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Why Can’t We Just Use One Behavioral Assessment for Everything?

December 17, 2015


We get this question a lot from clients. We have a library of assessments, designed by our Research and Development team. Clients, however, are often comparing our offerings to a vendor who is telling them that ONE test (not coincidentally, the one they sell!) will meet all of their needs – for development and for selection - at any point in the hiring process- for any position in the organization and for any industry.163751742

Sure, there are some moderately predictive tools that were developed decades ago by a credible psychologist and have been widely used and sold by resellers all over the world. In the right situation, they have value; we even incorporate them into our selection systems occasionally. It’s an easy business model – buy the test, market the heck out of it and sell it as a simple, one-size fits all, solution with some positive impact or a few validation studies to back it up.

Or … We can take advantage of the advances in the science of behavioral assessments. For instance, we learned that manufacturing facilities are looking for a specific set of behavioral skills (which are different in significant respects from those needed for sales or healthcare). That led to the development of our industry-leading Select Assessment for Manufacturing.

We take the same approach in healthcare. For instance, we know that compassion is an important competency. You can either use the data from one of the known off-the-shelf tests to glean something about whether a candidate will be empathic and patient-focused, OR you can use a test that very specifically measures compassion in a healthcare context. This is different than your traditional measure of compassion – at least how the data must be interpreted or group behavioral constructs to come up with a predictor of “patient-focus.” This is far more valuable than just knowing whether someone’s introverted or extroverted because they circled those words on a 10-minute generic test.

We also have different tests for different purposes. We’d never recommend using a test designed primarily for development purposes for selection. Similarly, you need to consider your goals. Want to screen a large group of candidates so you can focus on the best? You need a shorter “screening” tool. If, on the other hand, you have a smaller candidate pool and want to identify specific distinctions between top candidates in defined areas – a more robust assessment (a deeper dive) is needed.

We also believe that industry-specific expertise is critical. We have experts in manufacturing, call centers, retail – you name it. They can build a selection system that takes into consideration not only the selection principles that are consistent across industries but the nuances of that specific industry. This is what allows our healthcare team to tweak the way we measure compassion. We know healthcare and we own the test content. It allows us to build new tests as our clients need them. We always recommend a selection “system” that might include a combination of different tests, used differently at different levels of the organization: an approach for front line staff; a nursing-specific solution; a manager level assessment; executive assessments for senior leaders, and; physician-specific tools. I had a physician leader once tell me he took several tests that told him where he was on an EQ scale and whether he was introverted or extroverted, but the information was of no use to him because it wasn’t in a healthcare context.

Our approach can seem a bit daunting to prospective clients, but the complexity is on our end and it’s not that complex for us. If it’s done correctly, it’s easy for the client and the system works seamlessly.

This issue came up recently when I heard a prospective client tell me they are using a 10-minute, off-the-shelf test to help choose hospital senior leaders. Sure it’s a cheap, easy solution but leading organizations in other industries would never make this mistake. We were proposing a robust, predictive process that will significantly improve the odds of making a good decision for a position that may determine organizational success or failure.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.