Fishing for a Lawsuit? Try Using the MMPI

Don’t you just love it when people think they are test experts? You know, with all the public posturing about being professional, being a strategic player, and adding value to the organization. Then reality hits ó and it hits hard! Yep. I’m talking about using a totally inappropriate test to hire people, again! This particular case started in a chain of retail stores that rent furniture, electronics, computers, and appliances. Someone there probably looked around, decided their turnover was too high or productivity too low, and said, “Gee, why don’t we use the MMPI to test candidates?” Maybe they attended a workshop. Or maybe a senior executive talked to a neighbor who talked with a golf partner. “Swell shot, Bob. Have you ever thought about using a mental illness test to hire employees?” When executives make test decisions, head-bobbing subordinates often risk severe frontal-lobe damage from nodding so hard in agreement. Too bad for the head-injured, when the dreck impacts the wind impeller (and it will), the same executives who suggested a litigation-prone test in the first place will dust off their own finely-honed survival skills to publicly skewer the head-bobbers who “should have warned them.” What’s frequently missing from the way tests are usually chosen? For starters:

  1. A job analysis
  2. A technical test review
  3. A validation study
  4. Expert advice from an experienced industrial psychologist.

Back at the Ranch The test that’s the subject of today’s article is the MMPI, which stands for Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a 300- to 500-item multiple-choice diagnostic test. According to its publisher, the MMPI-2:

…is the most widely used and widely researched test of adult psychopathology [i.e., nutso-behavior]…used by clinicians [i.e., people who treat mental health problems] to assist with the diagnosis of mental disorders [i.e., craziness] and the selection of appropriate treatment methods [i.e., mood altering drugs or institutionalization]. It helps meet the assessment needs of mental health professionals [i.e., clinicians] in an ever-changing environment.

That’s the publisher’s expert description. Now, some additional background information about this particular test:

  • The MMPI is more that 65 years old.
  • It was developed to help clarify categories of diagnosed mental illnesses.
  • Items and scores were based on responses of clinically diagnosed mental patients treated at The University of Minnesota Hospitals.
  • Items and scores were cross-validated based on responses of patients’ relatives and visitors (yeah, as if Uncle Nutso’s family members represented a “normal” population of job applicants).
  • Items included questions about sexuality, bodily fixations, hallucinations, delusions, gender roles, and all the other interesting things that characterize mental illness.

Considering the publisher’s information and the history surrounding the MMPI, even the least test-wise reader might note that “predicting job performance” or “hiring retail employees” is NOT among the MMPI’s recommended uses. Here Comes the Judge! We don’t know all the details of the case, but it seems the test wizards at this chain of furniture, appliances, electronics and computer-rental stores routinely used the MMPI to select people for management positions. Now, unless the organization intends to rent a line of Martha Stewart Designer Weapons of Mass Destruction, any reasonable person would see the MMPI is the wrong test. To emphasize the point, I ask the reader to imagine a line-up of the principals in this case:

  • In Position One we have a representative of the executive suite who thinks the company is using the right hiring tests.
  • Position Two represents the internal test wizard(s) responsible for choosing and administering the hiring tests.
  • Position Three represents the star-crossed candidates who take the test.
  • Position Four holds a representative of the shareholders and owners of the company.

Question: Which representative is most likely to carry an official-looking clipboard, wear a white lab coat, and sport big red floppy shoes? Any legitimate test has three parts: 1) something to legitimately measure, 2) a series of legitimate questions and, 3) a standardized score sheet. How can the reader tell if his or her test should be used for hiring? First Clue: Ask the Vendor! Fortunately for test vendors, the law does not generally hold them responsible for test misuse by people who wear big red floppy shoes. And any test user who thinks their test publisher will “rush” to their defense is in for a rude surprise. As the 1978 Uniform Guidelines explicitly states:

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Under no circumstances will the general reputation of a test or other selection procedures, its author or its publisher, or casual reports of its validity be accepted in lieu of evidence of validity. Specifically ruled out are: assumptions of validity based on a procedure’s name or descriptive labels; all forms of promotional literature; data bearing on the frequency of a procedure’s usage; testimonial statements and credentials of sellers, users, or consultants; and other non empirical or anecdotal accounts of selection practices or selection outcomes.

The first step toward losing the big red floppy shoes? Before using a test, ask the vendor a simple question: “Was your XYZ test (or interview guide) developed for hiring purposes, and does it explicitly predict future job performance?” Possible answers:

  1. “No. But, it can help you make hiring decisions!” Translation: Fertilizer alert! How can a test that was not developed to predict future job performance be used to predict future job performance?
  2. “No. But, it can help supplement interview data!” Translation: See Answer #1.
  3. “No. But it can help you make a hiring decision.” Translation: See Answer #1.
  4. “Yes!” Translation: This is the answer you want to hear. Proceed to the next clue.

