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Archive for June, 2010

Currently companies use psychological assessments in increasing numbers. Traditionally assessments have been considered to be good when they produce valid information about the candidate to the persons making the recruitment decision. This is the case also today, but increasingly companies have begun to pay attention to the candidate experience. Companies are competing with each other to get the best professionals available and candidate experience in the whole recruitment process seems to be a key factor in promoting good corporate image and thus creating an attractive company for talented employees. With well managed psychological assessment there is a lot of potential to create a positive candidate experience for both the candidates that will be selected to the position and also the candidates that are not selected.

How should an assessment be constructed to get the best possible candidate experience? Methods used in the assessment play a vital role and so does the general atmosphere during the assessment.  The most essential part is what happens after the assessment – has the candidate learned something valuable for the future? Maybe some insight about her behavior –  how to best use her assets and what kind of improvements would best help her to to move towards her valued goals?

The current paradigm about assessments is more about measurement than about development. It is even considered unfair or  not objective if some learning takes place during the assessment – that is considered to bias the assessment or future assessment. I think that measurement and development can be done simultaneously if we aim at developing work-related general competencies and not only the competency of “how to behave in an assessment to make the results seem good”. If we measure some general competencies that are needed in various positions and in measurement use excercises that also develop these competencies,  that is good both for the candidate experience and for the company recruiting: the candidate can strengthen competencies that are useful even though she would not be recruited as a result of the assessment.  She will probably associate this positive learning experience with the company and tell positive things about his experience (and the company). Is she is recruited, the company gets a candidate with increased competency.

Just think about the vast possibilities of promoting self-awareness and metacognition, communications skills and also some position-relevant competencies. Assessment has vast potential in both measuring and developing widely needed general competences needed in working life today: like understanding how to communicate with different people, how to network, sell own ideas to others, to organize own work in an efficient manner,  what to do when facing a completely new situation, how to operate in a complex organization where responsibilities are in continuous change, how to operate in a to understand the possibilities and limits of own resources when there is more than enough of work to be done.

In brief, my recipe for an assessment that develops relevant competencies and promotes positive candidate experience  is using a lot of work samples and work simulations  in assessment and giving the candidate the best possible tools for self-reflection and developing her ways of thinking and behaving in these situations. From the perspective of a consultant conducting assessment I have good experiences about simulations and work samples and the candidates assessed have also frequently given good feedback about this type of excercises. The best feedback usually is that the candidate has learned something about her behavior or has had some insight how to behave differently in some situations. For example,  a few days ago I participated to an assessment center that aimed at selecting  salespersons that should sell premium brand cars to very demanding customers. When given feedback one candidate thanked for the good experience because he had learned that even though he thought that he is able to do a very profound analysis of the customers needs he still tends to skip some parts in discussing the customer needs – now he had developed an insight what to discuss more with the client and at what stage to do that.  In addition to that, he had already earlier also developed a unique style in contacting the client by phone but was a bit unsure how it was received by the customer. He was very pleased about the positive feedback and was happy to discuss which for kind of situations his tactics would best suited.

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Photo credit: vanlaar, Flickr

The concept of self, the dynamics of the mind and the mechanisms of consciousness are ideas which, despite great advances in cognitive neuroscience and psychology, still remain unexplained. People operate smoothly in everyday life through these functions but their definition still somehow escapes the logic and reasoning of which minds are capable.

When a person becomes interested in taking a deeper look at his thought processes or in understanding the personal meaning of his existence, more questions may arise than answers. If thought processes or the feelings tied to them do not define who a person or what his mind is, what then does? If a person is for example able to separate the definition of his self from a maladaptive thought content and decide to attach it to a different thought content with more positive ramifications, what is the stable part of the self that defines who a person is?

The only thing that is stable, continuous and that one can truly be certain of is the experience of “I am”. The pure feeling of existence or existing is stable throughout life, while the cells in our body change and the functions of the mind undergo huge developments. The feeling of existence is the only thing that you can really count on and as such may be a great source of comfort and energy. When recognized, it can provide a feeling of continuation in the midst of the relentless transience of other aspects of life.

Many philosophies and even some religions concentrate on definition of the self, the soul or human existence. Some psychological constructs such as metacognition provide ways to cultivate self-perception and awareness, but ultimately it seems that the mind cannot be defined by thought functions generated within it. The self cannot be wholly defined and explained by the mind’s functions, because in the end, the self is more than only a collection of intellectual and emotional constructs.

Scientific attempts to define consciousness and the self are very rare even within psychology that as a science strives to analyze and explain human behavior. Most research concentrates on models of neural interaction, neurological correlates to psychological events or theoretical models of psychological functions. A comprehensive explanation of what the mechanisms that produce a concept of self are or how consciousness could be explained are apparently too vast questions about too ill-defined constructs for research. A quick search through one article database returned only 4 articles, with two of them concentrating on coma.

One brave article on the concept of self relies on the theory awareness and consciousness as only be by-products of neural interaction. According to this principle of organizational invariance for example replacing any or all of the neurons in a human brain with microchips that have the exact same excitatory and inhibitory functions as the neurons would not alter consciousness as a phenomenon. This idea starts coming pretty close to esoteric concepts of cosmic consciousness but takes us quite far from trying to understand specifically human existence. It seems that whilst waiting for means of more refined measurement of the mind and the brain, all that people can do is speculate.

So what is the point of this kind of thinking? It may not be fruitful action to spend the majority of one’s time thinking about how to define the self and one’s existence. However,  as a thought for the mind to experience, these kinds of themes may provide a refreshing sense of release. Thoughts and feelings as events happening in the mind have such definitive and profound effects of people’s lives. They can be detrimental to the point of making someone seriously ill and on the other hand support long-lasting wellbeing and success in life. Recognizing the tremendous power and simultaneously the temporary nature of these internal constructions helps in creating a healthy perspective on life events. With more distance between the definition of self and the ongoing dynamic of feeling and thought, getting past negative happenings and concentrating on positive ones can become easier. Finding a more stable concept of self that does not follow the rollercoaster of emotional experience can provide a sense of security and enhance trust in oneself.

The nature of consciousness equips people with the ability to have control over their own thoughts and with the power of choice. The means to create happiness are within peoples’ minds but the point of access may be tricky to find. There is huge potential within every mind but at the same time the time for discovery is very limited. The distractions of everyday life take us along easily and most of the time in the midst of all this hurry it seems like a waste of time to take a moments to try and explain one’s existence. Maybe only posing the question from time to time is enough. Taking some time to ask and question vague concepts like meaning and existence can give the self a little holiday from endless definition and outer requirements.

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