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A screen test for success.

A Screen Test for Success

IN RECENT YEARS, METHODS OF SCREENING APPLICANTS for high-risk positions, including security and law enforcement, have come under increased scrutiny by legislators, administrators, and civil rights groups. These groups are concerned that particular questions that delve into a candidate's past behavior may be overly intrusive and not directly related to a candidate's ability to perform the job. Such questions include information on drug and alcohol use, past infractions of the law, and other antisocial behavior patterns.

Even when test results can be demonstrated to be job related, such invasions of privacy may violate First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. With the polygraph severely restricted as a preemployment tool, paper-and-pencil tests of negative behavior may also be limited for similar reasons by future legislation.

Procedures designed to assess candidates on some attributes or behaviors that may predict future job performance are often referred to as screening-out techniques. Typically, validation research is conducted to establish cutoff scores or minimum passing scores. Those not meeting the cutoff score on the test are failed and removed from the applicant pool.

While this procedure may seem appealing to employers, unreliability and measurement errors result in a group of false negatives. These are people who did not meet the cutoff score on the test but, if given an opportunity to work, could perform the job as well as true positives - those who do well on the test and on the job. Recognizing these problems in selection testing, restrictive legislation and employer wariness are increasing in the use of screening-out methods.

One alternative to screening out is to screen in applicants. Instead of focusing on negative attributes or behaviors that may hinder effective job performance, screening-in methods assess positive characteristics of the applicant that would maximize job performance.

In the past, such procedures have been used in promotional or developmental contexts, but they are now being tested for entry-level positions. The same rigorous validation and scientific research is necessary to ensure these tests measure what they purport to measure and are related to actual job performance.

This study was undertaken to assess the validity of such a screening-in test for security managers. The test used here is a 150-item true-false technique developed as a preemployment or promotional tool. Developed by the author, its goal is to identify characteristics and behavior patterns linked with success in the workplace. The five major scales used to measure an individual's success potential were candor, achievement history, social ability, winner's image, and initiative. Three of these scales contain additional content areas. The success quotient score is the total score for an individual on the five scales. (See Exhibit 1.) Exhibit 1 Scale Descriptions Candor (CA) Measures degree of defensiveness. Low scores suggest a desire to appear unusually virtuous and without fault. Low scores on this scale indicate that the other test scores may be inflated due to socially desirable responses. Achievement history (AH) Measures achievement in past jobs and school. High scores suggest excellence in academic or work history as well as past recognition for special skills or talents. General level of academic ability may be reflected in this scale. Social ability (SA) Measures level of sociability, social sensitivity, extroversion, and popularity. High scores suggest an outgoing, sales-type personality. High scores also indicate a people-oriented individual who is very socially active and concerned about gaining approval.

SA content areas

Extroversion (EX)

Measures tendency to be outgoing

and talkative. High scores suggest

an extroverted, outer-directed individual.

Popularity/charisma (PO)

Measures degree of popularity this

person has enjoyed. High scores

suggest a charismatic individual

who is well liked and frequently

chosen as a leader or spokesperson.

Sensitivity (SE)

Measures degree of sensitivity regarding

social approval. High

scorers are particularly aware of

how their behavior is being judged

and strive to gain approval. High

scorers become upset when they

feel they have said the wrong thing

or hurt someone's feelings. Winner's image (WI) Measures both self-confidence and competitive spirit. High scores suggest a person who feels like a winner most of the time and admits that he or she thrives on competition and challenge.

WI content areas

Competitive spirit (CO)

Measures competitive drive and

desire to be the best. High scores

suggest highly competitive individuals

who enjoy challenges and

work best when others are trying

to complete the same tasks. High

scores also indicate a person who

dislikes losing and will try hard

to be on top.

Self-worth (SW)

Measures self-confidence and

general sense of mastery over obstacles

in the world. High scorers

are sure of themselves and feel

they can do most things well.

Family achievement expectations (FE)

Measures achievement history of

the family as well as the level of

support and approval parents gave

to their children's accomplishments.

This scale identifies individuals

who were expected to

work hard and achieve when they

were young. High scores suggest

that parents gave approval only

when achievement deserved


Initiative (IN) Measures staying power and ability to plan and follow up on projects. High scores suggest a hard worker who is goal driven. Very high scores may also indicate workaholic tendencies.

IN content areas

Drive (DR)

Measures the tendency to go the

extra mile and strive for completion

of tasks and excellence. High

scorers tend to work harder than

their peers and demonstrate qualities

of workaholism. They also

show the ability to focus or concentrate

on tasks for long periods.

Preparation style (PS)

Measures the tendency to avoid

procrastination. High scorers tend

to complete work on time, organize

work when it is assigned, and

meet responsibilities in a timely

fashion. Low scorers complete

their work on or close to schedule,

but they tend to put it off.

Goal orientation (GO)

Measures the tendency to set personal

goals and strive to reach

them. High scorers are accustomed

to developing specific goals

and are most comfortable when

they can plan ahead.

