HR for Line Managers and Entrepreneurs

What should you do if you are, say, the marketing manger, and want to screen some of your job applicants more formally? It is possible to devise your own test battery, but caution is required here. Purchasing and then using packaged intelligence tests or psychological tests or even tests of mechanical ability could be a problem. Doing so may violate company policy, raise questions of validity, and even expose your employer to EEO liability if problems arise.

A preferred approach is to devise and use screening tools, the face validity of which is obvious. The simple work sampling test we discussed is one example. It’s not unreasonable, for instance, for the marketing manger to ask an advertising applicant to spend an hour designing an ad, or to ask a marketing research applicant to spend a half hour outlining a marketing research program for a hypothetical product. Similarly, a production manager might reasonably ask an inventory control applicant to spend a few minutes for a standard inventory control model to solve an inventory problem.

However, even with relatively trouble free tests like these the hiring manager needs to keep guidelines.

In particular, you should protect the test taker’s privacy take to ensure that the person’s rights are protected and endeavor to ensure that the tests you devise are indeed a valid sample of the job.

For the small business owner, it is wise to keep in mind that while one or two hiring mistakes may not be disastrous in a big firm, they could wreak havoc in a small operation that doesn’t have the resources to bounce back. A formal testing program is thus advisable.

It is also practical. Some tests are so easy to use they are particularly good for smaller firms. One is the Wonderlic Personnel Test, which measures general mental ability. It takes less than 15 minutes to administer the four stage booklet. The tester reads the instructions, and then keeps time as the candidates work through the 50 problems on the two inside sheets. The tester scores the test by totaling the number of correct answers. Comparing the person’s score with the minimum scores recommended for various occupation shows whether the person achieved the minimally acceptable score for the type of job in question. The Predictive Index is another example. It measures work related personality traits, drives, and behaviors in particular dominance, extroversion, patience, and blame avoidance on a two-sided sheet. A template makes scoring simple. The Predictive Index program includes 15 standard personality patterns. For example, there is the “social interest” pattern for a person who is generally unselfish, congenial, persuasive, patient, and unassuming. This person would be good personnel interviewer for instance.

Computerized self scoring testing programs are especially useful for small employers. When hiring office help many smaller employers rely on informal typing and filling tests. A better approach is to use a program like the Minnesota Clerical Assessment battery published by Assessment Systems Corporation. It runs on a PC, and includes a typing test, proofreading test, filling test, business vocabulary test, business math test, and clerical knowledge test.

City Garage, a 200-employee chain of 25 auto service and repair shops in Dallas-Fort Worth, illustrates how one small business used attesting program to improve its operation. It had expanded rapidly since it’s founding in 1993, but its employee screening procedure was quite informal. The hiring process consisted of a paper-and-pencil application and one interview, immediately followed by a hire/don’t hire decision. The result was high turnover and too few managers to staff new stores.

City garage’s top managers knew they’d never be able to implement their growth strategy without a dramatic change in how they tested and hired employees. Their 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-minutes, 24-question PPA. City Garage staff then enter the answer 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 weakness 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.

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