Assess aptitude before investing in development.
We all know how important it is to hire the right person for a job.
Someone who doesn't have the right skills for a position, or who isn't a good fit with the corporate culture, often ends up being replaced. Then you need to fill the position again, and turnover costs and lost opportunities can be significant.
To make better hiring decisions and avoid high job turnover rates, organizations often use ability testing. Companies also use these tests for promoting and training. The goal is to get the right people, with the right skills, in the right jobs.
Traditionally, the process for assessing current or prospective workers has been subjective. Managers use their feelings, observations, judgments, and life experiences to evaluate candidates. For example, when you interview someone, you try to be objective – but you know that your personal beliefs and values often keep you from being totally objective.
So, how can you be more "scientific" about evaluating people? Psychological testing offers a way to go beyond the subjective – and find a more objective way to assess someone's personal attributes. Even then, subjectivity is still part of the process, but that's not always a bad thing. It would be unwise to completely ignore our perceptions and feelings about others. However, our perceptions can benefit from a little objectivity.
Under the larger umbrella of psychological tests, ability tests assess what a person is capable of doing. Abilities are then further broken down into two areas:
Much of our recruitment and development assessment focuses on achievement. What education does the candidate have? What skills does he possess? What training has she completed? What has he accomplished? What is her performance record?
Understanding a person's development potential for the future, however, offers some exciting opportunities to find the best candidates for your organization's long-term well-being.
Clearly, aptitude and achievement are not completely independent of each other. For example, if a child is an accomplished athlete, she probably has athletic aptitude. It's important to remember that ability tests measure current behavior, and that behavior is influenced by past experiences. Current behavior also reflects a person's unique and natural traits, potential, and limitations. This is where aptitude plays an important role.
Interest and aptitude are not the same thing. You may be interested in auto mechanics, but if you have low manual dexterity, then you're unlikely to show much aptitude for it, so you have a low potential for success.
On the other hand, a high aptitude for a certain hobby or profession also doesn't guarantee success. A person generally has to be interested in something to be motivated to do it well.
When using aptitude tests, it's important to remember that both interest and aptitude are necessary conditions for successful performance – but neither is sufficient on its own.
The following are some of the strengths of aptitude tests:
Before using any tests in your hiring and promoting process, consult an expert in labor and employment laws in your country. Make sure you meet all legal requirements for testing. Also, ask to see validation studies on a test before using it in your recruitment process.
The best way to reduce the chance of problems with aptitude tests is to use them as only one part of your overall hiring and promoting process. These tests, by themselves, cannot show a person's potential. You need a balanced approach to your recruitment and development systems.
There are many aptitude tests for many types of skills. The best way to choose a test is to first consider what you want to determine. Do you want to test general vocational aptitude, specific professional aptitude, or intelligence? Once you know what you're seeking, investigate the options available.
We've listed some common aptitude tests below.
One of the best sources of information on aptitude testing, and other types of testing, is the Buros Institute of Mental Measurements. This organization publishes the Mental Measurements Yearbook, and you can also purchase reviews of specific tests.
The O*NET Resource Center (sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration) offers two guides for good testing practices.
Aptitude tests help reveal the natural talents, strengths, and limitations that we all have.
The process of assessing people is very complex and involves many different factors. Organizations are using aptitude testing increasingly frequently to improve their recruitment and development processes. When you test people's aptitudes, you look beyond what they've done in the past – and you assess what they have the potential to achieve in the future.
You must first understand what you want to accomplish with your testing process, and then find the appropriate test. By doing a little research, carefully choosing your tests, and combining them with other assessment methods, you can improve your hiring and promoting process – and increase the chances of matching the right people with the right jobs.
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