Anxiety about organization (AX)

Measures level of concern regarding

completing assigned tasks

in a correct or timely manner.

Anxiety over incomplete or unsatisfactory

work is common for

high scorers, who try to meet responsibilities

so that they will not

feel guilty or pressured. Success quotient (SQ) Measures overall potential for success in the workplace. Raw scores over 70t suggest talent in specific areas and good potential for acceptable performance in an appropriate career. Raw scores over 90t indicate exceptional qualities, presence of entrepreneurial characteristics, and potential for excellent performance in the workplace. Scores over 110t suggest entrepreneurial interests and a preference for working either independently or with minimal supervision.

To examine its usefulness in managerial assessment, a large national security company administered this test to its senior, mid-level, and entry-level managers. This included nine senior managers (including vice presidents and five regional managers), 32 branch managers, and eight entry-level managers.

Two senior managers assigned each of the 49 tested individuals one of the following ratings:

* exceptional performance

* satisfactory performance

* unsatisfactory performance When both raters agreed a manager was either exceptional or unsatisfactory, he or she was placed into these categories for the study. Five managers (10 percent) were rated as exceptional while six (12 percent) were rated as unsatisfactory. The profiles of managers were analyzed to determine whether specific patterns could identify different management and performance levels.

THE PROFILES OF THE THREE different management levels were evaluated first. The average number of scales and content areas showing t-scores of 70 or higher was calculated for these management levels. (The t-score represents a standardized score that places the mean at 50 and the standard deviation at 10. Thus, only 2 1/2 percent of the norm population has a score of 70t.) Senior managers averaged three scales or content areas over 69t, middle managers averaged two scores while entry-level managers averaged one score above 69t. Scores over 59t were also averaged. Here, the senior managers averaged eight, middle managers averaged six, and entry-level managers averaged five scores over 59t as compared to previously normed entry-level job applicants.

The percentage of managers in each group who had at least one scale or content area over 69t was 100 percent for senior managers, 69 percent for middle managers, and 62 percent for trainees. Thus, individuals in higher managerial levels achieved higher scores (represented by the number of scores both one [60t] and two [70t] standard deviations above the mean). As management responsibilities increase, most people in these positions have at least one and often a number of exceptional personal characteristics and strengths.

When compared with entry-level job applicants, senior managers showed seven mean scores at least one standard deviation above the norm (see Exhibit 2). These scales and content areas were achievement history (69t), initiative (62t), candor (60t), popularity (65t), anxiety about organization (62t), sensitivity (61t), and competitive spirit (61t). No scales or content areas showed a mean score lower than one standard deviation below the mean.

This profile suggests a senior manager who is highly intelligent, popular (able to lead or guide others), candid about shortcomings, and sensitive about gaining the approval of others. These managers also showed an above-average ability to work long hours to reach goals and a comfort with competitive endeavors. They showed no areas of low scores, suggesting they were at least average on the other dimensions.

The mid-level managers in this company scored one standard deviation above the mean compared with entry-level job applicants on three scales or content areas of the test. (See Exhibit 3). These were candor (61t), popularity (62t), and achievement history (61t). No scores for middle managers averaged below a 46t, suggesting that this group had no indication of any weaknesses compared to entry-level job applicants. Rather, they appear to be bright, popular, and persuasive leaders who are also insightful regarding their own shortcomings.

The profile of the entry-level managers showed the same score evaluations found in the mid-level management group when compared to entry-level job applicants (see Exhibit 4). Compared to entry-level applicants, entry-level managers from this company were more achievement-oriented, popular, and insightful. They did not show any scores below the average level set by job applicants.

ANOTHER WAY TO EVALUATE the profiles of the three managerial levels is to view the cutoff score above which a person in each group would score in the top 2 percent compared to the others (or two standard deviations above the mean). Means and standard deviations were calculated and cutoffs scores at two standard deviations were compared whenever there was at least a two-item difference between groups. Formal statistical analyses were not conducted due to the small sample size in this study. Therefore, additional validation studies are needed to support these results.

Senior managers scored higher than mid-level managers on achievement history, while mid-level managers scored higher than senior managers on initiative. This may indicate that the senior managers may be smarter, but the mid-level managers are striving harder to achieve goals. It makes sense that mid-level managers would demonstrate more initiative since they are still working toward promotion, while the senior managers have already earned their positions in the company.

Senior managers scored higher than entry-level managers on achievement history, social ability, popularity, and sensitivity. Middle managers scored higher than entry-level managers on social ability, initiative, and popularity. However, the entry-level managers scored higher than middle managers on achievement history. This group of entry-level managers appeared to be very bright but needs time to develop the social skills and work habits necessary to sustain a managerial career.

Only five individuals out of the 49 tested were rated as truly exceptional in their company by both senior management raters. Four of the five exceptional managers (80 percent) could be identified by the following profile:

* presence of at least one scale or content area over 69t

* presence of the initiative scale in the three highest content scores (when t-scores are rated in descending order for CA, AH, SA, WI, and IN)

* achievement history score no higher than third in the above ranking of the three highest scores

* winner's image score not included in the three highest scores and not tied for third

While use of this profile correctly identified 80 percent of the exceptional managers in this company, only one person whose scores fit the profile was not rated as exceptional. Thus, the false positive rate using this profile was only 2 percent.

