based on an “accomplishment record” can be used to perform initial screening.31 Accomplishment records require organizations to identify the key dimensions of performance for each job and to develop specific behavioral examples of performance at the level required in that job (e.g., the behavioral examples that describe adequate performance on the dimension of “oral communication” would be different for a university professor than for members of a team involved in assembling automobile engines). Applicants then rate themselves in reference to these dimensions and exemplars.

Legal Dimensions of Assessment

Apart from the value of assisting employers to identify and hire the most productive and talented IT workers, assessment is important to employers for legal reasons as well: some methods of assessment run afoul of antidiscrimination statutes—and others may raise suspicions of discrimination even if they are legally defensible. Employers who do not exercise care in the way in which they conduct assessments leave themselves vulnerable to legal challenge.

These concerns arise from a fundamental conflict between the protection of individual rights and the rights of employers to make assessments of potential employees for legitimate business reasons. The essential reality of assessment is that any assessment method will result in false positives (an individual will be hired who in fact is unable to perform adequately) and false negatives (an individual will not be hired who in fact is able to perform adequately). Thus, any employer making hiring decisions will reject some qualified people in hiring decisions. On the whole, this outcome is not surprising—and is in fact the cost that a society must pay for the overall good. But for understandable reasons, individuals who feel that they were improperly rejected are loath to accept this outcome.

For these reasons, any system used for making decisions about hiring, placement, firing, compensation, or conditions of employment is potentially vulnerable to legal challenge. Employers that discriminate or are perceived to discriminate against members of legally protected groups


Accomplishment records have proven reasonably accurate in predicting success in professional jobs and are also cheap enough to administer on a large scale. See Hough, L., 1984, “Development and Evaluation of the ‘Accomplishment Record' Method of Selecting and Promoting Professionals,” Journal of Applied Psychology 69(1):135-146; Smith, M., and I.T. Robertson, 1989, Advances in Selection and Assessment, New York: John Wiley & Sons; and Von Bergen, C.W., and B. Soper, 1995, “The Accomplishment Record for Selecting Human Resources Professionals, ” Advanced Management Journal 60:41-46.

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