Industrial Psychology Expert Witness On Employment Testing

In TEST VALIDATION IN EMPLOYMENT SETTINGS, industrial psychology expert witness Robert Rose, PhD, and his partner at Rose Porterfield Group, Inc., Robyn W. Porterfield, PhD, write on employment testing. They have co-written articles including a column for the Dallas Business Journal titled “C-level coach.

If a selection procedure is challenged for adverse impact its validity becomes important. “Validity” is the extent to which test results are related to performance on the job. And, legal issues aside, it is best for the organization to have valid procedures. There are a few key points you need to consider if involved in litigation around testing issues and/or advising clients to avoid issues.

Everything you use to hire or promote is a test. Period. If all you do to hire is interview you have to show that the interview is valid – and that may be difficult.

Validity can be of several types: The three major categories are: 1) construct, the procedure measures an abstract trait such as intelligence or decision-making; 2) content, the procedure has test items or tasks that are needed to perform the job, e.g. using a basic math test for bank tellers; and, 3) criterion-based, e.g. statistical evidence shows people who score high on a test do better in the job than those who score low. None of these are as straightforward as they appear and require someone familiar with psychometrics – usually an Industrial Psychologist – to evaluate.

Validity in the real world is not perfect. It might be ideal to have some perfect measure of success in a controlled study with statistical analysis of hundreds of employees but in the real world that is difficult to do. Short of perfect, what can you do?

Your defense is bolstered by being courteous, consistent, objective, and having documentation. It is also best to avoid – if possible – any one go/no go hurdle. If you have a hiring procedure that is carried out the same way for everyone that consistency is a positive factor; if the results are evaluated in the same way for everyone, that objectivity is a positive factor. If you have some documentation of why and how you use the selection procedure you do that is a positive factor. And, of course, lacking any of those is a problem. E.g. if some people give the same answers as others but get a lower score it is difficult to argue that the procedure is valid. And if you require a college degree you should be able to prove that the degree is highly important, if not essential, to the performance of the job: because that one factor eliminates candidates regardless of other qualifications.

Finally, respect is important. People who feel they were treated disrespectfully are more likely to sue. And if people are treated respectfully, understand why they are being evaluated and why it is a necessary part of the hiring or promotion process they are less likely to be angry or upset.

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