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How to choose the best ones.

Tired of turnover? Don't trust your intuition? When it comes to making hiring decisions, a completed application form and an interview may not be enough. Add in the right pre-employment screening tool, and it can point you to the most appropriate person for the job. But with so many companies providing a multitude of assessments and consultation services, how do you know which ones to use?

"Identify the most important issues that you believe distinguish a good employee from one that is less satisfactory. Then look for the assessment instrument that handles those issues," suggests Dr. Mark Schemmer, director of research and development for assessments and testing at Pinkerton Services Group in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Screening surveys vary in quality, so take the time and effort to carefully ferret out the one best suitable for the available job opening at your company.

Names of businesses that offer pre-employment assessment tools can be found through industry associations, your local Chamber of Commerce, business development organizations, or the Small Business Administration. Visit the library and peruse The Mental Measurement Yearbook, a compendium of screening tools, tests, and their reviews, updated annually. Finally, contact the American Psychological Association, since developers of these instruments are often members of it.

From the above sources, be sure to gather comments from people who have actually hired the company or companies you're considering using.

A Peek At What's Out There

Pre-employment screening tools generally assess a person's values, character, behavior, and sales skills.

* Values. The Phase II Profile, from Lousig-Nont & Associates, publishers of written employment assessment surveys in Las Vegas, measures the candidate's propensity to steal, as well as values such as honesty, hard work, and dedication.

As part of The Reid System[R], several written, pre-employment screening tools from Reid Psychological Systems, developer of employment information systems in Chicago, are designed to evaluate an applicant's integrity, trustworthiness, and social behavior, including tendency toward substance use.

Pinkerton Services Group provides the Stanton Survey, to assess an applicant's attitudes toward policy compliance, theft, and severity of punishment given to persons apprehended for deviant behavior. Responses also identify frequency and magnitude of the applicant's past dishonest behavior.

* Character and behavior. Another Pinkerton screening tool assesses an applicant's trustworthiness, work motivation, adaptability and flexibility, and service orientation. The company's 160 true false item Stanton Profile objectively determines an individual's "desire to achieve tolerance of ambiguity in the work place, willingness to assist others, and personal reliability," quotes the test manual.

* Selling skills. Lousig-Nont's Sales Success Profile measures aggression and assesses 13 areas of a person's selling strengths and weaknesses. The pattern of answers reveals interpersonal communication skills and the person's ability to handle rejection, manage their time, and qualify and close sales.

Applicants most likely to generate the highest sales can be detected by the Reid Sales Productivity Scale. "Research indicates that these individuals are more service oriented and proactive in selling," says Gary Koeb, marketing manager.

Ten Questions To Ask

Once you've narrowed down your search, make sure you read the manual that accompanies each instrument. It should provide information about the technical measurement properties of the tool, such as how the tool was developed and what it does or doesn't intend to assess, among other things. Then, make sure you ask the company the following questions:

* Does the tool target skills relating to the demands of the job? A lot of instruments give a great deal of information, but unless it directly ties in with the skills and qualifications of the position, it is useless.

* How valid is the tool? Some universities conduct studies to test whether the instrument does what it says and if it worked well for other employers. The company should provide you with documentation.

* How reliable is the tool? If one person takes the same instrument several times, he or she should get basically the same score each time. Ask the company for information about this.

* Is the tool nondiscriminatory? A reputable pre-employment assessment survey meets the guidelines of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It won't screen out anyone based on age, religion, sex, ethnicity, or disability.

* Does the tool avoid invasion of privacy? If the screening tool inquires about marital status, family life, or child rearing plans, that's illegal. Stay away from it.

* How much does it cost? Good pre-employment assessment tools are relatively inexpensive. If one company insists otherwise, move on to the next.

* How long does the tool take? The shorter the instrument, the less prone it can be to error, because applicants won't tire out as easily. The optimum length is 10-25 minutes.

* How quickly does the company tabulate results? Look for one that promises scores, with some narrative assessment, no later than a week after administration. Some can provide immediate turnaround.

* How does the company help interpret the results? As part of their complete hiring system, EASI (Employee Administrative Services Inc.) Systems, of Forth Worth, Texas, offers training on this. Pinkerton Services Group provides follow-up questions you can ask the applicant, based on the person's screening survey responses. Their analysts also can assist you in scoring.

* What other services does the company provide? Pinkerton gives you a standard report outlining statistics for your store, such as the number of applicants taking the survey and how many have been accepted and rejected. For larger retail operations, some pre-employment screening service companies provide compliance reports to help monitor the program, by location.

Be Positive

Make sure you present the screening process to your applicants in a positive manner. Know the difference between a test and a survey, profile or inventory so you can refer to it properly.

"A test evaluates cognitive skills, allegories and math, and requires truly right or wrong answers," says Linda Rosene, executive vice president of EASI Systems. "The others often measure trustworthiness, reliability, or sales skills, and any answer given by the applicant is true for him or her.

"Unless you're administering a test, don't say the word, 'test.' It has negative connotations for many people. You want to present these assessment tools in a non-threatening way, and assure your applicants you are treating them fairly and professionally."

Hire Only The Best

No doubt, it's quite a process trying to select good, reliable employees. So, plan ahead and be equipped. Know the job you're offering, and the kind of person you want to fill it. Then, spend the money and time to carefully interview and screen applicants - with the right tools.

Both you and the applicant will jump through a number of hoops by the time you reach the end of your act. But by then, if you've done everything right, you're both applauding - when you hire only the best.

Claire Sykes is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Taking the Test: Pre-Employment Screening Tools, part 2
Author:Sykes, Claire
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1998
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