Increased Availability of Pre-employment Assessments Increases Employer Responsibility

Fact #1: Bad hiring decisions cost a lot of money – not to mention all the intangibles, such as disruptive work environment, management’s and HR’s time dealing with the “bad” hire, etc.

Fact #2: Incorporating pre-employment tests/assessments into a company’s selection process can help minimize erroneous hires and improve quality of hires and retention rates … but only if:

The pre-employment assessment tool is:

  • Appropriate for the job you are hiring
  • Properly incorporated in your employee testing and selection process
  • Used in the spirit in which the developer(s) intended it

Being a team of Industrial/Organizational psychologists, we are obviously huge proponents of incorporating structured pre-employment assessment methodologies beyond the typical interview (which, as a side note, is still considered a pre-employment test from a legal perspective in the U.S., as is the resume review) in the employee selection process.  As consultants working with corporate clients, however, we oftentimes have to caution them about using such tools, particularly, off-the-shelf (or, nowadays, off-the-web or on-demand) tests. Such advice has nothing to do with the quality of the pre-employment assessments available in the marketplace but everything to do with the clients’ willingness to do the right thing by doing it right.

With increased availability and easy access to these off-the shelf/web pre-employment assessments, comes increased responsibility on the part of employers to make sure they are using the appropriate tools and using them correctly. It’s not enough to simply identify a pre-employment test that appears to be assessing the desired skills or competencies; you need to dig deeper.

To start, you need to ensure:

  1. the reliability of the pre-employment assessment
  2. the validity of the test
  3. that it assesses the skills or competencies you really want to measure

Ensuring that the pre-employment assessment you are considering was developed using a solid methodology (speaking to its content validity) and has robust psychometric properties (e.g., good reliability, reasonable item-level statistics) can get a bit tricky, especially if you are trying to decide among two or more tests.

The testing industry does not use a standardized way of communicating this type of information. What and how much information you can get about a pre-employment assessment depends solely on the vendor – and beware of vendors that don’t have substantive information readily available for your review. When it comes to evaluating the psychometric properties of an assessment tool, our recommendation is to always get an independent expert opinion. If you do not have someone available on staff, spend the few extra dollars and use an independent consultant – it will pay off in the end.

We recently reviewed a multiple-choice pre-employment assessment that one of our clients was considering using in their employee selection process. The test was titled “Written English” and was described as a test evaluating individuals’ reading comprehension and grammar knowledge of the English language. If our client wanted to ensure that candidates could comprehend written language and identify grammatical errors in written passages, then this test would have definitely been one of the pre-employment assessments to consider. However, when we dug a bit deeper, we uncovered that what they really wanted was to ensure that candidates could write comprehensible English. Thus, this test did not measure the specific skill or competency the client was ultimately targeting.

Now if you did your homework and found a pre-employment assessment that accurately measures skills or competencies you need and you determined it does well from a psychometric perspective … are you ready to put it to work for you? Not quite. You still need to establish policies and procedures governing the use of the selected pre-employment test.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • At what point in the employee selection process will the test be administered?
  • How will the test be administered (e.g., paper and pencil vs. online, off- vs. on-site, supervised vs. unsupervised)?
  • What, if any, will be the “retake” policy?

And most importantly:

  • How will the scores be utilized in the employee selection process?

This last consideration should be taken very seriously, especially if you want to ensure the “legality” of your employee selection process. Your answer to this last question dictates the final step necessary prior to using the pre-employment assessment. If the test scores will be used for screening purposes (i.e., determining whether candidates move on in the selection process or not), then you will need to conduct a cut-score study. The purpose of the cut-score study is to establish the “minimum acceptable” amount of information a candidate needs to know in order to be considered “qualified” for the specific position.

Alternatively, if you will use the test to rank candidates in making employee selection decisions, you should first make sure that, indeed, a higher test score is likely to result in better job performance; i.e., the test has criterion-related validity.

It is a fact of work life that pre-employment selection tests are here to stay, and for good reason – they help us identify the “most qualified” and screen out the “unqualified,” while saving time and expense, especially in cases where you are lucky enough to have large pools of candidates applying to your openings.

