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Assessment and Selection

Welcome to the Assessment and Selection website. This website provides resources for people who want to learn more about personnel assessment, assessment methods, steps to designing effective assessment strategies, and the importance of effective personnel assessment.

We hope you find this website to be informative. If you have any questions or suggestions for additions to the site, please contact us.

Learn more about Assessment & Selection

Personnel assessment refers to any method of collecting information on individuals for the purpose of making a selection decision. Selection decisions include, but are not limited to, hiring, placement, promotion, referral, retention, and entry into programs leading to advancement (e.g., apprenticeship, training, career development). Selecting qualified applicants is a critical step in building a talented and committed workforce, supporting an effective organizational culture, and enhancing the overall performance of the agency.

While many applicants may apply for any particular position, quantity does not guarantee quality. Assessment procedures can be a cost-effective tool in narrowing down large applicant pools. Assessment tools can also make the selection decision process more efficient because less time and fewer resources are expended dealing with applicants whose qualifications do not match what is needed by the agency.

Effective personnel assessment involves a systematic approach towards gathering information about applicants' job qualifications. Factors contributing to successful job performance (e.g., oral communication, problem solving) are identified using a process called job analysis. Job analysis identifies the duties performed on the job and the competencies needed for effective job performance. Basing personnel assessment closely on job analysis results makes the connection between job requirements and personnel assessment tools more transparent, thereby improving the perceived fairness of the assessment process.

Generally speaking, an assessment tool is any test or procedure administered to individuals to evaluate their job-related competencies, interests, or fitness for employment. The accuracy with which applicant assessment scores can be used to forecast performance on the job is the tool's most important characteristic, referred to as predictive validity (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). [1]

Not all assessment tools are appropriate for every job and organizational setting. Agencies must consider a number of factors in determining the most appropriate assessment strategy for a particular situation. These considerations include timetables for filling positions, available staff and financial resources, number of positions to be filled, and the nature and complexity of the work performed in the positions to be filled.

[1] Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 262-274.

It is very simple — using effective assessment tools will reduce the degree of error in making hiring decisions. Well-developed assessment tools allow agencies to specifically target the competencies and skills they seek. This helps to ensure the time spent by both applicants and agency personnel adds value to the decision-making process. Selection errors have financial and practical impacts on organizations. The consequences of even a single selection error can create problems for an entire work unit. For example, managers may have to devote substantial time training and counseling the marginal employee and coworkers must often handle increased workloads as they correct or perform the employee's work. Some selection errors can have agency-wide consequences such as customer service complaints, increases in work-related accidents and injuries, high absenteeism, poor work quality, increased turnover, or damage to the reputation of the agency.

Good assessment will also benefit employees who experience greater organizational commitment and job satisfaction because they are matched to jobs for which they are well suited. In addition, using job-related assessment tools often results in more favorable applicant reactions to the selection process. Such perceptions have lasting consequences for the agency including: promoting a positive image of the organization, increasing the likelihood of the applicant accepting a job offer, increasing the number of job referrals, and reducing the risk of selection system challenges and complaints.

OPM defines a competency as "A measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that an individual needs to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully." Competencies specify the "how" of performing job tasks, or what the person needs to do the job successfully (Shippmann et al., 2000). [2] Competencies represent a whole-person approach to assessing individuals.

Competencies tend to be either general or technical. General competencies reflect the cognitive and social capabilities (e.g., problem solving, interpersonal skills) required for job performance in a variety of occupations. On the other hand, technical competencies are more specific as they are tailored to the particular knowledge and skill requirements necessary for a specific job. OPM has conducted a number of occupational studies to identify competencies for many Federal occupations. These competencies are available in the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook.

[2] Shippman, J. S., Ash, R. A., Carr, L., Hesketh, B., Pearlman, K., Battista, M., Eyde, L. D., Kehoe., J., Prien, E. P., & Sanchez, J. I. (2000). The practice of competency modeling. Personnel Psychology, 53, 703-740.

Briefly, the first step to creating an effective personnel assessment is conducting (or having) a valid, current job analysis. The second step is to use the information gathered from the job analysis to create an assessment used to screen or assess applicants (a popular option being the occupational questionnaire). After an initial screening has been completed, you can employ other types of assessment methods that may be more resource-intensive, such as structured interviews.

Other sections of this website will further discuss these options and provide additional information and resources.

A job analysis identifies the job tasks, roles, and responsibilities of the incumbent performing the job, as well as the competencies required for performance, the resources used during performance, and the context (or environment) in which performance occurs. As such, a job analysis demonstrates the clear connection between job tasks and the competencies necessary to perform those tasks.

Conducting a job analysis involves collecting information from job experts. The term subject matter expert (SME) is properly applied to anyone who has direct, up-to-date experience of a job and is familiar with all of its tasks. The person might currently hold the job or supervise the job. SMEs must provide accurate information and effectively communicate their ideas. SMEs should rate the job tasks and competencies for importance to successful job performance. Critical incidents (i.e., examples of particularly effective or ineffective work behaviors) are also developed in some cases to describe essential job functions. Documentation of the job analysis process and the linkages between job tasks, competencies, and selection tool content are essential to ensure an assessment strategy meets legal and professional guidelines. Please refer to the section on conducting a job analysis in OPM's Delegated Examining Operations Handbook for more information.

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