Predicting High Performers: Use of Selection Decision Aids

BK checkChristy Smith, Outsourced Consulting Services

Deciding which applicants are most likely to be productive is not easy. However, there are a number of ways to increase the chances of accurately predicting the high performers. Most employers use processes such as job applications, resume screenings, reference checks, and structured interviews. A frequently overlooked yet powerful addition is pre-employment testing and assessments.

The science of pre-employment assessments, grounded in the field of Psychology, was developed to provide evidence-based decision aids for predicting high performers. It has progressed substantially over the past 20 years and we now know a lot about how to use pre-employment assessments to predict high performers. However, the science of pre-employment assessments can also be technical and difficult to understand. Combined with the rapid growth of the assessment vendor market, it is no easy task for HR professionals to determine what assessments to use and how to use them. Indeed, research suggests that many HR professionals shy away from using pre-employment assessments for this very reason.

Below are a few quick tips to consider when using pre-employment assessments to predict high performers:

Start with a thorough and accurate job description or job analysis.

  • This information is essential to selecting which assessments are appropriate for use. Job descriptions should outline the KSAO’s (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Characteristics) needed for successful performance.

Use a valid test.

  • The concept of validity can be obscure but its importance cannot be overstated. Validity is generally defined as the extent to which a test measures what it claims to measure.

Use job-relevant tests.

  • Tests should specifically target the KSAO’s identified as essential for the position. When possible, it is important to put the assessments in context for the specific position in the employer’s organization.

Use a combination of tests.

  • Cognitive ability tests and skills tests are great ways to predict technical task performance. High performers are often not just technically savvy; they also perform other positive organizational behaviors outside of their direct job responsibilities (e.g., team players, put in extra effort to ensure customer satisfaction, etc.). Personality and work style inventories are both great ways to predict this type of performance.

MSEC is here to help you select high performers. We have an employee testing and assessment department devoted to helping our members evaluate assessments they are already using, select assessments to adopt, and answer any questions about testing and assessment. Do not hesitate to contact us at