One of the ethical rules that psychologists obey is the need to keep psychological test material secure and confidential. For example American Psychological Association APA has very clear rules about confidentiality about test material and results. It is understandable that for example disclosure of right answers in some intelligence test might jeopardize its’ validity because the situation that should be new for everyone taking the test would be familiar. In the same way, ethical rules for psychologists demand that psychologists do not reveal any other test items or information about what they measure. Disclosure has the potential to invalidate the accuracy of psychological tests and thus harm clients of psychologists who require accurate and valid assessment of their psychological attributes. Psychologists should therefore be mindful of these principles in handling psychological test material and releasing this material.
Keeping the individual’s test results confidential is a principle that every psychologist obeys and I don’t want to question this. However, I would like to play with the thought that what would happen if there would be more publicity in the field of psychology and about tests in general – if more and more non-personal test material would be public, what kind of effects would it have? Would making different test more public help psychologists in their mission to help people develop their self-consciousness and help people realize their fullest potential? Would test development be ruined or be more effective?
Anyway, some copies of well-known tests seem to appear in the internet anyway – and a lot of self-help tests with more or less psychological knowledge behind them. And unfortunately, a lot of “helpful advice” also seems to exist on how to answer to different tests to appear smart, outgoing etc.
I sometimes wonder what would be better – to keep the test material as a professional secret as it is today or to systematically share some test information. Is possessing some critical information about tests the strenght of psychologists today or would sharing some of this possessed information be a more powerful strength? I’m a huge fan of Linus Torvalds because of what he managed to do with open source software and I would very much hope some kind of similar development in the field of psychology when developing psychological tests.
Even if everything could not be shared, where could we begin? I’ve already seen some very promising applications that provide pre-screening of some mental problems – giving some preliminary answers to persons with problems that should they seek professional help or are their problems in the range on normal difficulties that can be mastered alone or with the help of friends.
Finnish employment offices also have some personality and motivation tests that give guidance to young people about what kind of professions they should choose. It’s just a shame that the professions are nor the same any more but are in continuous change and so also the tests seem to get old faster than a group of professionals have the time and resources to develop them. I think that this nicely illustrates the need for some co-operation and increased openness.
Professional life today is changing more quickly than ever thus creating new challenges for people and their mental health. This is where psychologists should join their strengths together and also listen to the feedback of their clients. I’m afraid that just individual groups of psychologists cannot do this but we would really need broad activity within psychologists and the clients utilizing psychological information. I don’t have specific answers what should we psychologists do right now about this challenge – maybe more thorough feedback about test results to persons that have been taken different tests is the first step – but about beginning truly sharing issues, what would be the next step? With this question I hope to open further this discussion about what to share with whom and when. In general, I have a lot of faith in discussion and interaction between psychologists and their clients.
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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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