A Study on Applicant Perceptions of Selection Procedures
FrontLine National Case Study
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Why More Can Be Better - Providing Preparation Information to Promotional Candidates
When consulting on a promotional testing process a common question from our clients is "How much should we actually tell the candidates in advance?" What we typically tell them is "the more, the better." Now let's talk about what we mean by "the more, the better." Candidate orientations can greatly range in regard to information quantity. Let's think of it as a linear scale. On the far left of the scale you provide very basic information like test times and what to wear. On the far right of the scale you provide a multiple page document or a couple hour class that provides candidates with all of the basic information as well as more complex information like types of exercises, exam content and sample questions.
Over the past 20 years that Ergometrics has been conducting promotional assessment centers we have found that candidate orientations and preparation handouts that fall on the right hand side of the scale are effective tools that greatly contribute to candidate success, and thus to the success of the entire testing process. Below we have provided five reasons why candidate preparations/orientations are effective for successful promotional testing processes.
The purpose of a promotional testing process is to differentiate candidate performance. When candidates are not given test preparation information ahead of time, there is actually less variance in their scores. When candidates are given time to prepare, we actually see more variance in their scores, which can be attributed to the differing amount of time each candidate spends preparing for the process and the individual differences in ability to prepare for the job.
Giving candidates the opportunity to study for promotional assessment center exercises does not mean that all candidates will do so. By orienting candidates to the exercises, those candidates who will study and prepare are separated and rise above those who choose not to put forth the extra effort. Being a supervisor in the field of public safety requires continual learning and growth. Many departments have seen the benefits of separating those who will put forth the extra effort from those who will not, before they are promoted.
Organizations always want their candidates to be successful in the promotional process, as the effects of poor performance, such as negative attitudes and decreased performance, can be detrimental to the candidates and the entire organization. Providing candidates an orientation or candidate handout, will result in better performance by those that prepare. Those that do not prepare have a better understanding of their role in the poor performance and are less likely to blame the test or the organization.
Without having an orientation or preparation handout, candidates must only use information from their current knowledge base during the actual interview process. However, by providing candidates information or topics to prepare prior to the interview, candidates are given the opportunity to learn about new programs, tactics, etc. that are relevant to their field. This provides candidates the opportunity to increase their knowledge base, which can positively effect a department's growth and development.
When a supervisor in the field of public safety is asked to prepare a memo or give a presentation, they are typically provided time to prepare what they will say or write. This preparation time may range from one day to more than a month. Additionally, when a supervisor must call a meeting with an employee they typically have time to consider the issue and think through a solution. Thus, providing candidates an orientation or handout prior to the assessment center that clues them in on the topic or the nature of the exercise is actually a closer simulation of the actual work a supervisor must perform on the job.
While the benefits of candidate orientations have been thoroughly laid out above, here are some of the typical questions we are asked by our clients when proposing to include detailed information to the candidates about an assessment center.
Will candidates form study groups or cheat?
One common concern is that candidates may work together in preparing for the promotional process or have someone prepare the answers for them, resulting in some candidates leaning on others to help them prepare. Most candidates understand that they are competing against each other. Choosing to prepare with candidate(s) is likely to be more detrimental than good for the candidates. Those that bring quality ideas and information to the exam are more likely to do well than those that prepare stock answers in groups. Over the years we have not had a situation where candidates appeared to cheat or raised a concern over cheating. The end result of our processes has always been more separation between candidates.
Will candidates only study the questions or exercises provided?
Candidates will prepare heavily for the material needed to pass the exam. The coverage of the exam should be comprehensive and balanced. The handout or orientation should let candidates know that all other questions related to the job may be used for the exam. We typically input questions into each exercise that candidates are not given in advance, which helps to ensure all important aspects are prepared.
If your organization is likely to be fraught with cheating, highly sensitive to the perception that people have unfair advantages or not ready for this type of shift, it may not be in your best interest. We consult with each of our clients to ensure that the benefit in measurement is overridden by negative organization perception.