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Top Technology Trends: Assessment Content

April 21, 2011

The previous blog discussed how changes to technology have impacted how assessments are being delivered to candidates during the selection process. In the next few years, new devices such as smart phones and tablets will be even more commonplace and we must be ready to leverage them. A second way that technology is having an impact on selection is in the area of assessment content, specifically the increase in simulations and multi-media technology.

The increase in Internet bandwidth and the expansion of telecommunications networks has made the delivery of audio, video and computerized simulations easier and more reliable. More and more organizations are interested in how to use these features in their selection processes. There is a call among the business world for more realistic simulations and assessments for their candidates. As such, selection and assessment companies are placing more of an emphasis on realism in the design and development of their assessment tools.

One area that seems to be gaining popularity is the usage of avatars to simulate realistic job-related scenarios. Candidates view video interactions between avatars and then rate the best way to handle these scenarios. Hypothetical scenarios, called situational judgment items, are a common assessment method, but the use of avatars and multi-media to deliver them is fairly new to our industry. The use of these items adds to the face validity of the assessment.

Applicants tend to rate assessments that use simulations and video more positively than those that do not. Organizations and executives respond positively to them because they mirror the job and present their organization as modern and cutting edge. However, the research is unclear as to how applicants react to avatars. If not designed well and deployed thoughtfully, candidates will respond negatively to them. Additionally, there is little evidence to show that the increased realism leads to an increase in accuracy or assessment validity.  The last point is particularly important to consider, given the time and expense involved with avatar-based assessments.

We have been developers of computerized assessments and simulations since the company began in the early 1990s. Over the past few years, our clients have been asking for assessments at both ends of the spectrum – 1) short, quick and simple; and 2) longer, more comprehensive and cutting edge. In our experience, the inclusion of simulations and more complex assessment items increases the length of the assessment and adds hardware and software requirements that may not always be met by candidate computers, much less smart phones. Selection and assessment companies are trying to balance our clients’ desire for simple and quick assessments with their desire for a high-tech feel. Until technology advances to the point where this is no longer an issue, we’ll be designing and developing assessments for both needs.

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Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. is the Manager of Product Development at PSI. She is an expert in the design, development and validation of psychological assessment tools. An integral member of PSI since 2000, Amie has led the development of numerous competency-based assessments, including online in-baskets, job simulations and motivational fit instruments.