[IPAC-List] Assessments as "part of the puzzle"

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Wed Feb 11 15:59:24 EST 2009

Certainly the applicant reactions literature will tell you that candidates are most likely to feel the process is fair if they also feel that they had an opportunity to show their full range of competencies; i.e., show what they can do. When multiple cascaded assessment tools are used in such a way that one never gets to show competency Y unless one has met some standard for competency/ability X *first*, that contradicts this principle and is more likely to evoke negative reactions from applicants.

Obviously, one is seeking quality hires rather than mere approval from applicants, but you gotta GET applicants first to have quality hires, and that means creating and maintaining a reputation as having a fair selection process. So, on that basis alone, the "part of a puzzle" approach has some merit.

Having said that, my hunch is that there are a great many contexts where such an approach is not realistically feasible unless one has already shrunk the applicant list down to a workable size by means of some relevant test, or min-quals screen. Under such circumstances, one would hope that the object of such a test would be something that could be assessed independently and have something of a "Trust me, if you don't do well on this then the job will be sheer hell for you" aspect to it, supplemented by a generous enough pass mark and solid-enough debriefing that those eliminated won't feel deprived of anything whatsoever. At THAT point, one can then apply tests in complementary fashion.

As an aside, I've been kvetching for years now that at some levels, we ought to be assessing for managerial wisdom and not isolated competencies. And if one looks at contemporary models of wisdom, it is the sort of construct that requires you to examine multiple characteristics in joint fashion. It is the concurrent and joint demonstration of those characteristics that identifies wisdom. Adding individual competencies up in compensatory fashion (he may lack empathy, but he's REALLY smart) just doesn't cut it. So there is a case where it is conceptually unavoidable to assess in a manner *other* than "parts of a puzzle".

Mark Hammer

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