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With Tests, Measuring Better Beats Looking Better…But Why Choose?

This is the second of a series of blogs from DDI associates presenting at the 26th annual SIOP Conference.

By Evan Sinar, Ph.D.

Evan Sinar, Ph.D.Employment tests have been used to drive objective, efficient and accurate hiring decisions for decades. Testing’s relationship with technology is newer and still evolving, however. Technology is changing the way tests are administered while the use of online testing greatly increases the reach and convenience of these tools for companies and their candidates.

These are important benefits, but it’s not enough: technology can and should do more for employment testing and can dramatically advance testing in two major ways – Looking Better and Measuring Better. Looking Better means test appearance – does technology enable items that are more realistic? More interactive? Measuring Better means test effectiveness – does technology generate more information about an applicant’s skills? Can the test better predict what they’ll excel in and struggle in if hired?

Obviously, both of these are worthwhile goals – but they can conflict. Better measurement can involve more established or time-consuming item types that don’t incorporate interactivity, graphics, or other technological advancements. On the other hand, exclusively focusing on “looks” can pair, for example, a highly-realistic video with a low-value radio button to indicate a response – neglecting measurement for the sake of appearances.

To avoid these problems, measurement-focused test design is the key – my recommendation is to start with the measurement targets in mind before building or buying a test.

Defining the measurement targets may also mean finding the gaps in existing tests and designing new technology-based measures to fill them.

None of this precludes tests Looking Better – in fact, designing items around known and focused measurement targets is one of the best ways to get creative when designing interactive items with high visual appeal. But tests that effectively use technology for appearances only will be perpetually limited and will squander their potential. (Although it’s tempting to put appearances first and fill in the measurement later, avoid this direction.)

Technology can provide enormous advantages for Measuring Better – make absolutely sure it’s used this way first; once this is done and done well, Looking Better comes surprisingly naturally.

Evan Sinar, Ph.D., is chief scientist and the director of DDI's Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research.

Posted: 12 Apr, 2011,
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