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Three More Guiding Principles for Effective Assessment in Consulting

This is the second of two blogs on the principles that we apply in using assessments effectively in our consulting psychology work with individuals, teams, and organizations. In part two, we highlight the importance of transparency, providing a clear bottom line, and tailoring assessments and reports to the needs of the client.

4. Be Transparent:

Assessments are often cloaked in secrecy, leaving the candidate with a sense that something is being done to them, and they have little power in the process. We have championed an Open Notes approach, which makes assessment results visible to candidates as they become available. Candidates are also able to view and comment on the consultant’s report, and their feedback is included in the final version of the report. With the open notes approach, the candidate knows exactly how he or she tested and can benefit from that data whether or not he or she gets the job. In developmental settings, the employee is able to see how his testing objectively reinforces (or differs from) adjusting feedback received from colleagues. The developmental plan can then be collaboratively designed so that the needs of the employee and the organization are met. This approach also allows the assessee to see the relationship between their scores and the final report.

Another advantage of being transparent is that it supports ongoing communication with the candidate. We once had a candidate who completed her testing on time - but her scores on a cognitive ability assessment were below average. In seeing her scores, she shared that she had struggled to focus during the testing because she had lost her father a few days before. This was supported by the fact that she had completed a similar cognitive test a couple of years before and her scores had been significantly higher. We were able to include this information in the final report. Another candidate (doing development assessment) showed an obvious change in leadership style in routine re-testing after a few years. He moved from being proactive and action-oriented to being more supportive in his leadership orientation. In probing with him, we came to understand that his confidence in assuming certain leadership roles had been affected by a stroke and the attendant after-affects. This admission opened the door to candid conversation about his ability to cope with the demands of the position and his hopes for the future.

The client organization - typically represented by the Human Resource professional and the hiring manager - will also have access to the candidates’ results. Where organizations have used assessments over a period of time, they may be able to compare a candidate’s scores to the overall norms for the organization, and therefore have an indication of the degree of fit relative to the norms. This provides data that can support other aspects of the selection process, including the formal interview.

This focus on transparency is rooted in our firm’s humanistic ethic. Learn more about this philosophy here.

5. Provide a Clear Bottom Line

Some consulting firms send generic reports to the hiring client which provide information about the candidate or employee but make no explicit recommendations about their suitability for the position. We provide a clear bottom line including the following:

  • The candidates's test performance relative to specific needs for the position as indicated by the Job Description, and a conversation with the hiring manager. This includes understanding the history of the position, the culture of the department, and the strengths and weaknesses of the team*;

  • A rating of the candidate overall out of 5 points, using the following rubric: 5 = well above average; 4 = above average; 3 = average; 2 = below average; 1 = well below average;

  • When assessing multiple candidates, we identify the strongest candidate based on their testing and diagnostic interview, and the organization’s information as shared above*.

6. Tailor Assessment to the Needs of the Client

At DRIC, we use a range of different assessments that examine personality, working style, leadership, mental ability, emotional intelligence, professional interest and skill, and conflict management style, among others. We organize these assessments into batteries with increasing numbers of tests depending on how detailed the analysis of the candidate needs to be. Organizations find these batteries useful. However, we are also clear that an organization’s assessment needs should not be compressed into pre-existing batteries. Instead, we take the time to hear what is required and tailor our assessments to be responsive. One company prefers to use a combination of its own competency model, a mental ability test, and a personality test. Another company chose us to do selection assessments because we were willing to integrate tests that they had been using for years. Not only is our choice of assessment approach tailored to the needs of the client, so are the reports. They address specific questions and concerns from the prospective employer that the testing can assess. They identify strengths and weaknesses associated with the job description. We also maintain dialogue with the client organization throughout the process and will make changes and adjustments where necessary. In addition, we request evaluative feedback from the candidates and the client organization to ensure that we are responsive to any areas for improvement or any changes that the client would find helpful for the future. Fundamentally, we exist to serve our clients. Therefore, the work that we do must be as useful to them as is possible.

To Recap, we encourage the following in doing selection and development assessments:

  1. Use Multiple Sources of Data

  2. Be Caring

  3. Focus on Fit

  4. Be Transparent

  5. Provide a Clear Bottom Line

  6. Tailor Assessment to the Needs of the Client

Read about the first three assessment principles here.

To what extent do you use these principles in your assessment work with clients?

Dr. Makesha Spence is Principal Consultant at DRI Consulting.

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