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Work sampling for selection

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Work sample tests are now recognised as one of the most effective predictors of future job performance, according to an IRS report released today.

Work sample tests replicate the work tools and environment associated with the vacancy, to assess the level of the candidate’s existing skills and knowledge. This involves looking at a sample of the functional skills and often relevant behaviours that can be used to predict future performance in a similar work situation. A work sample test is the closest to replicating the day-to-day work of a particular vacancy.

Clearly there are drawbacks. Points for HR to watch out for include:

  • Equal opportunities legislation when conducting any kind of psychometric test – take particular care to avoid indirect discrimination or disability discrimination.

  • A new statutory provision has resulted in a slightly different definition of indirect discrimination in the case of sex and race, which can now occur where an occupational test unfairly and unjustifiably disadvantages one sex or race over another.

  • Work sample tests can be resource intensive, partly because it may be feasible to assess just one candidate at a time. Expensive materials or machinery may also be needed to administer the tests properly. It is not practicable to test candidates on a task or duty that in real life would typically take days or weeks to complete. Work sample tests are therefore more suitable for predicting performance in tasks that can be completed within a short space of time.



“The relatively high costs often associated with developing and conducting these tests can be justified in appropriate circumstances by their contribution to a sound appointment decision,” said IRS Employment Review Retention and Recruitment editor, Neil Rankin.

“That does not mean that an organisation should rely on the results of these ability tests alone; their validity is only as high as the overall effectiveness of the selection process, and their results should never be used in isolation,” he warned.

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