Second Clue: Examine the Items Don’t be tempted into second-guessing an experienced professional test designer unless you are also qualified to teach a graduate-level course in psychometrics. Here are some things to look for:

  • Know that hiring tests always contain a “secret formula.” Questions on hiring tests should be are job-related, but that does not mean every item is going to be politically sensitive. Virtually all legitimate test designers include in-your-face questions like, “Did you steal your last company blind?” and “Do you take home office supplies?” However, since professional designers know that a certain group of applicants will actually agree with questions like this, they build their tests so that scores are normalized and multiple items are used to stabilize responses.
  • Business-related items are a “good” thing and personal questions are a “bad” thing. This is called “face validity.” Oh, yes, you might also want to be acutely aware that some countries and a few states might take issue with personal questions. Always be sure to consult a good local labor law attorney for advice (one who understands psychometrics).
  • Never forget, while training tests are “fun” and designed to “please,” hiring tests are often in your face and intended to deliver bad news about the test-taker. So don’t be tempted to take a hiring test yourself unless you have stamina for digesting unpleasant information. Good hiring tests are backed by norms and standards, and none of us are “normal” in all categories. “Try it, you’ll like it” only works when a test taker aces the test. Otherwise, be ready for negative feedback.

Final Clue: Make Sure the Test Works for Your Job There are good reasons for a formal validation study. Performance is usually messy, and relationships are based on probabilities and major trends, not perfect linkages. For example, we know the majority of high-performing people are smart, but we also know that not all smart people are high performers. Is there a strong causal link? Absolutely. Do “smarts” always predict job performance? No. However, in spite of all the problems, we owe it to both the candidate and the organization to make sure every hiring test score is “tweaked and tuned” for each specific application. By the way, if you see anyone around the office sporting a lab coat, clipboard and wearing big red floppy shoes, show him or her the door and find a professional to help get back on track.


32 Comments on “Fishing for a Lawsuit? Try Using the MMPI

  1. I agree with this article being somewhat offensive to those with mental illness, in addition to trying to be self serving. I’ve taken the liberty to review past articles from this author, and there is a common trend: he writes based on scare tactics trying to steer people to his own products. I’m very surprised ERE ran this article and I’m surprised they keep running his self serving articles. It is things like this that make me want to cancel my attendance at their conference and my participation on this forum for releveant and informative industry information.

    Using tests for hiring won’t always get you sued. I believe Dr. Williams seems to continue to ‘talk down to’ and question the readers of this forums intelligence in selecting assessments. The gentleman from the test publishers makes a legal and valid point. There is such a thing as validity generalization, which I believe Dr. Williams seems to miss.

  2. With respect to the article on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (‘MMPI’), a few clarifications are probably needed. First, contrary to the article’s implication, Rent-A-Center was using the MMPI because a psychological consulting firm recommended it for use for management selection and development. Rent-A-Center did not decide one day that it wanted to reduce turnover and go out and purchase the instrument from the test’s publisher. In fact, the publisher will only sell the MMPI to individuals with adequate training and expertise in interpreting the instrument–many of these individuals are clinical psychologists. As an aside, while many individuals are well trained in the interpretation of clinical tools like the MMPI, not all of these individuals are aware of the various legal issues raised by the use of such instruments in the employment domain.

    The article is certainly correct in stating that the MMPI should not be used for predicting job performance or hiring retail employees. It is not designed to do so. However, it is important to realize that the MMPI is a very useful tool for assessing risk potential for safety-sensitive positions. Additionally, safety-sensitive positions typically have duties or safety implications that justify the test’s invasive inquiries.

    The article indicates that the MMPI is 65 years old and briefly identifies various validation efforts. In reality, the MMPI-2 replaced the MMPI in 1989. This instrument contains a number of modifications from the original MMPI. Moreover, from a construct validity standpoint, there are volumes of data that document that this instrument is a valid assessment of such things as risk potential and emotional stability.

