[IPAC-List] Written Communication Exercises

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Tue May 25 10:46:19 EDT 2010

What is it you hope to learn about candidates via this general sort of assessment?

Once upon a time, we needed to examine "lower-level skills" like punctuation and spelling because absence of those impeded successfully conveying higher-order messages. Not unlike the way that the teaching and testing of statistics often used to consist of assessing knowledge of the formulae. Once software started taking care of the nuts and bolts, though, it became more pertinent (and one now had the latitude) to focus on higher-order skills, like the wise application of statistical methods to different sorts of problems, and in the case of written communication, the prioritizing and organization of content.

As well, given that so many nowadays think of spelling, punctuation, and grammar, the way that teens think of picking up dirty socks ("somebody else" will do it), I suspect that scoring such things decreases the face validity of the test. Personally, I find that attention to details is usually the marker of an effective communicator, and those who can't spell can't communicate, but we'll set aside my prejudice for the moment.

So what are you hoping to learn about in candidates, attention to detail, or conveyance of message? Or something else?

Mark Hammer

>>> "Mudd, Jordan W." <Jordan.Mudd at louisvilleky.gov> 5/25/2010 10:31 am >>>

Hello All,

My agency currently gives a handwritten memo-writing exercise as part of
the promotional process for many of our higher level public safety
positions . The exercise is designed to measure the written
communication skills of our applicants including grammar, spelling,
punctuation, syntax, etc. This exercise has worked well in the past.
However, the department's method of communication has improved with
technology causing handwritten and typed memos to become obsolete.

I am curious to see how other agencies measure (if at all) written
communication skills of their candidates while taking into consideration
technological changes in the job. Does your agency allow candidates to
use computer word processing programs for such exercises? Another
related issue is the candidate's availability to resources they would
have on the job (e.g., spell/grammar check, internet, etc.). Can such
resources be allowed without losing our measurement of the candidate's
written communication skills? Perhaps this is something that is best
left to be addressed by the hiring agency after the promotion is made
and a performance deficiency is discovered.

Mr. Jordan Mudd

Louisville Metro Government

Civil Service & Police Merit Boards
517 Court Place, Suite 501
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
T 502.574.3687 F 502.574.1041

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