May 19

4 common myths about assessments


By Chuck Coker

Testing. Sounds kind of intimidating, no?

As if interviewing, obtaining, and performing in a role weren’t difficult enough, now my boss wants to probe deeper inside my head?

This concern is understandable, for sure. While a great majority of organizations use assessments of some type to gauge abilities in employees, people still remain cautious about being tested, despite the massive progress and development of psychometric science.

Today, there are still some who are concerned that the answers the assessments provide will not give an accurate picture of their true characteristics and abilities, despite countless validation studies. Below, we cover four of the most prominent myths and misconceptions about modern assessments, and explain why employees shouldn’t fear “the test.”

1) “My deep, dark secrets will be exposed.”

The most common ‘joke’ question most psychometricians hear is: “Well am I an ax murderer?” The reality is that assessments identify behaviorally, mindset, skill, capacity, and habitual traits, NOT specific experiences. While tendencies can be somewhat predictable, assessments cannot, nor can they be used as conclusive when it comes to specific events. This type of fear inhibits the opportunity for an individual’s true marketable strengths and abilities to be understood, utilized, and maximized.

Assessment results should be kept in an individual’s personnel file and made unavailable without employee consent. If the individual is schooled in the personal formation process they will see their results as a working tool for advancement. Companies like General Electric have used these tools for career progression for decades.


2) “You will judge me, based on my answers.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Almost all assessments are internet or computer-based, so there is no one observing individual answers. The results are different for every person.

Validated instruments are designed to identify where and how well a person ‘fits’ a particular position or station because it is a lot easier for some people to do certain types of work more than others. Rather than judging, the assessment results illuminate the appropriate path and define what ‘equipping’ is necessary for the future if the change is desirable to the person. The assessment will make their time and energy expenditures count, both now and in the future.


3) “I won’t do well on tests because I get nervous.”

Fortunately, most of today’s assessments use the ‘ipsative’ or forced-choice approach. The assessments require a person to rank or provide their preferences. Many of the directions for corporate assessments used today include the phrases: “there are no right or wrong answers” or “just be yourself.” This allows the program to gather even nervous data with consistency and objectivity, ensuring there is a good or less than good fit for the purpose.

A complete and sophisticated battery will provide a validity factor indicating whether the individual was so nervous that they could not communicate clearly or that they tried to ‘beat’ the tests. In most cases, sensitive feedback, before and after the assessment, will reassure the individual so they can see that their information will help them along their professional path with fairness as well as ensuring they receive the best opportunities available for their own unique abilities.

4) “You are trying to pigeon-hole me or put me in some box.”

Unfortunately, these beliefs come from well-intentioned trainers who have limited depth in the use of psychometric data. Exercises similar to the “all the extroverts go to this side of the room and all the introverts to the other side” have inhibited some people. It leaves them feeling that they have lost their uniqueness. Everyone has an ego to a greater or lesser extent.

Classification is a slap in the face to those with high goals and aspirations. By using a personal formation approach, results are individualized but with a common language understandable to the team. Individualized study accompanied by group sessions allows you to keep your uniqueness but provides common language promoting interaction, support, and validation of individual assets. In other words, it’s the best of both worlds. Employees retain their uniqueness while employers thrive.

Whether you realize it or not, your employer has just given you some additional information for increasing your opportunity for success. You have to latch on to this opportunity and put it to work because most HR and hiring managers don’t know what to do with the information other than “if there is a good fit or not.” Take your results and read them quickly one time. Then when you have a few quiet minutes reread them slowly circling areas that may not seem a good fit for your position or may inhibit your performing at a high level. Then follow this outline:

  1. List the characteristics
  2. Prioritize the ones that will have the biggest impact on inhibiting success
  3. Identify which skills need to be developed.
  4. Go to your manager and ask what kind of programs/developmental processes he/she has available to help you master these processes.
  5. If there are not professional options, search the internet for options. Many are available to you free. Others, which are more in-depth may have some cost associated.
  6. Make a plan to develop yourself with the money they spent on the assessment whether you plan to stay in the job or whether it is another stepping stone to success.

About the author 

Chuck Coker

For more than 30 years, Chuck has focused his career on people's development. He has implemented proprietary Personal Formation, Human Capital, Talent Management, and incentive-based programs across a broad scope of Fortune Companies, regional organizations, and educational institutions.


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