Assessments – Which, When, Why and by Whom

by Margo Boster

How do you know which career to pursue, who to hire, and how to be a better leader? Assessment are great tools to help solve some of these common questions and can provide enlightening answers to these questions when used appropriately. Understanding which assessment to use, when and for what purpose is the difference between beneficial vs. potentially damaging use of assessments.

I was recently at a workshop where the presenter, an employment recruiter, was talking about how the assessment they used to make hiring decisions was very helpful.  He said, “Not like some of those useless assessments like DiSC or Myers Briggs.”  It took great self restraint to not interrupt his presentation to explain that DiSC and Myers Briggs were not useless; he was not considering the value of when to use those tools.    It might be similar to say knives are useless because you can’t eat soup with them.

[Note:  If you are scratching your head wondering “What is DiSC or Myers Briggs?” click here for a short presentation addressing some assessments and appropriate use.]

When selecting an assessment to use, it is important to answer the following questions:

What Are You Trying to Assess?

Are you measuring basic personality and preferences that stay the same over time, or are you measuring behavior what may change over time?  Are you measuring one’s level of competency that reflects their current state and can be developed?  Or are you trying to determine one’s motivators and areas of interest?

Why Are You Assessing That?

The purpose for the assessment should be specific and outcome related.  How can we improve our chances of hiring the right employees? How can we help this team work better together?  How can we use information about the person to help develop them to be a better leader?

There are many tools to determine one’s technical or tactical skills, but personality and behavioral assessments evaluate the intangible characteristics that are difficult to physically measure.  If you believe you need introverts or extroverts for a particular job, on what is that belief based?  (Important: Introversion /extroversion should never be used for job selection!)

Is The Assessment You Plan to Use The Appropriate Tool?

Do not use an assessment tool for which it was not intended (remember the knife and soup), and yet, this mistake is common practice.  People will be trained or introduced in one particular instrument and think it is THE answer, not AN answer.    Understanding one’s DiSC profile can be very beneficial to help team members better appreciate each other’s differences and what they have to offer, thus it is useful in team building.  It does not help leaders understand how they receive and process data, or how they make decisions like the MBTI does.  DiSC is not beneficial or appropriate for executive / leadership development.  360 Feedback should never be used for performance review – it was designed for developmental purposes.

If you are using assessments for hiring decisions, have you analyzed the job and clearly understood the requirements, and then identified skills and characteristics needed to meet those requirements?  You must be careful to select tools that measure those defined skills and characteristics to stay within employment law.

What Are The Qualifications of The Person Interpreting And Providing Feedback?

I am a strong proponent of the appropriate use of the right assessment; it drives me crazy to see people who know the mechanics of an assessment to present themselves as an expert.  They can then share their misunderstanding and lack of experience with others who take it as truth.

When selecting someone to interpret assessments and provide feedback it is important to understand both the depth and breadth of their experience.  When the only tool one has is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Please add your comments about which assessments you have found helpful, harmful, or confusing. If you would like to talk with me about the use of assessment, please click here.

I look forward to hearing from you.

  • William Hamilton

    Thanks for the information and not using a hammer!

  • Carolyn Swick

    DISC and Myers Briggs are not validated for pre-employment testing. That is probably why a recruiter would find them useless.

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