What Are The Characteristics of a Good Test?

Part 1 in the Validity of Public Safety Assessments Series

The idea for this primer series germinated from a simple question – “Could you do an article looking at the validity of tests used in public safety assessment.” As my forgiving readership already knows, I have trouble containing my thoughts to a single entry. So, as I began to frame out how I would respond to the question of the validity of public safety assessments, the amount of material I wanted to cover started to grow exponentially. At some point, I decided it would be best to start from the beginning with a series of primers on topics related to validity, building up to an answer to the question of “what is the validity of public safety assessments.”

So now this blog will be the first in a series looking at this question. Over a series of articles aimed to inform, but also intended to keep things simple, I will cover:

  1. What are the characteristics of a good test?
  2. What are some authoritative references human resource and assessment professionals can rely upon in evaluating the worthiness of tests?
  3. What is validity?
  4. Are public safety assessments good tests and are they valid?

This first article in the primer series deals with the question of what is a good test. A good test can be defined as one that is:

  • Reliable
  • Valid
  • Practical
  • Socially Sensitive
  • Candidate Friendly.

Briefly and simply, I will review the meaning of each of these characteristics. Continue reading

Entry-Level Firefighter Test (Discounts Available!)

Has your agency previously administered any of the tests from IPMA-HR’s Entry-Level Firefighter (FF-EL) series?

If you answered ‘yes’ to this question, then we need your help!

IPMA-HR is gathering the test scores received by current firefighters who took the FF-EL test to better understand how the tests are currently performing.

What We’ll Need from You:

  • Firefighter’s FF-EL 100-, 200-, and/or 300-series test scores between 1994 and 2016.
  • Fire Academy score (if applicable)
  • Completion of a 9-question web-based performance evaluation

What You’ll Receive from Us:

  • $100 off your agency’s next test order
  • Direct evidence supporting the validity of the exam and its use in your agency
  • Hire better. High quality tests help you select high-quality candidates, saving your agency the costly expense of turnover.
  • And it’s free! A test development and validation project of this scale done internally could cost your agency in excess of $100,000. Participation in our test development projects is free.

Please contact Julia Hind-Smith at jsmith@ipma-hr.org if you would like to learn more and/or participate in this project.

(Please Note: All information gathered for this study will remain strictly confidential.  The data gathered will be combined with data from other departments and only be reported in the form of group statistics.)

Out With The Old, In With The New Year (2017 Edition)

Traditionally, I have started the New Year with a blog that recaps the past and looks to the future in assessment.  This year we say good bye to 2016, and enter 2017.  Of course, the big news in the United States was the election of a new President.  I am not bold enough to claim I can predict how a new administration will impact public sector human resources.  However, I do believe that I can make a prediction regarding the three hot trends for next year, and, they are each a carryover from the past several years.

My habit has been to insert a statement concerning how difficult it is to predict the future. However, this year I was surprised to find that many of the topics I would select for future trends, were actually covered in my blogs over the past year. So, maybe I am getting better at prophecy with advancing age.

My predictions for future trends or hot topics over the coming year include:

  • Big Data and Predictive Analytics.
  • Emerging Technologies.
  • Police Performance.

Continue reading

Improving the Interview, Part 2b: Managing the Panel Interview

In this blog, I will respond to what I see as practical questions that often arise in planning for a panel interview. I do apologize for the delay in the production of this third, and final, blog on the interview. Unfortunately, at times, real life intervenes.

I started this series by noting that no other selection device is as ubiquitous as the interview, while at the same time as misunderstood. Then, in Part 1, I discussed the individual selection interview. In Part 2, I discussed panel interview, including the availability from IPMA-HR of a product known as the Police Officer Structured Interview System or POSIS.

This month, in the third and final blog, I respond to what I see as some frequently encountered questions regarding the panel interview including:

  • Should I train raters?
  • Who should be on the panel?
  • How should I combine ratings to arrive at a final score?
  • What type of records should I keep?
  • How long should it take?

As a warning, a lot of my answers will involve a combination of “it depends” and “on your local rules or procedures.”

The Panel Interview

Continue reading

Improving the Interview Part 2a: The Panel or Board Interview

In the last blog, we investigated possible improvements that could be made in the use of individual interviews in pre-employment or promotional screening.  This month we expand our discussion to include the panel or board interview, an approach used by many public sector organizations.

As is often the case, once I start on a topic I have trouble controlling myself and my word count quickly gets out of control (my students have learned that if you ask me a simple question it can easily turn into an hour-long response). So, I have divided this blog into a 2a and 2b. In 2a, which you are reading right now, I:

  • Delineate the major characteristics of the panel interview;
  • Offer a version of a panel interview checklist;
  • Discuss the need for structure and training;
  • Provide an overview of the IPMA-HR Police Structured Interview System (POSIS).

Then, in a soon-to-follow Part 2b, I will answer frequently asked or encountered questions regarding the panel interview. Continue reading

We need writers!

writing

Are you well-versed in the world of assessment? Need an outlet through which to share your plethora of knowledge? Seeking opportunities to flex your writing muscle? Want your own byline? Look no further! IPMA-HR is looking for paid contributors to the Assessment Services Review: the official blog of the Assessment Services Department. We want to offer our readers fresh perspectives, experienced commentary, and cutting edge news from our world. Your level of commitment is up to you: write one, two … or 12 entries a year — and get paid to do it!

