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One the greatest challenges for any Human Resources Department in any corporation lie in determining whether or not an interviewee is suitable for the job opening that is available. A lot of companies invest a large amount of capital to upgrade the selection and hiring procedures to ensure that the proper individuals are hired (Delery and Kacmar 1998).
In line with these hiring procedures, many tests have been implemented to improve on the reliability of the HR processes that are involved (Delery and Kacmar 1998). Traditional methods of testing involved face to face interviews which were considered as reliable in determining whether or not a particular individual was well suited for a certain job or an organization (Arce-Ferrer 2003). More recently, however, more and more firms are basing their HR practices on more reliable tests and indicators such as the Predictive Validity of Assessment Centers.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding the predictive validity results of assessment centers as opposed to face to face interviews.
Much of this has been based around the findings that the Predictive Validity for Assessment Centers is much higher than that of Face to Face Interviews (Moruzi and Norman 2002). This short discourse will discuss the theory that the Predictive Validity for Assessment Centers is much greater than Face to Face Interviews. In order to arrive at a better understanding of this issue, it is important to first discuss the meaning of Predictive Validity.
Predictive validity, as understood in the field of psychometrics, is defined as the extent that a certain scale is able to predict the scores with regard to criterion measures.
It is essentially a measurement of the degree of agreement among different results that have been collected through the use of direct and non-biased testing procedures (Arce-Ferrer 2003). This predictive validity is almost always quantified by the correlation coefficients taken between the two (2) sets of measurements that have been collected from a homogenous target population.
Important to the understanding of predictive validity is the concept of correlation coefficient which is basically an indication of the level of linear relationship that exists between two (2) variables. The value of the correlation coefficient always lies between -1 and +1. A result of -1 means that there exists a perfect negative relationship, while a +1 value indicates the exact opposite, which is that a perfect positive linear relationship exists. 0 means that there is no linear relationship between the variables (Arce-Ferrer 2003).
A perfect example of the use of predictive validity is during job performance tests that are geared toward assessing the competency of a certain individual with respect to predetermined job tasks. In job recruiting instances such as these, a group of 100 applicants are tested. After a certain span of time, an assessment comes out. This assessment is based on a quantitative scale that has been evaluated by their superiors and co-workers.
This results in 100 pairs of results – a single pair for every employee. The first set is the scores that are obtained prior to hiring and the second set is from the assessment of competent experts after a certain period of time. The reasonable quantitative measure of predictive validity is shown by the value of the correlation coefficient that has been obtained.
It has been said that predictive validity has certain similarities to other validity tests such as concurrent validity. Both of these tests measure the correlations between test results and a certain criteria measure. The reason why predictive validity is selected despite its similarities to other validity tests is because it is able to provide more beneficial information and data (Arce-Ferrer 2003). This is because predictive validity tests have been found to exhibit a greater fidelity in the context of real situations wherein the test is going to be utilized.
Like many other aspects of social sciences, the results obtained from the correlations in a predictive validity test are not exceptionally high. It has been found that the typical predictive validity data for certain employment tests only yield a correlation of approximately r=0.35 (Arce-Ferrer 2003). Nevertheless, such a result can still lead to substantial benefits for the companies who utilize such a test.
Face to Face Interviews:
The utilization of Face to Face interviews has been cited as controversial in not only employment situations but also in other fields such as college admissions. It has been said that these interviews derail the selection process because of the lack of validity and for its lack of reliable evidence (Moruzi and Norman 2002). One of the reasons for this is that Face to Face interviews often yield a lower predictive validity value as compared to other tests such as the Assessment Centers.
Face to Face Interviews often involve a careful selection process among many applicants and potential employees. It usually consists of a very detailed conversation with regard to a set of predetermined issues that serve to identify certain abilities of the individual being interviewed (Delery and Kacmar 1998). In certain cases, in order to improve the accuracy of such a test, the participants are narrowed down to certain specifics to be able to reach an accurate representative of a certain population (Gehrlein, Dipboye and Shahani 1993).
