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Pre-employment testing: What is construct validity?

Written by Raji Oluwaniyi

Regardless of its industry, size, or location, every business requires skilled and professional employees to succeed. A single bad hire could greatly affect a company’s productivity, so it’s important to select the best employment metric.

Reliable pre-employment tests are an excellent way to measure candidates’ skills and traits in your recruitment process. However, if you’re unsure about the accuracy of a prescreening test, validity measures can help you.

In this article, we explore construct validity and other measures that can help you use the right tests for recruitment. We also walk you through the steps to measure construct validity and discuss the importance of using tests with high validity, like TestGorilla’s skills assessments.

What is construct validity?

Definition of construct validity

Construct validity focuses on how an assessment relates to theoretical constructs like situational judgment, mechanical aptitude, and general intelligence when evaluating candidates.

A prescreening test has construct validity when it measures what it should measure. For instance, a soft-skills test has construct validity if it achieves its purpose of accurately measuring a candidate’s non-technical skills.

You can determine the construct validity for a pre-employment test by comparing the assessment with other measures to discover if the results correlate.

Other types of validity measures

There are several other types of validity measures besides construct validity that you can use to validate prescreening tests effectively. These include content validity, criterion validity, and face validity.

Other types of validity measures

Content validity

Content validity measures the relationship between a test’s subject matter and the skills and experience required for a specific role. Ascertaining an assessment’s content validity requires you to show that the test and job requirements sync.

Ensuring content validity is necessary to confirm that the test relates directly to the skills needed for the job. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on employment tests and selection procedures, prescreening tests given to job applicants must relate to the position they applied for. 

For example, suppose you administer a customer representative test to a candidate applying for a data analyst role. In that case, it wouldn’t have content validity because the role doesn’t involve dealing directly with customers.

Ensuring that your pre-employment test has content validity also helps you ensure legal compliance and can protect you and your organization from possible lawsuits from job applicants.

Criterion validity

Establishing criterion validity is arguably the most effective way for your business to affirm the validity of your tests. Criterion validity, also known as concrete validity, is based on how well a test correlates with concrete results.

Criterion validity refers to the relationship between test scores and a given business metric. In this case, the business metric would measure employee performance or company-wide business results, like average sales per hour or employee retention rate.

It uses correlation coefficients ranging from -1.0 to +1.0 to identify how accurately test results predict performance on the job. Criterion validity isn’t as easy to determine as other validity measures because it requires more sample sizes for different positions. Here are two types of criterion validity:

Concurrent validity

Concurrent validity measures the relationship between a new test and a validated test, called the criterion or gold standard. The test measures similar constructs and enables you to validate new methods against already accepted ones.

This validity type is a subtype of criterion validity. It is called “concurrent” because it obtains the new test scores and criterion variables simultaneously. You can determine concurrent validity by comparing current employees’ test results with their job performance.

You can also confirm that a test has concurrent validity if the new test results correlate with the existing validated measure. However, remember that you can only use this validity type if a second criterion or existing validated measure already exists.

For example, your organization could give a cognitive aptitude test to its employees to see if their test scores correlate with a measure of their effectiveness and productivity.

Predictive validity

Predictive ability focuses more on how likely applicants’ test results predict their future performance on the job. 

To ensure that your employee selection test is job-related, the results from the selection tests should effectively predict performance. As such, there must be a positive relationship between test results and performance on the job.

Face validity

Face validity is the degree to which an assessment subjectively appears to evaluate what it should. For example, a test that consists of several accounting problems has face validity as a measure of the job applicant’s ability to thrive as an accountant. 

Face validity generally isn’t considered reliable or sophisticated since it’s based solely on the measure’s appearance. Therefore, you should be careful when using assessments – especially personality tests – with only face validity.

How to measure construct validity

Follow the three steps below to measure the construct validity of your pre-employment test:

How to measure construct validity

1. Define the term you aim to measure

It’s normal for people to construe different meanings to the attribute you aim to evaluate. That’s why the term or construct needs to be well defined so that you and the test provider have a similar understanding of it. 

This might not be easy, especially for non-specialized tests. That’s why at TestGorilla, we provide objectively defined tests to suit every goal and need. 

2. Provide proof that your test determines what you want to measure

You should explain the rationale behind the questions you ask to determine whether the attribute has been evidenced. 

The next step is to give evidence of why your questions relate to the term you already defined and discuss why you believe test-takers’ answers represent their capabilities in a specific area.

For example, if you want to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, you have to define communication skills and discuss how the test’s questions and potential answers determine its outcome.

In this case, a good strategy would be to prepare a double-blind study that compares the human evaluation of communication skills with a test’s assessment of the same attributes to ensure it is valid and accurate.

3. Provide proof that your test relates to other similar tests

If you plan to use the pre-employment test outside the context in which you created it, you must provide further validation regarding its wider use. 

Using the same example above, your definition of communication skills could be how well a person can use verbal and written communication modes to promote productivity and effectiveness in the workplace. 

To prove that your assessment remains valid in other contexts, find similar tests that evaluate how well a person can use verbal and written communication modes and compare the results of both tests.

Examine the trends in your data analysis and check for similarities with the other test. If the data in both tests correlates, your test is likely valid.

TestGorilla and pre-employment testing validity

As established above, it’s more important than ever to ascertain the validity and reliability of your pre-employment test before using it. This will enable you to avoid bad hires and ensure your recruitment process is credible.

Search for credible online prescreening test platforms like TestGorilla, which has a library of hundreds of tests with high validity. With TestGorilla, you can optimize your hiring process for the best performance.

Register for TestGorilla today and enjoy efficient hiring. You can also look through our test library to find the assessment that best suits your recruitment needs.


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