Interested? Please send an email to Andrey Pankov at apankov@ipma-hr.org

Improving the Interview Part 1: The Individual Selection Interview

The Interview. No other selection device is as ubiquitous, while at the same time as misunderstood. Like an A-list celebrity, all you have to say is “the interview” and everyone can tell you stories, generate an opinion regarding love it or hate it, and tell you why it has received too much (or too little) notoriety, press, and attention.

In the next two blogs, I will look at the topic of “Improving the Interview.” This month, we will discuss the Individual selection interview, which is conducted in a one-on-one setting between an interviewer and an interviewee. In the next blog, we will investigate improving the board or panel interview.

If Everyone Uses It, What Could Be Wrong? 

Can a technique that every organization uses really be that bad? Well, the problem with the interview is that early studies found that the typical unstructured interview (referred to as “unstructured” because the interviewer was left to conduct and rate the interview as he or she wished) was not very reliable or valid. That is, despite the beliefs of human resource personnel and supervisors, the traditional interview was not a very good indicator of talent, merit, or the best candidate for the job.

The saving grace for the interview was the finding that introducing structure greatly increased the reliability and the validity of the interview. Depending upon the particular study, adding structure to an interview could double its validity as a predictor of job performance, turning it into one of the more valid selection devices.

Structure of Questions and Rating Scales

Structure can be introduced both into the questions asked as well as the way in which interviewee performance is evaluated. In terms of the questions themselves, each candidate should be asked the same questions in the same manner. The questions should present the interviewee with a situation and ask how he or she would respond, or a candidate may be asked to describe how they may have handled a problem situation in a past job. Continue reading

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Should I Provide Assessment Feedback?

The topic of my blog for this month deals with employers providing developmental feedback to candidates based upon the results of employment test or assessment.  Although the feedback of results from employment tests is common in many other countries, it is less frequently the case that such feedback is provided in the United States.

My topic this month deals with using assessment or test results in order to provide developmental feedback and suggestions to employees.  Although I will be dealing with feedback from tests in general, I will pay special attention to assessments that allow for a more in-depth, comprehensive view of the individuals, such as offered by the use of assessment centers.

[For more information on assessment centers, see Public Safety Assessment Center System (PSACS) and Assessment Center Educational Materials (ACEM)]

Some Findings from a Quick Literature Search

I had a graduate student perform a quick search of the current literature. Our findings regarding policies toward providing developmental feedback by employers in the United States were that it is rare for organizations to provide scores or give feedback to job applicants for pre-employment tests.  It is more common for promotional candidates, but even there the exact type of feedback may skew toward simply providing results or scores.  Providing expansive or detailed feedback is most likely to occur where the tests are used specifically for training or developmental purposes.

As for assessments centers, The International Congress on Assessment Center Methods has a document entitled The 2014 Guidelines and Ethical Considerations for Assessment Center Operations (6th Edition).  According to their guidelines, feedback should be provided and if the assesses are members of the organization than the employee has the right to “read any formal, summary, written reports concerning their own performance and recommendations that are prepared and made available to management.” Continue reading

Test Score Posting Policies in the Public Sector

My blog this month deals with what I believe is a complex question that requires deft consideration of the demands of multiple stakeholders and the careful weighing of legal and ethical issues. I am speaking of the question of how does a public sector jurisdiction make decisions regarding the posting of scores both during and after the completion of an assessment or selection project.

As human resource and assessment professionals, we have to resolve the conflict between the equally important values of transparency of feedback to test takers, the privacy rights and expectations of confidentiality held by job or promotional candidates, and the public’s right to know, along with the media’s right to information. Deciding how and what type of information to post can seem like a judgment worthy of Solomon, as the human resource professional must reconcile:

  • the public’s right to information, including possible public record laws;
  • the candidate’s desire for feedback and test score information; and
  • the right of the candidate to privacy and the candidate’s expectation that their scores will be handled in a confidential and sensitive manner.

In my opinion, one of the complicating factors is that the release and posting of test score information has to consider many factors beyond simple psychometric and assessment issues. Some of the factors that must be considered or questions which need to be asked and answered include:

  • Are there federal or state laws that govern the release of public sector employment test information, as well as public records in general?
  • Are there local Civil Service regulations or rules?
  • Does the union contract specify how test results will be issued?
  • Are there past, relevant court decisions?
  • How have we done it in the past? What are the existing precedents?
  • What precedent, if any, do we want to create for future tests?

My own experience has been that every jurisdiction tends to make decisions regarding the posting of and release of a candidates test and score information differently, even within a specific geographic area such as Northeast Ohio. I know of some cities that post in public all the test score information for each candidate, while similar nearby cities post only the final rankings of the test takers.

If at this point you are starting to mumble to yourself, “I fear that Doverspike is not going to give us a simple answer in this blog,” you are correct. However, I am going to share with you some data from a survey conducted by IPMA-HR Assessment Services. Continue reading