Today's blog post is by Dr. Howard Wainer, who is the Distinguished Research Scientist at the National Board of Medical Examiners, as well as Professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Wainer received his Ph.D. from Princeton Univeristy, has won numerous scholarly awards, and spent 21 years as Principal Research Scientist in the Research Statistics Group at the Educational Testing Service. He is also, as far as we know, the only member of Criteria's Scientific Advisory Board to have swam the English Channel.
Last week the New York Times published an article on a possible Obama effect on test scores of black test takers. It was unusual for a major newspaper to publish a story on a social science study before that study has been published, let alone reviewed. But when you hear that so-and-so reported their results at some national conference, that isn't really peer reviewed either. The conference organizers have often only seen a 200 word description of what the researchers thought they would present. So although unusual, it's not entirely out of line to try to get the first step on a story like this, and the Times did circulate the study to some academics to get professional opinions.
In my last post I compared a speech given by Malcolm Gladwell in the spring to the content of his new book Outliers, and wondered what had happened to the employee selection angle he had promised in the speech. Well, no sooner did my post go live than my New Yorker magazine showed up in my mailbox with the answer — this week's cover story is an article by Gladwell entitled "Most Likely to Succeed: How do we hire when we don't know who's right for the job?"
Recently on a plane the guy beside me was reading the same book I was – Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. My fellow passenger didn't think this was remarkable as the airport bookstores had huge displays. Gladwell has become somewhat of a household name for his skill at popularizing social science through collecting compelling anecdotes. Blink and The Tipping Point were entertaining enough to read, and that's why the guy beside me had made an impulse purchase.
Today's blog post is the second by Dr. Howard Wainer, who is the Distinguished Research Scientist at the National Board of Medical Examiners, as well as Professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Wainer is also a member of Criteria's Scientific Advisory Board.
Last week the New York Times published an interview with the authors of Sway, a new book that documents a series of psychological forces that lead people to disregard logic and act irrationally. One chapter in Sway deals with the phenomenon of the job interview, and describes the "first date" format of job interview that is so ubiquitous in America today. Most job interviews resemble first dates because employers utilize an unstructured "get to know the candidate" approach in which the interviewers try to establish a rapport with the interviewee, discover common interests, and form an impression as to whether the candidate will be a "good fit" at the company. The problem with "first date" interviews is that asking candidates to "describe themselves" or assess their "strengths and weaknesses" too often leads to canned answers that don't reveal much about future performance.
The May-June edition of the APA's journal American Psychologist contains an important new study on the effectiveness and validity of employment testing. The study examines the predictive validity of testing in both educational and employment settings. There's a good summary of the study's findings on my favorite statistics blog. Essentially, the study shows that employment aptitude tests are a generally valid way of predicting a wide variety of aspects of job performance. It also contains encouraging conclusions about the fairness of aptitude tests.