Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Monday, October 13, 2008

If you run out of the test room crying ...

... then you've undoubtedly failed. You're obviously a hopelessly unstable neurotic and this new test will show you up anyway. Relax, it's ok to give up.

Quite a lot of career developers use the Myers-Briggs or True Colors or Personality Dimensions in their work and we must all wonder about tests involving self reporting, right? How much confidence should we place in these tests' results?

I've seen a couple of other on-line reports of a new test based on the Big-Five Factors that cannot be faked but here is the first one that provides some insight into how Hirsh and Paterson do it.


Johnny Eleven said...

Interesting item. I will even read the article, eventually. However, the only objective measure this test predicts so far is grade-point average. Since it assesses openness, which many consider equivalent to intelligence, this result may not be surprising.

At first I was amused by the press release's mention of "deliberate faking," but finally it occurred to me that you can accidentally fake it, too. Even if I'm forced to choose between two positive attributes, I still may choose the incorrect one. The correlation with GPA doesn't constitute evidence of validity, either.

Personally, I wouldn't fake any personality test when applying for a job. They're invalid, anyway, so if they can't determine your actual personality (if there is such a thing) when you're being honest, they're not likely to be able to understand what you're trying to tell them when you're faking.

Bill Bell said...

Thanks, John.

Life is so full of irony that it gets tedious. In this case it's that only tiny numbers of employers take this apparently rational approach of using personality testing. Yet my initial concern was that tests such as these would be yet another silly hurdle for people trying to get into jobs.

In my opinion it would be nice if employers with vacancies simply gave some indication of what they wanted incumbents to achieve, rather than trying to link skill sets and personality to ultimate performance as they usually do. From the other direction, I believe we should be encouraging people to construct their own (feasible) futures and plans for getting there.

Now, are you going to tell me how you know personality tests are invalid? An applecart awaits.

Johnny Eleven said...

If you want evidence about a specific test, consulting Buros' Mental Measurements Yearbook is often an eye-opener. If only more employers would do that before using tests, eh?

Generally, personality tests have been found to be poor predictors of job performance, or of anything. When a job has been shown to require (sic) a specific trait, and a test can accurately assess that trait, then the test may be useful, but that is not evidence that personality is predictive.

In fact, any employer would be better off to develop its own selection test, which it can validate itself in conditions most suitable for its needs. Logically, the fact that a test has been validated elsewhere does not imply that the test will be valid when you use it. For one thing, the characteristics of the sample and other important characteristics will be different. Empirically, I can say that in my experience tests that reported adequate test characteristics have frequently failed to demonstrate adequate characteristics when I have evaluated the results of subsequent testing.

And of course if the tests are being used by people who couldn't name one of the important test characteristics, then their predictions are pretty likely to be invalid.