    Finally, the article strongly implies that every employer must conduct a validation study specific to their organization. From a technical perspective, during the last 30 years validity generalization (the concept that validity evidence regarding a test is generalizable across jobs with similar requirements) has become widely accepted within the domain of industrial psychology. In fact, validity generalization is probably the most significant breakthrough in this field during the last 30 years. In contrast, back in the 70s and earlier, psychologists assumed that commonly observed differences in validity for the same assessment across similar jobs were due to subtle differences in the jobs. Hence, it was concluded that validity evidence was not generalizable and it was imperative to conduct a validation study for each job?-validation had to be local. However, it ultimately became apparent that differences in observed validity stemmed from statistical and measurement artifacts, rather than actual differences in jobs.

    Now, the field of industrial psychology recognizes the appropriateness and utility of validity generalization. For instance, they realize that validation studies supporting the effectiveness of a service skills test for selecting customer service representatives will most likely be applicable to jobs requiring similar service skills (e.g., receptionist, concierge, ticket counter agent). Certainly, a job analysis should be performed to support this assumption.

    In reality, the majority of organizations (many that employ industrial psychologists) utilize tests exclusively on the basis of validity generalization. While a local validity study has an inherent appeal, most organizations commonly feel that a well researched and extensively validated test is the most cost effective solution, while also being accurate and legally defensible. Certainly some organizations feel compelled to conduct local validation studies, but their motivations generally stem from an interest in a certain degree of test customization, owning their own instrument, optimizing their use of an off-the-shelf test and/or simply creating a greater comfort level with the test. Finally, according to the Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures, as promulgated by the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology, ‘Generalizing validity evidence from meta-analytic results is
    often more useful than a single study’.

    From a legal perspective, the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (?Guidelines?) as adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (‘EEOC’) and the Department of Labor (‘DOL’) document entitled ‘Testing and Assessment: An Employer’s Guide to Good Practices’ both recognize the utility and appropriateness of validity generalization. Specifically, the DOL document states ‘Conducting your own validation study is expensive, and, in many cases you may not have enough employees in a relevant job category to make it feasible to conduct a study. Therefore, you may find it advantageous to use professionally developed assessment tools and procedures for which documentation on validity already exists’. As for the Guidelines, Section 7 thereof specifies the requirements for the application of validity generalization. Parenthetically, I have been involved in a significant number of EEOC and state human rights agency hearings involving testing and have never experienced resistance on behalf of the relevant agency with respect to reliance on non-local validation studies.

    I trust these comments are helpful in clarifying an otherwise insightful article.

  3. I have a question for members of Erexchange, what do you consider a blatant solicitation? As ‘informative’ as the article was, the same article I am sure will be used in sales material and as part of a sales pitch.

    MMPI – Bad
    Scientific Selection – Good

    If the MMPI is bad where should I turn? Aha, Scientific Selection, how convenient.

    I respect Dr. William’s opinions, information and other articles greatly. They are very informative but I do believe this article was crossing the line. Any person who posts anything in forums deemed to much of a solicitation is reprimanded and their remarks are not posted and I believe the same principles should be uphelp in the publishing of articles for which Erexchange is so famous for.

    We all enjoy the writings of Erexchange contributing authors who are all second to none and I am not trying to single out Dr. Williams as being the only author who has been a bit forward with solicitation, however let’s not turn the daily featured article into an advertising space.


    Mark Newman
    COO, HireVue

  4. I found this article tremendously offensive to those with mental health problems.

    Apart from the validity of the MMPI as a hiring tool, there’s no need to use terms like ‘nutso-behavior’ and ‘craziness’ and referring to individuals such as ‘Uncle Nutso.’

    I find it appalling that ER Exchange would run this article without editing this kind of language.

    The author’s prejudices towards mental illness make it difficult to be interested in his opinion on the use of personality tests in hiring, which is unfortunate — since this is normally a very topical issue.

  5. I have the greatest empathy for the mentally ill…the article was directed at the misuse of the MMPI for selection…With a reader audience numbering in the tens of thousands, it is inevitable that some people will not like what I write or how I write it..

  6. Ouch!

    I am not sure what ‘crossing the line’ means. The article was clearly directed at using the established scientific methods for selection…a technology that has been around longer than my company.

    If the HireVue product was directed at viewing applicants before they are hired, should one claim they are blatantly promoting their services if they write an article recommending an organized way to view candidate information?

    More to the point…Is job analysis, validation and multi-trait/multi-method hiring the best way to select the most qualified people while minimizing the least qualified? Yes. Research, experience and an entire industry has proven that time and again.

    I think you were 100% correct when you summarized:

    MMPI -Bad
    Scientific selection – good

    Not ‘convenient’…just best practices. Ask the EEOC or any company that follows them.

