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.
A recent report summarized here suggests that personality testing is the fastest growing segment of the pre-employment testing market. The survey of HR professionals revealed that the percentage of respondents whose firms used personality tests has grown from 21% to 59% in the last five years alone. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of misconceptions about what personality tests are, and how they should be used. Since we get so many questions about how personality tests work, from both HR professionals and job candidates, I thought I'd try to explain some of the basics.