SIOP 2006 Conference Program Online

SIOP 2006

I noticed that the Socity for I/O Psychology (SIOP) 2006 Conference Program is online and available for viewing. This is one of the biggest events for I/O psychology folks, with an overabundance of seminars, talks, presentations, workshops, and symposiums. Sadly I’m not on the program this year, but there seem to be pleny of other people. In fact, I hear that there are like 25% more items on the agenda this year, which often makes it hard to choose between competing interestes.
The only thing I know for sure is that I will HAVE to attend the one entitled “Learn N’Play: Effectiveness of Videogame-Based Simulations for Training and Development.” Because I like that kind of thing.
Otherwise, if you’re a member SIOP also has a online scheduling tool that will help you plan out your days if you can figure out how to use it. Unfortunately there’s no entry for “Nurse hangover” or “Duck out early to go sight seeing” options, so I’m not sure how useful people will find it. Personally, half the fun for me is whipping out the program and figuring out what I feel like going to next and how the heck I’m going to make it there in time to get a seat.

What Lawyers Think of Employment Testing

Well, some lawyers, anyway. The American Bar Association (no small player in the land of law) recently ran an article called When a test turns into a trial: Things to keep in mind about psychological testing” on their website. In it they set out to talk about the benefits and pitfalls of pre-employment testing. The article starts out cheerfully enough:

Most companies are realizing there is great value in using psychological tests as part of the employee selection and promotion process. A 2000 survey by the American Management Association found that 33 percent of employers surveyed used psychological testing with their applicants and employees. …So, why is knowing what is going on inside an employee or applicant’s head so important? The answer is actually rather simple: money. Pre-employment testing weeds out poor matches whose personality likely would not mesh with the company culture.

So far so good. Unfortunately, the writers of this piece quickly get bogged down by an infatuation with the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a test designed to detect mental illness and with use as a selection instrument only in special circumstances. Worse, the authors implicitly lump all personality and even all employment testing in with the MBTI. They wail and gnash their teeth over the dangers of using “psychological tests” like the MMPI with the implicit message that they’re all legal landmines set to blow your company to bits. They don’t really enter into any kind of discussion over cognitive ability tests, skills tests, or tests of normal personality (besides a brief nod to integrity testing).
So at this point, I’m pretty much considering the article critically flawed, hamstrung by a lack of knowledge about the nature of employment testing. It gets worse, though, in that the lawyers writing the piece don’t even really seem to get the law around employment testing as it relates to discrimination:

…An employer who administers the wrong psychological test could face further legal action under varying federal and state laws. For instance, an employee could challenge a psychological test under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII prohibits testing designed to, or that has a tendency to, discriminate based on race, gender, religion or national origin. Therefore, to the extent that a psychological test has a disproportionate adverse effect on minorities or women, the employer could face additional litigation under Title VII.

While that’s technically true –increased adverse impact increases your legal exposure– what’s omitted is any substantial discussion about validity or business necessity as an accepted defense against adverse impact. The only time this is hinted at is in a bulleted list of “things to consider” about employment testing. Specifically, they say “Make sure that the test is statistically valid, reliable and devoid of cultural and ethnic bias” and “Use tests that are job-related and of a business necessity.” But then things are thrown back out of balance by a bullet point saying “Monitor the test results to ensure that there is not a disparate impact on women and minorities.”
The fact is, though, that for some kinds of employment tests, adverse impact is an unfortunate fact of life. But the legal exposure is mediated by validity evidence and other efforts at ensuring the test’s job relatedness. And ironically, the personality tests that the article spends so much time complaining about are the kind of tests that typically don’t exhibit much adverse impact.
If someone were to evaluate testing on the basis of this article alone, they’d go away with a skewed and inappropriately negative view of the whole thing. I know effective lawyers always aim to minimize legal exposure, but this just doesn’t seem right.

Selection Humor

Two examples of testing humor to help you get ready for the weekend.
Michael Harris sends word via George’s Employment Blawg about an article in STL Today dealing with a spot of testing and HR-related humor. Harris seems to think the humor falls a bit short and earns groaner status by virtue of silly jabs at our profession, and I kind of agree with him. Not side splitting stuff, but see for yourself.

The Daily Show

The second example, though is quite a bit funnier. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently did a piece where one of their reporters tried to get a new job and did everything completely wrong. You can watch it online here if you can tolerate their awful website and use Internet Explorer (yuck). My favorite part is where he goes to Staples to get copies of his resume made. Great stuff.

