[IPAC-List] Value of cognitive ability testing for Journey-Level skilled trade jobs

mhammer at 295.ca mhammer at 295.ca
Tue Mar 15 19:46:30 EDT 2016

Kevin asks a great question.

I think Lance, as usual, is spot on.  Sure, the demonstrable predictive
validity of cognitive ability tests is something to rely on....but only
insomuch as it presents a viable hurdle for candidates.  If everybody
passes it, then it has no predictive power.

Personally, I don't see much *conceptually* wrong in administering the
test, seeing what the distribution of scores is, and deciding on that
basis whether to include it as a selection criterion along with the other

But I suppose that suggestion may be easier said than done, from a legal
perspective.  Are you allowed to simply drop an administered test if you
deem it is largely non-predictive?

Of course, if that IS a viable option, there is still the matter of
devising a suitable weight for the test, in combination with the other
tools.  How would you weight the tools if the cognitive ability test IS
included, and how would you weight their contribution if it was omitted,
and would that change the outcome in any problematic way?

I guess the third route is to use it this time but consider it as an
experiment for future scenarios where you end up having to hire above
entry-level.  Wait a year, and tell us if it increments to predictive
validity above and beyond what the other tools provide.

Mark Hammer

> Hi Kevin:
> I have faced this question with some of my clients.  If PG&E has been
> giving the full test battery to experienced journey-level candidatesfor
> some time now, what percentage of these candidates pass the basic
> aptitude and cognitive tests?  If all candidates pass with flying
> colors, perhaps those tests aren't really needed.  On the other hand, if
> a significant number of candidates fail, perhaps those tests are needed,
> if PG&E wants to maintain the same quality of employees that were hired
> in the past.
> PG&E's personality tests probably measure things like safety, teamwork,
> and work ethic.  These worker characteristics still have a high degree
> of variability among experienced candidates, so PG&E should probably
> continue administering those tests to experienced journey-level
> candidates.
> So how much savings are we really talking about?  How much does it cost
> to administer the basic aptitude and cognitive tests?  How much extra
> time is required to administer these tests?  Would the benefit from
> dropping these tests be enough to out-weigh the risk of hiring skilled
> trades people who lack basic reading and math ability?  Is that risk
> greater forPG&E than for other employers?  What could possibly go wrong?
> Lance Seberhagen, Ph.D.
> Seberhagen & Associates
> 9021 Trailridge Court
> Vienna, VA 22182
> 703-790-0796
> www.seberhagen.com <http://www.seberhagen.com>
> On 3/15/2016 5:10 PM, Reindl, Kevin wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I wanted to get others’ opinions/experiences on a question that our
>> company is grappling with (if you can point to specific research that
>> helps shed light on this, even better):
>> Here’s the situation: We typically hire employees into entry-level
>> training or apprentice-level jobs for our skilled trades (electrical,
>> mechanical maintenance, etc.). When we hire entry level employees, we
>> use an array of basic aptitude, cognitive and personality-based
>> assessments in the selection process (e.g., mechanical aptitude,
>> numerical reasoning, spatial skills, conscientiousness, etc.).
>> However, because of recent gaps in our journey-level workforce (e.g.,
>> due to retirements, etc.), we have been recruiting and hiring
>> experienced journey-level employees
i.e., those who have been
>> performing the same work at other companies or have already completed
>> apprenticeships elsewhere. For these jobs we have been using the same
>> set of aptitude/cognitive and personality assessments, PLUS a test of
>> technical knowledge required in the trade. There is also a
>> behavior-based interview and technical interview to round out the
>> selection process.
>> There is debate in our company regarding whether there is value in
>> continuing the use of broad-based aptitude/cognitive tests for these
>> journey level hires.
>> 1.On one side of the argument, the cognitive tests are well-validated
>> assessments that have shown to be predictive of success in a wide
>> range of similar jobs, and since we “require” candidates to take them
>> for the entry level jobs, why wouldn’t we require them for higher
>> level jobs?
>> 2.On the other side of the argument, why would we need to assess
>> general cognitive ability for experienced journey-level candidates,
>> since they have presumably been performing similar work at other
>> companies. Also, since we also assess their technical knowledge in
>> other tests, require X years of experience, and in many cases require
>> them to have completed a certified apprenticeship
then what added
>> value is measuring their basic aptitude to do this kind of work?
>> I know that internal local research/a validity study might provide
>> some answers, but before we initiate that level of research, I’d be
>> interested in thoughts from the IPAC group

>> ·Which side do you lean toward #1 or #2 above, and why?
>> ·What do you do for similar situations in your organization?
>> ·Do you know of any research (single study or meta-analysis) that may
>> shed some light on the matter?
>> As always, I look forward to your thoughts!
>> *Kevin Reindl*
>> Pacific Gas & Electric
>> Human Resources
>> Assessments and Organizational Insights
>> 245 Market Street, N2J
>> San Francisco, CA 94105
>> Office: 415-973-7013
>> Mobile: 619-322-3368
>> k1rq at pge.com <mailto:k1rq at pge.com> or kevin.reindl at pge.com
>> <mailto:kevin.reindl at pge.com>
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