Performance Based Assessments
& Tools, A New Paradigm Shift
Assessments - Definition
and Objectives Personnel and Career Assessments are gaining
momentum in India, particularly in the corporate world. This article
gives a snapshot about assessments in general and Performance based
assessments and Tools in particular. While pinning down this article,
I have taken an educative approach rather than just being informative.
"Assessment is a
technique used to establish the 'worth' of an individual from
several related measurements and evaluations to yield comprehensive
information about the individual, on which to base employment
or career based decisions". A true Assessment procedure
follows a holistic approach which includes use of scientific
tools and techniques to assess people on various criteria.
A criterion can be a skill, knowledge, ability, personality,
Objectives The objective (s) of assessments
can be varied. Organizations use assessment tools and procedures
to help them perform one or more of the following HR functions:
- Training and development
- Career exploration and guidance
Constructs, Standards and Assessment Tools The following
section explains in a nutshell about Constructs, Standards and assessment
tools. Also, I have provided URL links which contains comprehensive
research information and published white papers on related areas.
Constructs As mentioned in
the very beginning, assessments are done against parameters called
constructs. The construct could be Knowledge related, Skill oriented
or concerned with intellectual Abilities or a combination of more
than one (also known as KSAO).Refer the following link for more
info on this - www.hrma-agrh.gc.ca/research/personnel/comp_ksao_e.pdf
Standards There are several
internationally acclaimed associations which have defined standards
for assessments. A couple of noted ones include the American Psychological
Association (http://www.apa.org) and the College Board (http://www.collegeboard.com).
Apart from this, many private organizations have also contributed
towards setting standards for assessment. The noted one among them
is the Educational Testing Services (http://www.ets.org).
Apart from these associations and councils, many individuals have
spent a lifetime researching on assessments. Some of the illustrious
personalities include Benjamin Bloom, Frederic M. Lord (more known
as Fred Lord) and Stanley Kaplan. If Benjamin Bloom's contribution
towards assessments is "Blooms Taxonomy", Fred Lord is
considered to be the father of "Item Response Theory (IRT)",
while Stanley Kaplan has the credit of creating the "Scholastic
Aptitude Test (SAT)".
Assessment Tools Assessment tools include tests, inventories
( eg : personality inventory ), rating scales ( eg: 3 point scale,
5 point scale ) and procedures ( eg: Written test, Multiple choice
test, Group Discussion, etc.). Organizations may use one or more
of these tools for the purpose of assessments.
of the popular assessment tools and techniques used today by corporates
Resume evaluation - This is usually the first
cut evaluation procedure followed to eliminate candidates
based on checkpoints like Qualification, experience and skills.
- Interviews are conducted by a Panel of experts.
Interviews again can be unstructured or structured. In an
unstructured interview, the interviewer asks questions on
an adhoc basis.
On the contrary, a structured
interview has a definite pattern. It contains the set of questions
that an interviewer needs to ask the interviewee along with expected
answers (also know as best case solutions). The test specification
also includes parameters like the total time for the interview and
more importantly the guidelines for scoring or rating the candidate.
Aptitude tests - The primary objective of these tests
is to assess the cognitive abilities like verbal reasoning, numerical
ability, analytical and logical reasoning, etc. Extensive research
on cognitive abilities has established that there are 8 different
abilities that a human being needs to possess to perform any job.
These tests are usually Mutiple Choice Questions (MCQ) tests comprising
of questions grouped under different sections titled by the cognitive
abilities mentioned before (eg: Verbal ability section, Numerical
reasoning section, etc.).
4. Personality inventories -
Personality inventories are extensively used for psychometric assessments.
A personality inventory is nothing but a questionnaire that is given
to candidates that tries to check a candidate's interest, likes,
dis-likes etc through a set of questions ( many of them are MCQ
based questionnaires ) and then based on the candidate's response
tries to map his profile against already defined ones. Some of the
popular psychometric assessments include 16PF, FIRO-B, MBTI and
Thomas profiling. You can find more information on these tests in
these sites - http://www.opp.co.uk/ , https://www.thomasinternational.net/
5. Performance tests - The
objective of these tests is to assess the on-the-job-skills of a
candidate. Skills here refer to hard skills, also called as technical
skills. A skill can be as mundane as carpentry, driving, typing
or as niche as driving a jet plane or programming for an embedded
system. Organizations used varied assessment tools and techniques
to assess people on these skills. Pertaining to Software Programming,
performance based testing assumes paramount significance especially
during recruitment. In software parlance performance is considered
in terms of design, coding and testing. Currently, performance testing
is done by giving problem scenarios to candidates and asking him
/ her to write the solution (please note that it is a pen-and-paper
test). The candidates' responses are then manually evaluated by
a team of experts. Since evaluating written code requires an expert
going through each line of code and ascertain its correctness, it
is not only a pain staking exercise, but also time consuming, apart
from being subjective and error prone.
Of late, a few companies have come up with an innovative and effective
way of assessing technical skills (in particular programming skills).
A few noteworthy products are from SkillCheck, NCE Technologies
and Liqwid Krystal. Among these, I have found DevSquare from NCE
Technologies (www.devsquare.com) interesting and convincing. DevSquare
is an online development platform that also tests "coding skills".
Currently, DevSquare supports assessments of C, C++, C#, ASP.Net,
Core Java, Java Servlets and Java Server Pages (JSP) technologies.
DevSquare has an intuitive user interface akin to any Integrated
Development Environment (IDE) with provision for writing, compiling
and executing code. The candidate is challenged with a programming
question and has to think and write code as solution. The solution
is evaluated for coding correctness, compliance with coding standards
and syntax rules and such other parameters. According to me, DevSquare
is ideal for pre and post training assessments, pre-employment and
career assessments. In the articles that follow I will walk you
through Skills Assessments - Techniques and Tools.
Contributing Author: Ravi Kumar is a technical
consultant with more than a decade experience in the IT industry
(specializes in assessment tools & techniques). You can reach
him at [email protected]