Psychological Testing in the Workplace
In public and private sector jobs, a prospective applicant is screened and assessed by different selection methods. These methods consist of resume review, one or more interviews, and psychological tests. Psychological tests are used to assess characteristics such as knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, interests, and personality in prospective employees (Spector, 2012). Organizations use psychological tests to select and retain employees. Testing is used to match an individual’s capacities and characteristics to a job within an organization. Validity, reliability, and ethical concerns have been raised concerning testing.
Types of Psychological Tests
Psychological tests are a standardized series of problems or questions assessing an individual’s characteristics (Spector, 2012). Psychological tests are made up of several items which assesses the characteristic of interest. The items are usually quickly completed which allows for several characteristics to be assessed. Psychological tests may be administered in several methods including written, computerized, or performance.
Personality testing is valuable as a pre-employment assessment tool (Goffin & Boyd, 2009). The field of Industrial and Organizational psychology has experienced an increase of interest in using personality assessments. Personality tests are frequently used to study the different aspects of an individual’s behavior in organizations (Spector, 2012). Organizations use personality tests to predict job performance. While there are other methods of pre – employment testing equal to exceeding personality testing, this type of testing is more likely to predict a variance in performance.
Emotional Intelligence Testing
Emotional intelligence is becoming recognized as being important for a successful professional career. Emotional intelligence is between a personality trait and cognitive behavior (Spector, 2012). Emotional intelligence is associated with several skills required in organizations. These skills include organizational commitment, public speaking, teamwork, and leadership (Nicholls, Wegener, Bay, & Cook, 2012). Emotional intelligence has several definitions. Emotional intelligence is the ability an individual has to control and recognize emotions in the self and others. Emotional intelligence can also be defined based upon the approach. These differences have led to a difference in assessment methods. The trait approach defines emotional intelligence as a set of characteristics relating to social and emotional well being. Trait approach tests are similar to personality tests and rely on self – report measures. Ability approach defines emotional intelligence as a specific set of cognitive abilities. The ability approach tests use problem – based measures to test emotional intelligence for maximal performance.
Integrity tests have been found to be effective predictors of counterproductive behaviors (Fine, 2013). These behaviors consist of cheating, sabotage, and theft as well as absence and turnover. There are two types of integrity tests: overt and personality based. Overt tests assess an individual’s opinions toward counterproductive behaviors and prior behaviors. Personality – based tests assess personal character traits related to counterproductive behaviors.
Differentiation Between Testing for Pre - Employment and Retention
Psychological tests are used in pre – employment selection processes. However, psychological tests may also be used for existing employees. Organizations can use testing for current employees as developmental exercises or as part of a job performance evaluation. Personality tests are widely used for employee selection, development, and advancement. Emotional intelligence tests are primarily used in employee selection and less often in retention. Integrity tests can be used in employee selection and less commonly as an employee retention practice. Organizations hope that psychological tests help in the selecting of the right employees meaning a higher retention rate (Spector, 2012). When psychological testing is used in employee retention, the organization and employee can identify strengths, weaknesses, and change in performance (Spector, 2012).
Validity and Reliability Issues of Psychological Testing
A useful test is reliable and valid. A test is reliable if it works the same each time it is given. A test is valid if it measures what it is meant to measure. Some tests are more reliable than other tests (Spector, 2012). Tests with multiple items are usually more reliable than single item tests. Single item measures can be unreliable if the test taker misreads or misinterprets any item (Spector, 2012).
The main concern with personality testing is faking. When a test – taker fakes on a personality test, he or she deliberately provides inaccurate responses to items. Faking is done in hopes of making oneself look more favorable and be hired. In regards to validity, if all respondents shifted equally there is no effect. However, if some test – takers report honestly and others falsify the answers, then the validity of the test suffers (Costa, 1996). Some research shows that faking answers does not affect the validity of the test.
Emotional intelligence tests also are subject to faking. The trait approach measures are more likely to be manipulated by the test taker. Emotional intelligence tests use two validity checks. Trait approach models use Inconsistency Index for Validity. There are ten paired questions and the difference between responses for each pair determines consistency. The second validity check is the Positive Impression Scale. This scale is designed to eliminate faking.
Integrity tests are better predictors for absence and job performance than theft. Accurate data on employee theft is more difficult to obtain because many employees are never caught (Spector, 2012). Security prefers overt tests because the nature of items can be corroborated from other sources such as interviews or references. Human resource managers prefer the personality based tests because these tests describe the candidate. The personality based tests are less likely to be faked.
Ethical Issues of Psychological Testing
The American Psychological Association has specific standards of conduct (Cates, 1999). Ethical concerns in psychology include competence, integrity, professional and scientific responsibility, respect for people’s rights and dignity, concern for other’s welfare, and social responsibility. Psychologists, including industrial and organizational psychologists must practice within his or her knowledge and respect the privacy of others. More specific ethical concerns are invasion of privacy, inability of organization, confidentiality, and communication of test results (Cates, 1999). Psychological tests should not be biased against culturally disadvantaged groups.
Psychological testing is a vital component to hiring and retaining employees. Psychological testing reveals a potential employee’s ability to perform in a job as well as characteristics required for the job. Some prospective employees attempt to falsify answers on psychological testing to appear to be the best candidate for the job. Some fear that this practice will invalidate the tests. However, some research shows that this belief is not true. Psychological testing is an efficient method of selecting employees and in some cases, retaining employees.
Cates, J. (1999). The art of assessment in psychology: ethics, expertise, and validity. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55(5), 631-641.
Costa, P. T. (1996). Work and personality: Use of the NEO-PI-R in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 45(3), 225-241. doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.1996.tb00766.x
Fine, S. (2013). Practical Guidelines for ikplementing preemployment integrity tests. Public Personnel Management, 42(2), 281-292. doi:10.1177/0091026023487049
Goffin, R. D., & Boyd, A. C. (2009). Faking and personality assessment in personnel selection: Advancing models of faking. Candian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 50(3), 151-160. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0015946
Nicholls, S., Wegener, M., Bay, D., & Cook, G. (2012). Emotional intelligence tests: Potential impacts on the hiring process for accounting students. Accounting Education, 21(1), 75-95. doi:10.1080/09639284.2011.598709
Spector, P. E. (2012). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
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