Recruitment & Selection, Section 12 - Practical tests and presentations
Departments are increasingly using presentations and tests as part of the selection process and whilst these methods are helpful in providing information to selection panels, it is crucial that these parts of the process are carefully managed.
Selection tests can give objective information about a candidate and have been shown in general, to lead to better and fairer employment decisions. However, tests can sometimes have disparate impact on ethnic or gender groups and it is therefore essential that proper usage of tests is undertaken.
The choice of test/presentation to be undertaken should follow on from the preparation of the job description and the person specification.
Any test used should measure the skills or attributes identified as necessary to do the job. Skills not required of the job should not be a necessary requirement in order to complete a particular test. For example, a test should not require understanding of complex vocabulary or performance at speed, unless these are relevant to the job. If challenged, as an employer it would be necessary to show that the test used corresponds to a real need, is appropriate with a view to achieving the objective and is necessary to that end.
Consideration must also be given to the context in which the skill is to be measured. This should, as far as possible, reflect the type of content found in the job. For example, a typing test should require the typing of material similar to that required on the job. However, care must be taken not to include material requiring information specific to the organisation, as that might put external applicants at an unfair disadvantage. For instance, in a typing test, if job relevant text is too technical for an external applicant to deal with, without having had any particular training, then more general text should be used. This should be of content matter equally familiar to all groups.
The level of difficulty at which the skill is to be measured also needs to be considered. A test that is too easy will not differentiate between applicants. One that is too difficult could lead to greater disparate impact.
Under the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 it is important to ensure that any test does not have a disproportionate impact on application from a particular ethnic background.
Special care must be taken with people whose first language is not English, to ensure that they have understood any instructions properly.
Some tests which are fair for native English speakers, will present problems for people with a lesser command of English. For example, tests requiring reading skills, when these are not an integral part of the job are more than likely to be unfair.
Whilst there is strong evidence that tests generally provide sound, objective data on which to base selection decisions, it is important to investigate the relevance of a test before including it in a selection procedure. Test/presentation results should always be interpreted within context.
Candidates are often asked to deliver a presentation as part of the selection process. This process needs to be as open and transparent as the interview process. All of the presentation panel will need to evaluate the candidates’ performance and record this on an evaluation sheet ( Presentation Assessment Pro Forma ).
Guidelines for testing people with disabilities
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 makes it illegal for employers to treat people less favourably than others and this requirement applies to recruitment selection, opportunities for training, promotion and redundancies. In addition, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to both selection procedures and the way the work is done, where necessary to accommodate people with disabilities.
The most appropriate person to give advice regarding the implications of a disability is nearly always the candidate. He or she will be able to tell you what extra facilities may be needed for the selection procedure. Letting candidates know well in advance what is entailed will allow both you and they to make the appropriate preparations. For example, the height of a writing/computing desk needs to be appropriate for a wheelchair user. A dyslexic candidate may take longer to read instructions.
Informal aspects of selection processes
In an Employment Tribunal case recently reported within the Higher Education Sector, an applicant claimed that he had been discriminated against on the grounds of race during the selection process because he had not been invited to a dinner on the eve of the interviews, whilst another candidate had. The Employment Tribunal considered the point and stated the following:
“The Employer might do well to re-visit its systems because it was quite clear that there were a number of what we have found to have been entirely coincidental matters which may, rightly or wrongly, have given an applicant, and in this case did, the impression that one candidate may have been at an advantage beforehand. When candidates come from different backgrounds ie different races or different sexes then their perception, too, can be very important. Getting theses things right at the end of the day can perhaps save everyone a lot of time and trouble.”
Whilst not recommended, if it is decided to use information gathered from the informal occasion as part of the assessment process, let the candidates know. Point out to the candidates the criteria you are testing/observing and your reason for doing so.
If the assessment process spans a full day. It is usual practice is to offer the candidates lunch. Best practice would suggest that someone from the department not involved in the assessment process, manages these arrangements.
Remember to inform the candidate that they are not being assessed.
Following completion of the tests/presentations the results should be conveyed to the appointments panel.
Candidates should be notified in advance that they will be tested or required to make a presentation as part of the selection process. Information should be provided on why the tests are being used and how they fit into the assessment procedure.
If candidates are required to give a presentation as part of the selection process
If, as a result of invitations being sent to candidates, you are notified that a candidate may require adjustments to be made, you should consider the following:
Informal Aspects of the Selection Process
Assuming that you do not intend to use any information gathered, as part of the selection process, let the applicants know.