[IPAC-List] Would you rather.....?

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Tue Apr 7 09:55:48 EDT 2009

Select a candidate using a half dozen of the crème de la crème of
relevant tools out there, or get to hire them as temps for 8 months and
see what they can do before making a decision?

Where do you place your faith *more*, in well-developed tools or in
what you think you see with your own eyes?

I add the following caveats:

1) This obviously assumes that the position *permits* this kind of
choice to exist. I doubt many would want to "try out" people as
temporary incumbents in public safety/protection or emergency

2) This also assumes that performance is actually observable by the
hiring manager. I understand that jobs, and work contexts, vary in the
likelihood that 6, 8, or even 18 months provides adequate opportunity to
get a clear and confident sense of whether the incumbent meets, and
possibly exceeds, the requirements for the position.

3) In some respects, "good" tools serve as a proxy for on-the-job
observation. I.E., "If I can't try them out for real, I can at least
see what they do in a simulated situation, or what I can expect in such

4) I have a definite bias towards a monitoring perspective. In other
words, merit is great, but I have to be in a position to count it and
argue its existence (or reduction) before legislators and senior
officials. So, **common sense** says that if you hire someone
permanently that you've had on contract for 18 months already, that 18
months probably predicts future performance at least as well, or perhaps
better than, a handful of scores. But the monitoring imperative says
that I cannot simply ask 2000 managers "Are you happy with the person
you hired?", then turn around and present that to senior officials as
"proof" of merit. Similarly, if you get someone on a casual/contract
(and non-competitive) basis to fill a short-term need, is it reasonable
and guided by merit to appoint them eventually because, after all, "they
can do the job"? Or is there something missing?

5) People WILL use testing, and people WILL attempt to convert
short-term contracts into long-term or permanent ones, simply because it
is more expedient than running a competition. Can all of that (formal
competitions, try-before-you-buy, "well, they're doing the job already",
sham competitions, etc.) peacefully co-exist?

So that's the challenge: Do we absolutely NEED testing to be assured
of merit, or are there dependable substitutes?

Mark Hammer

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