However, with the proliferation of pre-employment assessments in the marketplace, the ease of acquiring them, and their relative low cost, there is also an increased propensity to quickly adopt them without giving it much thought.

A pre-employment assessment can yield substantial benefits but only if it is the “right tool for the right job.” If it only minimally contributes to the ”quality” of your hires, then it is a tool you can do without.

For more information about choosing, implementing and administrating pre-employment tests in your recruitment, selection and hiring process, please contact a WorkPlace Group® associate.

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Motivating Employees to Perform Their Best: Lessons from the Top 1%

Employers spend a lot of money hiring the right employees.  We here at The WorkPlace Group devote ourselves to helping our clients hire only the best.  With the hundreds of thousands of candidates we recruit, screen and evaluate each year, we thought it would be helpful to provide some examples of how those in the top 1% of their field manage to perform their best.  Lessons from the best in their field provides great insight into how employers can shape their culture by motivating employees and join the ranks of the top 1%.

Motivating Employees: Part I –  TV Soap Star from Emmy Award winning show, Days of Our Lives

The WorkPlace Group recently had an opportunity to have lunch with a veteran soap opera actress from Days of Our Lives onset at NBC Burbank Studios in Los Angeles, CA.  She also introduced us to Days of Our Lives staff members who gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the studio operation where we met many cast and crew members.

Although we did not get to witness an actual on-set scene, the general demeanor of the crew and cast members we did meet were gregarious, upbeat, full of energy and incredibly engaged.

Most of us don’t think of a television soap opera as just a day in the office.  We’re not watching Days of Lives thinking, “Is she having issues with her colleagues or manager?  Any water cooler gossip or office politics going on?  How often does she have a performance review meeting?  How much work does she have to do get done by tomorrow? What are her annual performance expectations and how is Days of Our Lives developing her for her next promotion?”

Nonetheless, soap operas are major companies.  The actors and actresses, writers, directors, producers, stylists, publicists, editors, film crew and all the other functions that bring the story to life are no different than departments like customer service, communications, engineering, and IT — although maybe a bit less glamorous than cameras, lights and the red carpet.

When we asked our long-term, successful soap star about her typical work day and what it’s like to work for Days of Our Lives, we captured a number of important messages and observations about how she continues to perform her best and several important aspects of how her employer enables her success.  Here are a few important takeaways for employers to nurture in their own corporate culture in order to bring out the best by motivating their employees:

  1. Teach employees to create and own their self-development plan
    Our soap star neither waits nor expects Days of Our Lives to develop her professionally.  Instead, she develops herself.  For example, she has continued to take acting lessons for almost all of her 15+ years on-set even though she is one of the most well regarded stars on daytime TV.  The scenes written and presented to her push her to new limits, but ultimately she is in charge of building her own skill set.  And, as her skillset develops and she steps up to the plate for those challenging, complex, dramatic moments, the writers, directors, and producers provide her with more and more opportunities.From a corporate perspective, this is equivalent to providing employees with an opportunity to take on tasks and challenges outside of their role to evaluate if they are ready for a step up prior to promoting them for excelling in the role they are currently in. Freedom of creativity and expression can be an important factor in motivating employees.
  2. Ensure employees are aware of how their behavior impacts their employer’s costs and revenues
    Showing up late to the set can cost the producer $1,000 per minute lost.  With dozen of scenes to shoot in a day, staying on time is imperative.When we asked our soap star friend about taking sick days and what happens when she needs a day off, we were surprised to hear that she has never taken a sick day in the past 15+ years despite the fact that she suffers from occasional migraines.  Our soap star said, “I never call out sick because it will cost my employer thousands of dollars for my absence, as my employer still needs to pay everyone who is in my scene or connected with something I contribute to.” It was a real surprise how readily she knew what a sick day or day out of the office would cost her employer and an even bigger surprise to hear that she cared about her employer’s costs.Our veteran soap star articulated the importance of being on-time, prepared with her script memorized, and ready to work.  It’s not only expected and preferred by her employer, but also sets the stage for her colleagues to perform at their best.  Being unprepared with lines means re-doing scenes; in the corporate world this is equivalent to re-doing meetings and project plans. Unprepared actors interrupt the natural flow of creating great scenes; or below standard / poor work product as we call it in the corporate world.  Unprepared actors cause everyone, including film crew, directors, editors and fellow actors, to fall behind.  In the corporate world this means reduced efficiency as a result of increased production costs and delays in key deadlines.
  3. Ensure employees understand how their contributions add to and shape the final product.
    Like most things in life, the inherent value of individuals working together results in a more valuable work product, whether it’s content, a physical item or a service.In the world of daytime television, great scenes increase viewers, which increase advertising revenues and other kinds of revenue streams, adding significant value to shareholders. This is no different than a business unit or department working on developing or improving a product or service.  There’s superior value in creating products or services and providing experiences that trump your competition.  The soap star shared that when filming a scene, it’s the actors who bring it to life and make it feel real.  Only by playing off of each other can the audience feel and experience the emotional connections.

