also, in such cases, using more than one selection method in tandem increases the ability of distinguishing between candidates. As, not only does predictive validity increase, but also a combination of methods may enable the HR manager to measure other facets of the candidates not identified by the use of cognitive tests alone.
It should be noted that there are other adverse impacts attributed to cognitive tests, mainly in relation to the testing of ethnic minorities. While, there is no differential validity, it has been proven that certain ethnic groups produce consistently lower scores than other groups. In such cases, the idea of banding or grouping the scores of such minorities may mitigate these effects. However, manager must be aware that in certain regions it is against the law to do so, while in others, such as the US, there are laws that enforce the use of banding and similar methods.
In conclusion, while cognitive tests are proven to have high general predictive validity, this does not mean cognitive tests should always be used as part of the selection process. The contextual differences, in firm resources, job analysis, person specifications, as well as a range of other aspects, should be considered when deciding on a selection method. Also, roles requiring low intelligence or those where candidates are known to possess high intelligence, should not be filled based on cognitive tests alone, as they are unlikely to reflect the criteria needed for success in these roles.
Finally, a combination of methods should be used in the selection process, so as to measure those attributes and facets not identified by cognitive tests, thus increasing the firm’s chances of finding the ideal candidate in terms of competences and cultural fit, which leads to higher productivity and lower expenses associated with turnover and training.