Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unicru and Standardized Tests

I am at a loss to explain standardized testing in schools and the work place. Research has shown that standardized testing is pretty pointless. Take the GRE for example (entrance exam for Grad school). All of the study books flat out tell you that the test has no relevance to life in graduate school whatsoever, yet students have to shell out close to $150 to take it and to buy all the preparation materials and put their lives on hold for months to get a desired score on it (because 4 years at university isn't enough to prove you are ready for college). Researchers at BGSU proved the ineffectiveness of this system by showing that those who scored high on the GRE actually took LONGER to complete graduate school.

Much in the same vein of rediculous is Unicru (now Kronos Hiring Solutions), otherwise known as the standardized "personality" test used by several large corporations (Walmart, Blockbuster, etc) to hire new employees. Anyone who has been in the job market the past several years has probably run across this monstrosity. Filling out applications online is supposed to make the process run faster, until you get those near-100 Unicru questions after-the-fact and one application takes you an hour to complete. For those who haven't been tormented enough to witness this for yourself, there are a series of seemingly endless questions one has to answer that are supposed to determine your potential as an employee, you can't even get a call back if you don't pass it. Apparently, chosing any answer other than 'Strongly Disagree' or 'Strongly Agree' i.e. answers in the middle is wrong (because real life never exists in shades of grey). I've thought for so long this test is a huge waste of anyone's time and talent that I've done a great deal of research myself on this phenomenon. The mere idea that a generic bogus personality indicator can predict success in employment is outlandish. Every employee has something different to contribute, and no two people will see and experience the world the same way, not to mention like scholastic standardized tests there are many potential strengths and abilities such a test doesn't account for that are simply disguarded in the face of a test that has no relevance either way.

Many of the questions are flat out stupid. Case in point: "Corporations lie to get ahead." (Strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree). The answer is supposed to be 'strongly disagree', because corporations don't want to hire people who don't worship the ground they walk on. It's not even an opinion but rather a fact that corporations have lied to become multi-billion dollar enterprises. Knowing this doesn't mean you are going to be a bad employee or, heaven forbid, steal from the company. A fact is a fact. Except with Unicru where you aren't allowed to have an opinion they don't want and still be considered desirable for hire. Isn't that rather totalitarian? So yes, I'll say it loud and proud to the world, I strongly believe corporations lie their tailbone off to get to the top. I, as an employee, however, never have, and never once stole or committed any crime against any workplace and never would.

A lot of the questions border on 'none of your business' personal territory and you shouldn't be forced to answer such questions to get a job nonetheless be rated and judged and have assumptions made qualifying you or disqualifying you for any position based on those answers.

For example:

'You look back and feel bad about the things you've done'.

Part of the problem with this question and countless others is that answers need to be taken in context, and these tests don't give any. The correct example for the above is supposedly 'strongly disagree', which frankly makes a person sound more like a sociopath than a desirable employee to me, or an infallible human, whichever comes first. No one is without imperfection and certainly there are things in all our lives we would probably do a different way at some point. To not feel regret or negativity about some action at some point in your past is completely inhuman. If anyone puts an affirmative answer on this one, it apparently means that you buried a body in someone's backyard and it's still weighing on you.

'You do some things that upset people'.
'People's feelings are sometimes hurt by what you say.'
How generic is this?! I'm sure even E.T. could lay claim to this one. Again, refer to the above paragraph. No matter how saintly a figure you are, everyone has upset someone at one time or another, intentional or not, and I can't fathom why you are expected to deny human frailty when it is a fact. I honestly believe I go out of my way to avoid hurting people's feelings more than the average person, but I am shocked to know there is supposed to be a 'right' or 'wrong' answer to this, even if you go out of your way more than the average person to not upset people or hurt their feelings.

'You have friends but don't like them to be too close'.
'You are a fairly private person.'

I guess anti-social people aren't allowed to have jobs. I'm not one, but I would say I can be fairly private, which I consider to be a strength. Despite being a private person, I have no trouble mingling with the public and being a very outgoing individual when the situation requires, so I'm still trying to see why this is such a bad thing. Especially with what I see everytime I walk into a store (i.e. employees that are more concerned with their cell phones than customers and can't stop talking to anyone and anything within a ten mile radius while ignoring their jobs. Makes me feel that more private people might actually be able to focus more on customers and the job at hand if they kept their private business their own).

'Your moods are steady from day to day.'
'You change from happy to sad for no reason.'
These questions make me sad, because they are so clearly biased against people who have any sort of social or mental disability or problem, and this is actually illegal (institutionalized discrimination). In defending the tests, a Unicru creator said that anyone who has a 'normal' personality shouldn't have any trouble passing the test and getting a job. Am I to understand that only 'normal' people have a right to jobs? And last time I checked, there's no such thing as 'normal' in the firstplace. I am appalled that these tests haven't been outlawed and that so many corporations actually see validity in such a superificial system.

'You get mad at yourself when you make mistakes.'
'You are unsure of yourself with new people.'
No insecurities or perfectionism allowed, mortals.

'You are a friendly person.'
OF COURSE you are! Mean people aren't allowed to be employed. Hey, I don't like dealing with mean-spirited people, but the frank reality is that they have as much a right to live, breathe, and work as I do in a free country.

'Any trouble you have is your own fault'.
Yes. If I get plowed by a semi tomorrow, that's my bad.

'You do not like small talk.'
'You love to listen to people talk about themselves.'
Apparently, answering 'yes' on these makes you a bad person. If you are a deep thinker that appreciates conversations of substance, you're pretty much out of luck getting a job. And not liking small talk or listening to people endlessly talk about themselves doesn't mean you aren't willing to engage in it with a customer when necessary, by the way.

'You don't believe what most people say.' (Eek! PopSpiracy is screwed).

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Passing the test isn't the problem, it's the principal behind the test that is and the ethics of such a system that is. I stand by my position that no one should be subjected to generic standardized tests. Everyone has something different to offer the workplace and scholastic environment and I wouldn't want to work or study at a place that didn't place value on individual strengths and talents beyond what could ever be measured. That and, how lazy do you have to be to have a computer screen candidates for you? I'm see some corporations doubt the natural talents of their HR departments as well... The bottom line is that standardized tests don't work and never have. Not in the school system and not in employment. Notice that Unicru nor the companies who use it don't release statistics on employee turnovers at that company, because they would no doubt reveal that the test doesn't work. Anytime I go into a company that screens with Unicru, I see different faces on a weekly basis. Does that tell you anything? Strongly agree.