A Positioning Paper by Dan Harrison, Ph.D.
Using Interviews to Assess Job Behaviour
In the past, interviews have been used as the primary means to assess attitude, motivation, and job behaviour. However, even if interviewers are extremely intuitive, there are many reasons why accurately assessing job behaviour with a normal interview process is nearly impossible.
- Interviewers do not have access to a real behavioural success formula. There are dozens of behavioural factors that either promote success or inhibit success for any one job. Interviewers rarely have access to a job formula that identifies the behavioural success factors, weights the success factors against each other. And formulates how different levels of these success factors impact job performance.
- Even if the interviewer has access to such a formula, the interviewer would need to accurately assess specific levels of each applicant’s behaviour for each of the job success factors.
- Some people are skillful at being interviewed. However, being skillful at an interview usually does not relate to job success and therefore it often confuses them into thinking that such skillfulness will relate to job success.
- The interviewee aims to tell the interviewer what he/she thinks will be viewed as the best response. The interviewer aims to determine how much of what the person is saying reflects genuine attitudes and behaviour and how much is related to just trying to get the job. This in itself is extremely difficult to resolve in the short period of the interview.
- Interviewers are biased. Research clearly shows that interviewers routinely give favourable responses to people who are similar to themselves, and less favourable responses to people who are different from themselves. In the end, the result is very likely to come down to how well the interviewer likes the candidate rather than how well the candidate fits the behavioural requirements of the job.
Many interviewers claim insights into the personality of applicants and certainly some interviewers are quite perceptive. However, predicting job success is an entirely different matter. It is not sufficient to perceive a particular quality of a person. Rather, the interviewer must be able to accurately assess the magnitude of each of dozens of qualities in relationship to a complex formula of behavioural requirements for a particular job. This is nearly an impossible task without the aid of significant research and tools.
Assessment research shows that interviewing has a moderate ability to predict job success. However, this doesn’t mean that interviewers can predict job behaviour. The moderate ability to predict job success comes as a result of exploring the candidate’s resume, previous experience, education, and job knowledge rather than the interviewer’s ability to predict job behaviour. If you doubt my assertion, I suggest you try the following experiment. Have your interviewers conduct the interview without ever seeing the resume and without discussing past experience, education or skills. Then have them write down their job success prediction. Later, you can compare this prediction to the actual job success. In fact, conducting interviews in this way would be so difficult that I doubt anyone would even attempt it.
In comparison, an effective job behaviour assessment can obtain a moderate level of predictive accuracy for job performance on its own, without any knowledge of eligibility or any interview.
This is a significant achievement because the eligibility has not been factored into the prediction. However, the value of job behaviour assessment is much greater than simply its ability to predict job success on its own. By using an effective job behaviour assessment at the interview, the interviewer obtains the tools to transform the interview into a genuine discussion about the person’s real fit for the job as well as the person’s likely level of job satisfaction. Thus, using the results of a behavioural assessment during the interview process greatly increases the ability to predict job behaviour. When this approach is combined with a systematic assessment of eligibility, the ability to predict job performance is increased even further.
Job Behaviour Assessments As Compared To Personality Assessments
Personality Assessments have been available for about 60 years. Some of them have obtained a great deal of validation research. However, it is important to understand that they are not actually job behaviour assessments and such validation is not relevant to job performance. In most cases, the validation simply means that the assessment favourably compares with other means of assessing personality. Many people are fooled into thinking that this large amount of research indicates that they are valid and useful tools for job assessment. In fact, many of those assessments specifically state that the instrument does not predict job performance. It makes no sense to use an assessment for job selection that was never designed for the workplace and has no ability to predict job performance. Some people say that they can effectively use personality assessments for employee development. However, this also makes no sense. The main point of employee development is to improve performance and if an assessment does not measure the factors that relate to job performance, how can it significantly help to develop employees?
What Are the Key Factors of an Effective Job Behaviour Assessment?
According to my 20 years experience in job behaviour assessment, there are several key factors that enable a behavioural assessment to effectively predict performance. These include:
- The ability of the assessment to measure more than 100 traits
- A questionnaire that is work focused
- The ability to detect false answers and to pierce self-deception
- Performance research that is used to create job success formulas for specific jobs
- Reports that are job specific, numerically quantified and easy to understand.
