How You Treat Candidates Makes a Difference (Part 2): Managing the Four Critical Elements

  • The devil is in the details.
  • The best laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry (Robert Burns).
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • If there is a 50-50 chance that something can go wrong, then 9 times out of ten it will (Paul Harvey).

The creation of a positive, engaging client experience is dependent on the effective management of four major functions:

  1. People.
  2. Technology.
  3. Selection Methods.
  4. Planning.

In this month’s blog, I will discuss the administration of each of these essential variables. In my view, most public sector agencies already do a good job of managing these critical factors; however, winning the ARMS race and creating a winning brand image require going beyond good enough to excellent. Furthermore, as the four classic quotes above suggest, even the best managed selection program can be derailed by unsuspected crises. Thus, not only must assessment departments excel in management, they must build into the system sufficient checks and redundancies so as to deal with all of the unexpected emergencies that are likely to occur.

Last Month’s Blog

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how public sector organizations can actively manage their reputations; in doing so, we concentrated on the general topic of reputation or image and its relation to selection strategy. We found that not only can a government agency’s reputation impact its ability to attract talent, but additionally, selection strategies can affect the image that applicants, employees, and the general public hold of your organization. As a result, assessment professionals need to monitor and take accountability for the candidate experience. In this month’s blog, we discuss how consideration of various critical functions can impact the candidate experience.

People

For me, the key to success is the quality, attitudes, and talents of the people involved in the assessment endeavor. Recruitment and selection require a high level of team activity and whether one wins the talent wars is a function of the enthusiastic efforts of every team member. Recruitment research supports this view, in that a consistent finding of the onboarding literature shows that the people an applicant has contact with make a huge impact on the image a candidate has of the organization. Whether it is the receptionist handing out a job application, an HR specialist arranging a time for an interview, or the personnel administering an exam, job candidates will judge your organization based on the attitudes and professionalism exhibited by the people they meet along their journey to possible employment. As a result, you need to make sure that all personnel involved in the recruitment and selection process are knowledgeable, well-trained and ready to project a positive brand image.

As the quotes preceding the blog suggest, the management of details is critical in the selection process. I know my own limitations – I am terrible at details. As a result, I need to have people working for or with me that are far more obsessive-compulsive than I am. So, I would recommend some self-assessment. If you are adept at handling minutiae, great, if not, you had better find someone to include on your assessment team that is detail-oriented and knows how to follow rules and meet deadlines.

When it comes to assessment, experience is another irreplaceable commodity. Over time, individuals learn how to handle all the various issues and crises that come up that could easily surprise and overwhelm a newcomer. Of course, it is important to not only learn from experience, but also continually improve one’s methods, procedures, and process. If you are new to assessment services, then conferences such as those put on by IPMA-HR are an excellent venue for learning from experienced veterans.

Within the confines of the length limits of this blog, it is impossible to deal with all the important jobs within the assessment function. However, I did want to discuss the issue of proctors, because I feel proctors are so important to a successful examination, but that role is often overlooked resulting in poor performance. Over the years, I have seen far too many proctors who stand in the back of the room and read, or even worse, talk loudly, fall asleep, or disappear for lengthy periods of time. If you were a test taker and you believed that a proctor was distracting and frustrating you by talking or snoring, what would your reaction be? What impact would that have on your image of the organization? Therefore, I would urge you to give careful consideration to your selection, training, and supervision of proctors.

Technology

In the good old days, we had to know how to write an effective job notice for the newspaper, construct multiple choice questions, and administer and score paper-and-pencil tests. Today, testing has become highly technology dependent and may require knowledge of a wide variety of electronic equipment including wireless networks, mobile devices, and video equipment for use in recording interviews.

Through many sometimes very unpleasant experiences, my advice would be to become good friends with your IT professionals and your audio-visual technicians. If you are giving a technology-dependent assessment, make sure you know where and how to find or get into contact with the appropriate technicians, as there is a good chance that at some point when you need it most, a critical piece of equipment will fail. In addition, learn how to talk to and listen to the technical experts. Especially with IT professionals, it often seems as if they are speaking a different language, so make sure you communicate your needs and any important cost and time considerations. Also be aware that we in assessment often fail to understand how long it may take to make a change to a computer program that we see as being a rather simple change to a testing protocol.

Of course, when working with technology it is crucial that you build in redundancy. Have an extra projector, in case yours overheats; an extra screen in case yours falls over and rips; and paper-and-pencil backup copies of tests are never a bad idea in case an internet armageddon just happens to occur during the entry level police test that will determine your candidates’ future career with the city.

Selection Methods

As was discussed in the last blog, the selection methods you use convey messages and information regarding the type of employer you are and your image as an organization. Your selection methods may help you to attract talented individuals or they may drive people away. Research on the attitudes of test takers finds that individuals want to feel as if they have an opportunity to perform; that is, they want an opportunity to show you they possess the qualities required for the job, as long as the job is seen as reliable, fair, and related to the job.

If you have a large enough budget and staff, you may choose to develop most of your selection instruments in-house. If you lack the capacity or time to develop internally, then you may find yourself looking to an external vendor for high quality, reliable, and valid tests. In particular, IPMA-HR Assessment Services offers a variety of different options for either stock or customized tests.

Planning

In the end, the quality of the experience provided to the job candidate will depend upon how well you bring together all the necessary ingredients through careful planning, consideration of appropriate timelines and deadlines, attention to detail, and the design of backup plans to respond when various crises do occur, and unexpected testing disasters will happen. As mentioned previously, many of the ingredients of successful planning will be learned through experience. You will find yourself designing and continually refining various checklists, administration guides, forms and training manuals as you progress through multiple test administration cycles. Effective planning and compulsive preparation will help to immunize your agency from the problems, challenges, and crises that I guarantee will occur. Job candidates will recognize your efforts and will perceive your city and your department as being faithful to the merit principles underlying public sector selection, while also operating in a highly professional manner that offers candidates a true opportunity to demonstrate their ability to perform the job.

For those who would like more information on the planning process, including extensive checklists, procedural guidelines, and sample forms, I would highly recommend the IPMA-HR Test Administration Handbook, which was authored by Dianna E. Belman, and edited by Toni Kovalski, Bruce Davey, and Andrey Pankov.

Final Thoughts

In the next column, I will complete this series on the candidate experience by dealing with some specific tasks or events occurring during the:

  • Pretest period including recruitment.
  • Test administration.
  • Post-test.

In order to encourage reader participation and also obtain your opinions or attitudes toward the public sector brand, I would like to continue to extend an invitation to complete a short survey; it should not take more than three minutes. The survey covers different aspects of the public sector brand. I will summarize and present the results as part of a future column. You can find the survey at: akron.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0Oh7i9mp2C44udn.

In closing, I welcome your comments, questions or criticisms. There should be a reply box located at the end of this blog. You can also email me at dennisdoverspike@gmail.com.

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About Dennis Doverspike

Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP, is President of Doverspike Consulting LLC. He is certified as a specialist in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and in Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), serves on the Board of the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology, and is a licensed psychologist in the State of Ohio. Dr. Doverspike has over forty years of experience working with consulting firms and with public and private sector organizations. He is the author of 3 books and over 150 other professional publications. Dennis Doverspike received his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1983 from the University of Akron.

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