Assessments: useful but tiresome

During most of my job applications, assessments which test intelligence have given me a hard time. I like to think that I possess above average intelligence when compared to the average university graduate. I have an average grade of 7,8 for my master’s degree, a grade of nine for my master’s thesis and a publication of that master’s thesis in a scientific journal. Not something which the average master’s degree student has, right? The assessment results don’t agree though: some judge me to be a weak candidate and others an average candidate compared to others with a master’s degree. What does that make me? Did simple hard work contribute more to my above-average academic results than intelligence? Why is there such a discrepancy between my assessment scores and my academic results? Are assessments nonsense?

I can only answer the last question for now. It’s tempting to slip into cognitive dissonance mode and consider assessments an unsuitable method to select job applicants. When I discussed this with others, such as my university’s career advisers, they often voiced similar sentiments. However, scientific studies are unambiguous: intelligence is the most accurate predictor of job performance (Schmidt & Hunter 2004). Also, the combination of an intelligence test with either a work sample test, an integrity test or a structured interview is the most valid and useful way to predict job performance (Schmidt & Hunter 1998). These are facts we can’t deny.

But I keep thinking, shouldn’t there be a causal relationship between intelligence and academic results? Yes, intelligence and achievement motivation are the most important predictors of academic success, according to Busato, Prins, Elshout and Hamaker (2000). Then why not just ask candidates for their academic grades instead of having them take an assessment for, say, € 30 for every candidate? Of course, if they would actually look at my grades the odds would be much more in my favor. I’ve asked this in the past to an HR employee, they thought that (standardized) assessments allowed them to compare candidates more fairly. There is a lot to be said for that: lecturers at a university grade open-ended answers to exam questions. When they grade bachelor and master theses, even more variables come into play which can influence their objectivity. On the contrary, assessments contain a huge amount of multiple choice questions for which results are calculated automatically.

I do not think it is good thing however to discount academic results entirely. So far I’ve experienced far too many job application procedures which suffer from assessment tunnel vision. Don’t get a good score on your assessment? Away with you then. They don’t seem to consider academic performance in the equation, which would make their judgement more balanced. These assessments are taken in the space of an hour or two and can yield bad results if the candidate is having a bad day. Academic results are the results of years of work.

Finally, what is really tiring me is that these days, you need to take an assessment for almost every job. If you say to the HR employees you can provide them with results of a previous assessment, they often insist that you take their company’s different assessment. I have a suggestion: design an (inter)national standard intelligence test which is to be taken by every student at their educational institution before they enter the labor market. Forbid the use of non-standard intelligence tests on pain of death. Put a lot of psychologists and assessments bureaus out of work in the process and give those who apply for jobs some peace of mind.

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