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Three Guiding Principles of Effective Assessment


Assessments constitute one of several tools in the Consulting Psychologist’s toolbox. There are numerous standardized and customized assessments that can be used to gather data about clients - whether they are individuals, groups or organizations. This data can support the selection of candidates or development of team members. Testing can help an individual to decide on the best career path or can provide a clear indicator of fitness-for-duty. Virtually every type of work that consultants do can benefit from collated information about clients’ mental ability, personality, work style, conflict handling style, career interests, and/or emotional intelligence. Assessments are used to analyze an organization’s culture, to identify implicit bias, and to The range of options and how they can be applied in consulting work can sometimes seem overwhelming. Here are our three guiding principles for effective assessment in consulting.

1. Use Multiple Sources of Data:

Use multiple assessments to support the conclusions that you are drawing about an assessment candidate. For example, we use two different tests of mental ability, and we use several tests that indicate emotional intelligence or interpersonal style. Results from such tests are typically consistent, and therefore strengthen the conclusions that you can draw as the evaluator. However, we do not only rely on assessments. Information that we gather from interviews with candidates and hiring managers is also valuable data for the assessment process. This approach is akin to triangulation of data in research: the validity of your findings is strengthened when data from multiple sources support similar conclusions.

2. Be Caring:

Many candidates approach assessments with some anxiety. They worry about the results shining a glaring spotlight on their perceived weaknesses, and about the implications for the job or promotion that they are hoping for. As the assessor, there is value in treating candidates with care and thoughtfulness. One of the ways that we do this is with a High Touch Call. This conversation takes place shortly after the candidate receives their assessment instructions. We talk with them about the steps involved, any previous experience of assessment, and provide an opportunity for them to ask questions or express concerns. The HTC allows us to offer reassurance where necessary, and our consultants remain available and responsive to candidates throughout the assessment process. Regardless of the reasons for an assessment, it should be developmental, that is, it should highlight strengths and growth areas with language that is empowering, supportive, and solution-oriented. This could be described as operating with a Humanistic Ethic. Read more about the Humanistic Ethic and development work in this article.

3. Focus on Fit:

The data that we gather from assessments can be very intriguing. They provide insights into an individual’s or team’s behavioral tendencies across a wide range of dimensions. We can sometimes get so caught up in the fine details of the data that we lose sight of the objectives of the assessment. Make sure that your final report, which interprets the data, speaks specifically to the position requirements and the current situation or story of the client. For example, in selection, which aspects of the job description would be linked to strengths and development areas for the candidate? How does the candidate meet the stated needs of the organization and what developmental investment might they expect to make through training?

Watch this space for Part 2 on Effective Assessments!

Dr. Makesha Spence is Principal Consultant at DRI Consulting.