- The ability to weight and integrate eligibility score and job behaviour assessment scores
Measuring a Sufficient Number of Traits
It is not practical to develop a separate behavioural assessment for each job or even each job type. Therefore, nearly all job behaviour assessments assess people using one questionnaire and then try to evaluate the answers for different jobs. However, our research has shown that less than 25% of the traits measured in a behavioural questionnaire relate to job success for any one given job. Therefore, to be effective, a job behaviour assessment needs to measure many different traits in order to have a sufficient number of traits that relate to job success for any one given job. Most behavioural assessments measure only 10 to 30 traits. They try to overcome this problem by measuring norms of different types of jobs. For example, they do research that identifies managers as having certain traits, like “energy” for example. This is merely a distraction from the real purpose, which is to identify the traits that relate to performance. There is no benefit to hiring people who fit the profile of an average manager, especially when more than 75% of the traits are completely irrelevant to job performance. I have helped thousands of companies assess employees and I have never had a single customer that aims to hire average employees. They would be very unhappy if they knew that an assessment at best would help them to hire average managers and three quarters of what was being considered in the assessment was completely unrelated to job success
In order to effectively measure job success, job behaviour assessments must measure at least 100 different traits and each job needs to have a formula or template of at least 20 traits that relate to performance. In addition, each trait must have its own formula regarding how different amounts of that trait impact performance. Finally, each trait must be weighted against the other traits according to its impact on performance. That is why the Harrison Assessments system measures 156 traits and is built on a body of research that relates to job performance.
The need to measure more than 100 traits creates a great challenge for job behaviour assessments. Measuring more than 100 traits would normally require more than a full day of testing. However, in this age of talent competition, few qualified applicants are willing to spend a full day for one job application. Harrison Assessments has overcome this problem by creating a high tech questionnaire in which there are 16 groups of 8 statements. In each group, the 8 statements are ranked against each other. In addition, each statement appears in 2 different groups, enabling the computer to cross-reference all of the answers against each other. By comparing each statement to every other statement on the questionnaire, a total of 8103 comparisons are obtained. This is equivalent to 2,701 multiple choice questions and more than a full day of multiple choice testing!
Work Focused Questionnaire
One of the most obvious but often overlooked issues about job behaviour assessment is having a questionnaire that focuses on work related issues. Job-related questions are much more effective because they focus on the goal of job behaviour assessment rather than requiring a step of personality measurement that then has to be interpreted in terms of job behaviour. Consequently, questionnaires that focus on work related issues are much more likely to predict job success. Having the questions more focused on job-related issues also provides the benefit of making the assessment research much more transferable across cultures. Generalised personality questions nearly always have culturally influenced significance that makes answers to such questions quite different across cultures. Research related to questionnaires that focus on personality factors rather than work related issues are not likely to be transferable across cultures.
Overcoming self-deception and/or intended deception
One of the biggest challenges of any behavioural assessment is to determine how truthfully the person has answered the questions. How can an assessment determine if the person has given truthful answers? Many personality assessments attempt to determine this by offering to answer seemingly opposite options along with an additional answer option called “in between.” If there are too many answers of “in between,” the results are considered invalid. While this may provide a slight indication of answer reliability, it is an extremely weak method. In many cases the most truthful answer may in fact be “in between.” Therefore, this method is not reliable.
There are several important interconnected ways to overcome the problem of untruthful answers.
First, it is best to provide answer options that need to be ranked rather than rated or scored.
Forced ranking requires the person to designate their priorities.
Harrison Assessments use cross-referencing to determine if the person’s answers are consistent with themselves. If a person answers untruthfully when ranking a large number of statements, it is extremely difficult to maintain a high level of consistency. Even if the person were to remember all the rankings exactly, it would still be difficult to meet or exceed the consistency requirement. Each statement appears two times and each time it appears it is ranked against other statements that are completely different. To maintain consistency, the person would have to mentally perform thousands of cross-references. If the answers are more than 10% inconsistent, Harrison Assessments considers that either the person has not paid sufficient attention to the answers or has deliberately attempted to deceive the assessment. In either case, the results are not considered valid.