These results provide some interesting insights to this company's managerial staff. First, an exceptional manager who is recognized by his or her supervisors must show at least one major strength as measured on the test. This is generally in the social skills area, though it can be elsewhere.

Next, a good manager must be used to working hard to achieve goals. Three of the five exceptional managers had a score on initiative of 69t or higher. All five exceptional managers showed initiative in the top three ranking of their five scores. This suggests that to be recognized by management, work habbits bordering on workaholism must be present. Without a driven nature or very serious work orientation, recognition is unlikely in this highly professional and competitive company.

On the other hand, while the 49 managers exhibited achievement history scores well above the average for entry-level job applicants (their mean fell at 62t), achievement history as the highest relative strength did not appear to be a prerequisite for excellence in management. It may be that academic skills or just pure intelligence can actually hinder the success of a career in this company if strong social skills, initiative, or candor with accompanying humility is not clearly present in equal or greater force.

In another large security company, a document distributed to the staff in charge of hiring branch managers warned them not to hire anyone with a professional degree. These managers will run small divisions of the company themselves with full responsibility and accountability for profit and loss statements.

While it might seem that a professional degree would be helpful, experience in this field has shown that business sense does not come in textbooks. Of course, most succesful managers show higher levels of achievement than the average entry-level applicant. However, this measure of intellectual achievement should not be a dominant feature.

Another interesting characteristic of the exceptional managers' test results was that not one of the five exceptional managers showed a winner's image scale among their top three scores. They did show an average score in this scale (a mean of 48t) when compared with entry-level job applicants. Since the winner's image scale is made up of three content areas - competitive style, self-worth, and family achievement expectations - these areas were further analyzed.

The exceptional managers scored slightly above average on competitive spirit (57t), average on self-worth (49t), and below average on family achievement expectations (37t). This profile suggests a slightly competitive individual who has an average amount of self-confidence and comes from a family that was not particularly achievement oriented.

For the most part these managers were not pressured from an early age to make something of themselves through professional study or academic accomplishments. They also do not appear to have an abrasive self-confidence or overly developed competitive drive that could turn off supervisors, clients, or coworkers. Rather, it is their devotion to hard work and their leadership skills that may lead to outstanding ratings from their supervisors.

SIX INDIVIDUALS (12 PERCENT OF the managers) were rated by two senior managers as unsatisfactory or in the lowest 15 percent with regard to job performance. As a group, these managers scored close to one standard deviation below the mean for entry-level job applicants on the extroversion content area (41t). They scored one standard deviation above the mean of entry-level applicants on achievement history (64t) and initiative (60t). Therefore, while they were smart and hardworking, they appeared to be introverts who admitted feeling uncomfortable speaking in front of large groups.

To profile the unsatisfactory individuals, managers with less than four scores above 59t were identified. Using this cutoff score, three of the six unsatisfactory mangers (50 percent) were identified. Only 10 managers (20 percent of the entire management group) had fewer than four scales over 59t. Since three of these were rated as unsatisfactory, 16 percent of the managers rated as satisfactory by their supervisors would be falsely rated as unsatisfactory using this cutoff score. Therefore, to identify 50 percent of the unsatisfactory managers, a false-positive rate of 16 percent would have to be tolerated.

In examining the three remaining profiles of managers who were rated as unsatisfactory, it was clear why two received low ratings. One manager had the lowest score on the candor scale in the entire sample. This manager had endorsed only one item whereas the norm was over six items and was the only individual in that job level who had a candor scale score under six.

Another manager rated as unsatisfactory had scores on social ability, extroversion, and sensitivity under 41t, with achievement history, initiative, and competitive spirit all over 69t. With such a fluctuation in scores - suggesting a bright, competitive, hardworking individual with extremely limited social skills - it is not surprising this manager would have some difficulty coping with a management position.

While it will never be possible to identify every exceptional and unsatisfactory individual based on a paper-and-pencil test, the results found in this study are encouraging. These profiles may prove quite useful to upper management once company profiles for specific job categories have been established.

For more information on the Hilson Personnel Profile/Success Quotient (HPP/SQ [TM]), contact Hilson Research Inc., PO Box 239, 82-28 Abingdon Road, Kew Gardens, NY 11415, or call 718/805-0063.

PHOTO : Exhibit 2 Profile of Senior Managers

PHOTO : Exhibit 3 Profile of Mid-Level Managers

PHOTO : Exhibit 4 Profile of Entry-Level Managers

About the Author . . . Robin Inwald, Ph.D., is founder and director of Hilson Research Inc. She has written over 40 articles on psychological screening and is an expert in preemployment screening. Inwald is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:screening-in test for security managers; includes related information
Author:Inwald, Robin
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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