 Our takeaway from her basic message was that everyone needs to know the direct way in which they impact the final product.  The quality of the work product is dependent on each other whether it’s building a product or delivering a service. By motivating employees to perform their best with these steps, you may see an increase in productivity and sales.

Coming soon, Part II –  Motivating Employees to Perform Their Best: Lessons from a Rock Star

For more information on how to hire great talent please contact The WorkPlace Group.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are strictly of the author and not endorsed, promoted, or provided by Days of Our Lives, NBC or any of their affiliates, employees or stakeholders.
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New Jersey Employer ‘Ban the Box’ FAQ | NJ Regulations Take Effect March 1

As The WorkPlace Group gets ready to partner with Fisher & Phillips, a New Jersey-based employment law firm, on an upcoming seminar luncheon, we would like to share with you a valuable article they wrote about the upcoming New Jersey ‘Ban the Box’ laws. Please take a look at this New Jersey employer ‘Ban the Box’ FAQ by Fisher & Phillips to better understand the new March 1st regulations that will go into effect in New Jersey.


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How the EEOC Guidelines makes “Ban the Box” a National Issue

To add to our previous posts on the “Ban the Box” trend happening across states and municipalities we wanted to share this interesting article from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “Perform Criminal Background Checks at Your Peril.” The WorkPlace Group has been following “Ban the Box” trends because these laws will continue to affect the hiring process of employers. In addition to States like New Jersey, Illinois, California, Minnesota and Colorado, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is also implementing “Ban the Box” policies at the national level. Should the EEOC continue in this direction, “Ban the Box” laws could come to affect all U.S. employers.

What is the EEOC Saying About Background Checks?

The EEOC has started to use Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to sue businesses for a wide range of hiring practices that negatively impacted minorities. An example happened in 1989 when the EEOC sued Carolina Freight Carrier Corp. for refusing to hire an Hispanic man as a truck driver. This man had a history of multiple arrests and served 18 months in jail for larceny. The U.S. District Judge Jose Alejandro Gonzalez, Jr. ruled against the agency saying that the “EEOC’s position that minorities should be held to lower standards is an insult to millions of honest Hispanics.” As Judge Gonzalez stated, “a rule refusing honest employment to convicted applications is going to have a disparate impact upon thieves.”

In April 2014, the EEOC unveiled the “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions.” These guidelines state that criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin. If you have been following The WorkPlace Group’s blog posts, then this should sound familiar. This is the long version of “ban the box.”

Where is the Connection Between Minorities and Ban the Box

The WSJ cites statistics indicating that the crime rate of certain races is exponentially higher than that of other races. These statistics form the basis for EEOC’s concern and recommendation to employers to change their application process. A former EEOC General Counsel stated in testimony to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that employers could be considered guilty “of race discrimination if they choose law abiding applicants over applicants with criminal convictions.” (According to the same WSJ article) A considerable challenge for employers will be complying with EEOC guidelines even if they are not in a state with a “ban the box” law.

