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Criterion Validity and Pre-Employment Testing

Skill and ability tests should accurately reflect a business’s needs and the critical duties required on the job. Ensuring that this is the case is known as test validation.

There are many reasons employers should make a point only to administer tests specifically validated for positions in their organization. Doing so ensures that candidate selection decisions are effective (utility), but it also provides a defense that employers have justified the specific testing in their hiring processes (defensibility).

The Differences Between Content and Criterion Validity

When developing hiring assessments, there are two main types of validity: content and criterion.

Content validity shows the connection between the test, the skills or abilities necessary to perform well on the test, and the duties required to succeed on the job. Essentially, it indicates whether candidates can perform essential job duties. While this is useful information, tests are capable of so much more.

Meanwhile, criterion validity goes beyond mere ability by statistically predicting success in certain job performance areas. In many ways, it takes content validity to the next level.

It’s important to note that criterion validity does not always exist — and it isn’t always necessary. Knowing that a person can type, for instance, is important when hiring a new member of your office administrative staff. That said, the ability to type is not necessarily predictive of overall success in that role.

Sometimes, though, one can use test scores to look into the future and predict how likely candidates are to be successful. Criteria such as job performance ratings, customer satisfaction, conflict management, training time, and even attendance can often be correlated to scores. In these cases, criterion validity is a worthwhile consideration when crafting a selection plan.

How to Establish Criterion Validity

Employers looking to improve their pre-employment testing and determine whether it’s capable of tracking criterion validity should consider auditing their current assessments and comparing them to known performance metrics. Fortunately, establishing this test validity only involves a few steps:

1. Identify key performance dimensions. Start by determining which key parameters and performance dimensions are essential to the job. Consider all critical, job-related aspects — especially those that differentiate great performers from the rest.

2. Ask current employees to take an assessment. Have incumbent employees who currently work in the role for which you are hiring complete the assessment you will use with potential hires. Use a broad range of performers (from underachievers to high-performers) to learn as much as you can from the analysis.

3. See what statistical relationships exist. Correlate test scores to different job performance areas using Excel or statistics software like SPSS. A correlation of 0.20 or greater — with a 95% or better certainty — is considered to be statistically significant.

If you can follow the above steps and find a correlation between your testing and job performance metrics, you have established criterion validity.

How TestGenius Can Help

The TestGenius platform is perfect for conducting pre-employment testing with incumbent employees (for establishing test validity) and job applicants.

TestGenius works with employers to develop more effective testing solutions to help them gain greater utility from their assessments. We are also currently seeking partners for ongoing validation studies in the retail and emergency services markets. If you’re interested in participating in a similar study in these markets, or if you would like to propose beginning a new study in your own space, please contact our team.