Bridging the Gap

Dr. Wendell Williams quoted in “Bridging the Gap” by Allison C. Wilson
by Allison C. Wilson:
Dr. Wendell Williams, contributing writer to, responded, “To begin with, any type of test should be validated for use in selection. That means the company has an obligation to prove test scores predict job performance. A general mental ability test usually includes measuring your ability to figure math, define words, interpret sentences and make simple calculations — much like the tests people take to get into college, but not as extensive.

Mental alertness tests are among the best predictors of job performance. Good performers tend to be smart enough to do the job. When mental alertness scores are examined on a demographic group-by-group basis, however, individual scores tend to cluster into different averages. Since the government likes to examine group averages for evidence of adverse impact, employers should be very careful to set mental alertness cutoff points only high enough to reflect the job’s needs.

For example, some employers think higher mental alertness scores are better. These people will choose a person with a 90 percent score over someone with an 80 percent score, because they think that is a better score. Not true. Does a difference of 10 percent in mental alertness lead to a big difference in job performance? Will the person with the higher score become bored with the job and leave, because it does not provide a mental challenge? What are the scores of people who are already doing well on the job? Mental alertness tests are a double-edged sword that must be used wisely. If you are using a mental alertness test in selection, be sure to hire a consultant to help set the norms.”

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