How Will the EEOC’s New Guidelines Really Affect Minorities?

The WSJ describes several studies that show fewer minorities are hired when employers conduct background checks in comparison to employers who don’t. The WSJ is suggesting that EEOC’s guidelines and stance on this topic may actually hurt the employment of those minorities it is purposely trying to protect.

“Ban the Box” Advice for Employers

Even if your state does not have a “ban the box” law currently, given the EEOC’s position on this issue, we recommend all employers delay inquiring or collecting any information on applicants’ criminal histories or conducting a background check until after an offer of employment has been extended.

We invite examples of how employers are changing their employment applications and selection process to comply with EEOC’s and State trends on “Ban the Box” legislature. We also welcome your questions as to how to best comply with this national trend.

For more information on how to ready your employment process for “Ban the Box” trends, please feel free to contact a WorkPlace Group Associate for assistance.

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How Will the ‘Ban the Box’ Trends Change Recruitment Processes: Part II of II

This is a continuation of How Will ‘Ban the Box’ Trends Change Recruitment Traffic: Part I of II from Monday, January 12, 2015.

Will the Ban the Box Laws Help the Employer or Candidate?

While it is obvious that those candidates with a criminal history may benefit from the Ban the Box laws that are trending in the United States, the benefits to employers are less clear. Most States implementing a Ban the Box law do not require employers to forego the criminal background check. Instead, they require the background check to be pushed later in the hiring process. Typically after a conditional offer has been made. New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act specifically states “that many individuals with prior criminal histories pose no greater risk of future criminality than do people with no criminal history and are equally qualified, reliable, and trustworthy candidates for employment.” If employers follow this advice, it would suggest that employers would have a larger pool of candidates from which to select from and hire.

For Employers that currently conduct criminal background checks prior to making a job offer, limiting criminal background checks to candidates who have received and accepted offers of employment will reduce spending on criminal background checks.   However these savings will be more than offset by the increased number of interviews and job offers that will need to be rescinded as a result of applicants who become disqualified based on their criminal histories. Employers will also see increased costs in complying with these regulations since many states, like New Jersey, provide specific rules, procedures and forms that must be followed and completed in order to rescind an offer of employment based on a criminal background check. Although not required under the NJ Law, many employers may choose to delay filling an open position with another qualified candidate who has passed the background check until the initial candidate has had the requisite time provided under the law to respond and challenge the employer’s decision to rescind their employment offer.

Can An Employer Withdraw an Offer After the Criminal Background Check?

Yes. Employers are not required to hire someone who is no longer qualified as a result of their criminal history. It is important to note that if an employer wants to rescind an offer to an individual after the criminal background check has been completed, employers must follow the guidelines provided by the respective governing authority, whether Federal, State and/or Municipality. Each governing authority is going to have its own set of procedures and rules for an employer to follow. For instance, in New Jersey, a candidate must receive written notice of an offer withdrawal from the employer and be provided ten days to respond with any additional information or evidence. A specific form is provided for employers to use.

State and local legislation does not override any existing federal employment laws. State and local laws complement Federal laws. Thus, if you are an employer in a state or municipality that does not have a “Ban the Box” law, you still need to follow Federal laws regarding rescinding offers of employment.

 What should Employers do to Comply with “Ban the Box” laws?

  • Review your State and Local laws requiring the use of criminal historyinformation for the purpose of making a decision to hire or not hire.
  • Eliminate language in your job ads that suggests aperson with one or more crimes, or who has been arrested, is not eligible for your job.
  • Eliminate questions regarding convictions, arrests and crimes from your job application.
  • Train hiring managers and recruiters to avoid asking about applicants’ criminal histories until an offer of employment is made.
  • Review your policies regarding how offers of employment will be rescinded and ensure you have clear guidelines as to how felonies and misdemeanors will be evaluated in order to determine if they are permissible or disqualifiers for each unique job.
  • When in doubt consult your labor attorney before acting.

For recruitment assistance and help in ensuring a positive candidate experience for the truly qualified please contact us at

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