New Rules for Internet Applicants

Internet Job Applicant

Yesterday, February 6th, was the day that Federal regulations helping define an “applicant” in the context of the Internet went into effect. I wrote about this already and there’s an excellent summary right here, but this article on CNN Money entitled “Job hunting online gets trickier” caught my eye.
First, the headline is kind of misleading. I don’t think that a whole lot has changed about the way that people are going to be job hunting based on these new regulations. The approaches that worked the best on February 5th are still going to work as well today. The author of the CNN piece, however, seems to disagree, mainly fixating on the “possesses the basic objective qualifications for the position” part of the wording. To quote the CNN article:

For instance, if a job description includes the words “three years of credit accounting experience,” put “three years of credit accounting experience” on your resume. “Don’t just list a credit-accounting position with the dates you had it and assume someone will figure it out,” Crispin advises. This may mean you have to rewrite your resume for each job opening you apply for.

What? No, not if you ask me. I doubt recruiters will slash their applicant pools to ribbons just because nobody parroted the job description in their applications. Targeting your resume to a particular job is always smart, but any reasonable recruiter or hiring manager could look at your 4 years of experience in credit-accounting and justify their decision to interview you.
Here’s another head scratcher:

The rules allow companies to pick a random pool of applicants by searching the job boards for ‘most recent’ qualified applicants,” Crispin notes. “In those cases, no one will even look at a resume that is more than two or three weeks old.” Yikes.

Yikes? The CNN article doesn’t provide any references, I guess they’re referring to this file which says that employers can use random sampling to deal with an overwhelmingly large applicant pool. But I’m not sure how that’s different than it was before the new rules. Companies could always pick random samples of applications, though they’d be unwise to do so in all but the biggest applicant pools without at least some preliminary screening.
At any rate, odd article. It almost felt like the author just wanted to throw something out there to not the occasion and just reported everything some consultant told her. It also has a rather bombastic headline, all things considered.

Changes to I/O Licensing in California

I/O License

The other day I got an e-mail from Leaetta Hough, the current President of the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP). It was, in fact, an e-mail sent to all SIOP members addressing some changes to the California licensure requirements for I/O Psychologists. Also included was a copy of the letter Dr. Hough had sent to Jacqueline Horn, President of the California Board of Psychology. Essentially, Dr. Hough was raising complaints about changes to the licensure requirements that were unfair to I/O psychologists.
Here, here’s a few chunks from the letter:

Our review of California’s new written test for licensure indicates that it focuses narrowly on clinical skills, and thereby raises barriers that adversely impact I/O psychologists and other non-Health Service Provider candidates. We are concerned that the new California exam will fail to assess adequately I/O candidates’ education and training in specialties relevant to their practice, yet require them and other non-health service providers (non-HSPs) to demonstrate competence in areas outside of their training, expertise, and intended area of practice. This will impose an unfair burden on them in their efforts to obtain licensure and does not ensure the competent practice of psychology in non-clinical areas.

In the past, the California Board of Psychology has recognized that the practice of psychology includes others in addition to clinicians. It has provided alternate supervision structures by having a separate, specialty-relevant oral exam (when that was required), and, following licensure, by exempting non-HSPs from specific CE courses that are not relevant to their area of practice. The recent actions of the Board with regard to the restructuring of the licensing examination depart from that tradition and have created a licensing procedure that unfairly discriminates against non-HSPs. In its current form the examination process raises serious professional, ethical, and legal concerns.

Now, I won’t claim to completely understand the dilemmas relevant to this. This is mainly because it’s a non-issue for me –I can do all the work I want to do without going through some arduous licensing process that’s practically impossible for non-clinicians anyway. I just can’t call myself “Jamie Madigan, Super Psychologist” and be legal/ethical about it.
Sure, by the letter of the law I (and everyone else practicing I/O psychology outside of one or two states) should be licensed even for the work we do engage in, but that law seems to be treated like jaywalking or speeding. Everybody breaks it but it’s not a big deal until somebody gets hurt, which isn’t often. And it’s not like our work involves making recommendations that will cause physical or mental damage to our clients. So why do we need to be licensed any more than other people involved in academics or business?
So in effect, what Hough is complaining about is a bad situation getting slightly worse. Or, if you prefer, replace “bad” and “worse” with “irrelevant” and “more irrelevant.” I’d get much more value out of becoming “Professional in HR Certified” from an organization like SHRM than I would getting licensed as a psychologist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she and the rest of the SIOP Executive Committee are playing the watchdog here lest things get progressively worse. And I agree that I/O psychology is substantively different from clinical psychology and that the licensure requirements should reflect these differences. But I just can’t get that fired up about it because it just doesn’t seem to matter.
But like I said, I don’t pretend to possess a full knowledge of the issues at stake. Perhaps someone with a more complete and/or bigger picture can chime in. The SIOP website also has a pretty nice resource on licensure, too.