The diverse amount of information that can be obtained from Face to Face Interviews makes it ideal in certain circumstances. This method has been found to be particularly useful in gathering information that is not typically ascertainable through other methods (Moruzi and Norman 2002). As such, the reliability of this type of test is compromised with regard to the predictive validity value because of the lack of objectivity that has been found to occur frequently during Face to Face Interviews.
Assessment centers are generally defined as a process by which a certain group of individuals are given a series of work related exercises and tests. The purpose of these tests is to enable the experts to determine the abilities, skills, traits and other character details of the participants (Delery and Kacmar 1998). The trained experts employed to conduct these tests are tasked with the evaluation of each individual against certain predetermined criteria.
There are many different methods of assessment that are currently used in practice today. These tests include interviews, in-tray exercises, presentations, group activities, work simulation tasks, group dynamics and at times even role-plays (Holling and Reiners 1995). While not all of the Assessment Centers conduct all of these tests, a great number have resorted to a combination of a majority of the aforementioned assessment practices.
As a method of selection and recruitment in companies, Assessment Centers are regularly utilized for its ability to provide consistent, unbiased and objective results. The recognized downside to this, however, is the fact that assessment centers are very capital intensive for companies to maintain and therefore means that those who are subjected to assessments must already exhibit a great degree of potential for the company (Holling and Reiners 1995).
The broad range of methods used by Assessment Centers has made it suitable for use in selection, hiring and even promotion of personnel. A number of studies have consistently maintained that Assessment Centers are regularly able to meet such requirements as reliability, objectivity and predictive validity (Holling and Reiners 1995). With correlation coefficient values ranging from r=0.30 and r=0.40, the utility of Assessment Centers have allowed companies to come up with a reliable method for personnel management (Holling and Reiners 1995). This relatively high predictive validity value has been attributed to the fact that most of the indicators of future job performance are not made to depend upon a subjective assessment.
Advantages and Disadvantages:
Before comparing Face to Face Interviews and Assessment Centers, it is important to first discuss the advantages and disadvantage of each of these methods as HR functions. This discussion will begin with the advantages and disadvantages of Face to Face Interviews and proceed to a discussion on the same topics with regard to Assessment Centers.
Advocates of Face to Face Interviews have often cited that this process has many beneficial applications for HR functions. One of the reasons given is that Face to Face Interviews often provide information about non-cognitive criteria that are usually regarded as crucial to success.
The ability of Face to Face Interviews to provide information that is usually not obtained in other tests gives it a distinct advantage over objective methods design to elicit very specific criteria (Li, Canada and Lim 2000). Another important advantage of Face to Face Interviews comes from the fact that it allows for a systematic review of certain criteria or information that the individual has provided. The Face to Face Interview process means that there are more opportunities to tackle certain issues that cannot be raised in Assessment Center practices.
On the other hand, Face to Face Interviews have been criticized for the subjectivity factor that contributes to errors from multiple sources (Holling and Reiners 1995). This in turn affects the Predictive Validity of such a method. It has also been shown in studies that use the Face to Face Interview process in college admission programs that the predictive validity is widely unknown. Other have also criticized these Face to Face interviews for being less efficient and even more costly as compared to the other alternatives that exists such as standardized objective exams and the like.
Assessment Centers justify their relatively significant Predictive Validity ratings on the objectivity and reliability of the results obtained. A fairly great number of individual studies that have been conducted on the objectivity of Assessment Centers have shown that the Predictive Validity of Assessment Center Procedures studies lie within the range of r=0.30 to r=0.40 (Holling and Reiners 1995). In addition to this, the “social validity” that assessment centers have has met the demand for the other qualities that are essential to the personnel selection process.
In most Assessment Center practices, information on certain details with regard to the workplace and the company are made available to participants, while management, on the other hand, participates in the development and use of selection instruments (Holling and Reiners 1995). This results in the implementation of processes and leads to conclusions that are transparent for both the participant and the management. The effect of this is that it leads to a relatively easier communication system for the parties involved. These advantages are what make Assessment Centers highly acceptable to both the participants and HR in relation to personnel selection within companies.
The greatest disadvantage to Assessment Centers as argued by critics lies in the finding that the objectivity of the methods are compromised due to the involvement of management and employees in the design of the Assessment Center procedures (Holling and Reiners 1995). As such, there can be no objectivity with regard to the results because the preconceived notions of the desired qualities for the applicants play heavily in the selection of potential employees as assessors.
