Computerized and online Testing

Computerized testing is increasingly replacing conventional paper, pencil and manual test. Many firms such as FedEx-Kinko’s have applicants take online or offline computerized tests – sometimes by phone using the touch tone keypad, sometimes online to quickly prescreen applicants prior to more in depth interviews and background checks. Service firms like Unicru process and score online pre-employment tests from employers’ applicants.

Most of the tests are available in computerized form. These include numerical ability tests, reading comprehension tests, and clerical comparing and checking tests. Automated in basket tests required job candidates to deal with a virtual inbox comprised of e-mails phone calls and documents and folders to assess the candidates’ decision making and problem solving skills. Candidates for architectural certification solve online architectural problems, for instance, designing building layout to fit specified space constraints.

City Garage Example; City Garage, a 200 employee chain of 25 auto service and repair shops in Dallas Fort Worth implemented a computerized testing program to improve its operations. The original hiring process consisted of a paper and pencil application and on interview, immediately followed by a hire / don’t hire decision. The result was high turner and too few managers to staff new stores. This inhibited the firm’s growth strategy.

City Garage’s top managers’ solution was to purchase the Personality Profile Analysis online test from Dallas based Thomas International USA. Doing so added a third step to the application and interview process. After a quick application and background check, likely candidates take the 10 minute, 24 question PPA. City Garage staff then enter the answers into the PPA software system, and test results are available in less than two minutes. These show whether the applicant is high or low in four personality characteristics. It also produces follow up questions about areas that might cause problems. For example, applicants might be asked how they’ve handled possible weaknesses such as lack of patience in the past. If candidates answer those questions satisfactorily they’re asked back for extensive all day interviews after which hiring decisions are made. The new process seems to have improved City’s financial performance considerably.

Capital One Example: Several years ago, capital One financial as using three paper and pencil tests for pre-employment screening a cognitive skills test, a math test, and a bio data job history test (which the firm uses to predict job stability). The process was time consuming and inefficient: In Tampa they had to process several thousand people a month just to hire 100, says a company officer. The company’s new online system eliminates the paper and pencil process. Call center applicants working online complete the application and the upgraded math and bio data tests (which might include number of years on last job, and distance from the nearest capital to office). They also take an online role playing call simulation. They are out on a headset and the program plays seven different customer situations. Applicants (playing the role of operators) answer multiple choice questions online as to how they would respond. The company is in the process of expanding test online pre-employment testing program to the United Kingdom and France.

Gender Issues in testing:

Employers using selection tests should know that gender issues may distort the results. TV commercials for children’s toys adhere to the fact that gender role socialization is a continuing reality. In particular parents and others often socialize girls into traditionally female roles and boys into traditionally male roles. There is thus a continuing over representing of women in a small number of pink collar jobs such as waitress and secretary and in the traditionally female professions, including nursing, teaching and social work, and a continuing under representing in traditional male areas such as engineering and the sciences. Such stereotypes are changing. One recent study found that both male and female managers are rating women more as leaders than they did 15 and 30 years ago.

Yet gender role socialization does influence men’s and women’s test results. For example, it can influence the occupational interest for which candidates express a preference. Males tend to score higher on aptitude tests in what so view as male fields (such as mechanical reasoning). The test results may thus ironically perpetuate the narrowing of female career options.