Harrison Assessments has further mechanisms that prevent and detect deception. The questionnaire only includes statements relating to positive behaviours. Therefore, all of the statements are generally perceived as desirable. In addition, even if the person attempts to give the desirable answer, their own behaviour patterns dictate which answers they consider desirable. For example, if a person tends to be very frank and direct, they will consider this tendency to be their virtue as well as a desirable answer.
The Harrison Assessments system includes a further layer of lie detection by analysing the paradoxical relationships between the behavioural tendencies. Through such analysis, negative behaviour patterns can be determined without asking any negative questions and without the person having the slightest awareness that they have revealed their negative behaviour. If the person attempts to deceive the assessment, the negative behavioural patterns will become more exaggerated making them appear as poor candidates.
Job Specific, Numerically Quantified, and Easy to Understand Reports
If a behavioural assessment report simply describes the person’s behaviour or personality, each interviewer or interpreter will assign their own meaning to the behaviour or personality trait, usually based on their own bias rather than a formula of job success factors. This seriously detracts from the benefits of job assessment. The report must be focused on the specific job requirements and provide an overall score related to the suitability of the person’s overall behavioural patterns in relationship to the specific job. This must be such that it is easy to understand and not left to the interpretation of the person reading the report.
A job behaviour assessment must be based on performance research. Since the assessment is applied to many different jobs, there needs to be research that reveals which behaviours relate to job success. Without such research, how can anyone know how to interpret the results in relationship to a particular job? As stated previously, more than 100 factors must be measured in order to find a couple of dozen factors that relate to job success for a specific job. Without research, there is no good way to find those factors and it is virtually impossible to determine how different levels of each related factor will impact job success. In addition, only performance research enables you to accurately weight the success factors against each other according to their level of impact on job success. Harrison Assessments has a large and ever expanding body of research related to success factors for a wide variety of jobs.
The research must include a sample of good performers as well as poor performers. If the sample only includes good performers, there is no way to determine which factors differentiate good performance from poor performance, how to formulate different levels of each success factor, and how to weight the success factors in relationship to each other.
Integrating Eligibility and Job Behaviour Assessment Scores
Using assessments in a serial manner rather than an integrated manner is a frequent mistake that is made in assessment. For example, many people first eliminate the candidates who don’t meet the minimum requirements and then assess the remaining or final candidates for job behaviour. Then they select the candidates with the best work attitudes and relevant job behavioural. However, this is not effective because it does not help you to see the overall picture relating the person’s combined levels of eligibility and suitability. By scoring eligibility as recommended above, you can then combine the eligibility and behavioural scores. Harrison Assessments provides a facility for weighting each of the assessment types. These weightings are then used to calculate an overall score.
Summarising the Value and Challenges of Assessment
Effectively assessing both job behaviour and job eligibility is the essential foundation necessary to hire, retain and develop top talent. Assessment needs to quantify levels of eligibility as well as job success behaviours. To do so requires a job success formula. Interviewing does not effectively assess job behaviour unless it is conducted using a job behaviour assessment.
Effective job behaviour assessment requires the ability to measure more than 100 traits, a questionnaire that is work-focused, the ability to detect false answers and/or self-deception, a specific job success formula derived from performance research and clear reports that do not require interpretation.
Harrison Assessments meets all of the standards mentioned above providing a powerful tool for assessment. It enables you to build a strong foundation for your talent selection, retention and development.
HA is the only assessment method that:
- Uses a full spectrum of behavioural assessments, including personality, interests, work environment preferences and task preferences.
- Uses a high-tech questionnaire that provides the equivalent of a full day of testing in only 30 minutes.
- Uses a technological consistency detector that provides an extremely reliable validation of the authenticity of the answers.
- Can be effectively applied without professional interpretation.
- Uses the power of paradox to decipher subtleties and complexities of personality related to job performance.
- Offers complete customisation to specific job requirements.
- Offers a complete research database of success traits for different position types.
- Delivers cost-effective high correlation with actual job performance.
To find out more about Harrison Assessment click here.