Another issue is with regard to the performance criteria that are utilized in Assessment Centers. The Predictive Validity of the Assessment Center is subjected to influences in relation to the norms, values and preconceptions of management (Holling and Reiners 1995). This criterion contamination effect often leads to over estimates in Predictive Validity results (Holling and Reiners 1995).
Link between Face to Face Interviews and Assessment Centers:
The link that exists between Face to Face Interviews and Assessment Centers revolves around the practicality of such practices in light of Human Resource Procedures for Corporations. The determination of the selection and hiring of individuals is often an expensive process for most companies (Cherwitz 2004, 2005). Due to this financial concern, a number of companies are torn between conducting face to face interviews and organizing assessment centers.
Clearly, the reliability that Assessment Centers provide makes it an ideal choice over Face to Face Interviews for most companies. The lack of objectivity of Face to Face Interviews, as shown in the previous section, makes it difficult to ascertain the reliability of such a test (Cherwitz 2004, 2005). Although it does offer additional information that cannot be obtained through other methods, the usefulness only lends partial viability for the utilization of this model.
Assessment Centers, on the other hand, allow the companies to have a more reliable view of the potential employee. This allows companies to predict to a more accurate degree whether or not a certain individual would be a perfect fit in the organization. It also allows companies to estimate to a reasonable degree the success of such person within the organization.
It must be noted, however, that a lot of the research done in this field has led to certain changes in HR functions. The ever growing reliance by management on verifiable statistics and tests has led to an adaptation of certain measures to improve the validity of such findings (Hough 1998). As such, while Assessment Centers are clearly shown here as more reliable given the greater Predictive Validity ratings that it consistently obtain, the presence of newer and more reliable techniques could tip the scales in other directions (Hough 1998).
While face to face interviews can be incorporated in most Assessment Centers, the issue of reliability and objectivity still comes into play. As has been shown in the advantages and disadvantages section of this discussion, the benefits that a company can derive from organizing Assessment Centers far outweigh those of Face to Face Interviews. The only concern, however, is the financial burden that such a program can cause for a company. Given the benefits that can be acquired from the implementation of this HR function, however, it is clear that Assessment Centers yield more promise than Face to Face Interviews.
In the advent of globalization and the presence of an ever competitive global market, the relevance of such a finding is crucial. Companies can effectively allocate the resources that they have to obtain results that are quantifiable and verifiable. The investment in sound personnel policies such as an Assessment Center ensures that the companies that employ such HR functions can remain competitive in the global markets of today.
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Cherwitz, R. (2004). Capitalizing on unintended consequences: Lessons on diversity from Texas. Peer Review, 6, 33-35.
Cherwitz, R. (2005). Diversifying graduate education: The promise of intellectual entrepreneurship. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 4, 19-33.
Delery, J., & Kacmar, K. (1998). The influence of applicant and interviewer characteristics on the use of impression management. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 1649-1669.
Gehrlein, T., Dipboye, R., & Shahani, C. (1993). Nontraditional validity calculations and differential interviewer experience. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53(2), 457-469.
Hills, J. (1971). Use of measurement in selection and placement. In R. L. Thorndike (Ed.), Educational measurement (2nd ed., pp. 680-732). Washington, DC: American Council of Education.
Holling, Heinz and Reiners, Wolfram (1995) Predicting Job Success with the Assessment Center: Validity or Artifact? Westfalische Wilhels-University Munster, Bundesrepublik Deutschland.
Hough, L. M. (1998). Personality at work: Issues and evidence. In M. Hakel (Ed.), Beyond multiple choice: Evaluating alternatives to traditional testing for selection (pp. 131-166). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Li, C., Canada, R., & Lim, M. (2000). A review of admission procedures of counselor education programs. The Alabama Counseling Association Journal, 26(2), 33-40.
Moruzi, C., & Norman, G. (2002). Validity of admission measures in predicting performance outcomes: The contribution of cognitive and non-cognitive dimensions. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 14(1), 34-42.
 For purposes of this discussion the figure 100 will be used. This does not signify that 100 is always the base number required for conducting predictive validity tests.
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