  7. Since when is it considered okay to refer to a large group of people by a ‘funny’ euphemism? One wouldn’t refer to a race or members of a religion in such a disrespectful fashion…why is it somehow appropriate to refer to the mentally ill in such a way?
    Jim Moens

  8. Thank you, David, for your supporting comments. As you so clearly pointed out, these cases are often confused with abundant legal technicalities and generalities.

    In my practice, for example, I would like to use validity generalization, but in one case after another I find that 1) positions by the same name can be dissimilar, 2) that I get different validity coefficients from one company to the next, and 3) it is much easier to deliver performance if we know the test actually works for the client.

    In your experience as an attorney, you probably clearly know the difference between a legal argument and and effective hiring process. I tend to err on the side of effectiveness.

    With regard to clinical interpretations, I suggest we inform the readers that research indicates clinical interpretations of clinical tests have a poor track record predicting job performance.

    I would much prefer to see my fellow I/O psychologists argue strongly against the use of clinical mental illness tests unless the client has clear supporting evidence the test is required for the job and that scores predict job performance.

    We need to stamp out inappropriate test use by keeping our arguments simple and clear.

  9. For those who feel that some articles, including some offered up by Dr. Sullivan, are promoting their company or services, I have a question. Why is it so bothersome to you that industry experts freely post information gleaned from their years of experience and expertise, for which companies pay them handsomely as consultants? I for one, am pleased that this forum provides us with such a tapestry of expression from professionals at every level.

  10. Now I am going to say in defense of Williams re a sales pitch – but don’t get me wrong, I am in total agreement with the other comments on this post. Williams was truly out of line.

    Mark, ERE is as much Marketing as it is education. Each of us on this network do want to learn, and be taught as much as the other, but we are also here for business purposes as well.. Networking and educating are ways that can be done.

    Now to the other aspect – One thing you can say for Williams is that he does believe in his product, Is very consistent, and in himself.

    He states that there is proof that his methods work, and that is true, but there is also proof that it does not work as well as he thinks it does. And that it does all come down to the environment, trade, skill sets of the people utilizing the tools.

    The best way to always find out what is true for you and what is not (trust me I am being nice here) – is to do your own research, on both sides of the coins. With the Age of the Internet, finding information is easy. So see the black and white, compare and find the grey.

    On a personal Note, I am a protected Class myself – I have ADHD (wow, what a concept), and yes I am on medication. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA 1990

    No I am not CRAZY, Nor Nutso (some may disagree), I am very passionate, my disability comes from environment ie ? lights, noise, cold or hot; Extreme stimuli will affect me tremendously. It is a Learning Difference, not a mental disorder. (they are still trying to determine what it is and what causes it to this day, and only have recently ? past 5 years nationally Accepted that one does Not outgrow this hereditary affliction; my father and son also have it. (considered a family of Autism)

    I have problems with tests.. yet I have an IQ of 142 borderline Genius – sometimes under stress remembering my address or even how to write a check can be a problem, does not mean that I am stupid, or dumb, just handle stress differently.

    One thing to note is that Actually ADHD and individuals w/learning Disorders are known to overcompensate to make up for their perceived negative aspects, are extremely intelligent, detemined, hardworking, very trusting, deeply compassionate, passionate and sensitive, creative and imaginative, verbally advanced (depends on the day), insightful, resilient and adaptable (they have to due to survive considering the day to day stressors from stimuli, and criticism)

    – Took the MMPI over 3 times and each time the test came back invalid. I overanalyzed the darn thing. The last two times I had individuals actually verbalize the test to me to understand my responses. (Less than 10 percent of this nation will have an invalid response)

    And Yes I do believe that programs like the ones that Wendell promotes do leave themselves open for lawsuits, especially with comments like the ones made in this article.

    To be sure, there are many people who had they had to deal with tests and such like they would not be where there are/were today.
    Think of this ? Lincoln (entered Black Hawk as Captain and came out as Private), John Kennedy, Eisenhower nor Woodrow Wilson would not have been considered presidency material,
    Ingvar Kamprad IKEA and World’s Richest Man, Richard Branson Virgin, Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, David Neeleman founder and CEO of Jet Blue Airways, Diane Swonk S.VP Bank One, William ‘Bill’ Hewlett HP, Edison (was considered too stupid to learn anything), Einstein (maybe that is why he was a fan of coca cola, was 4 before he spoke and 7 before he could read ), Henry Ford , Walt Disney (was fired for not having good ideas, Charles Schwab, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordon, Bruce Jenner, Salvador Dali, Spielberg, Hearst, woolworth (While working in a dry goods store at 21, his employers wouldn’t let him wait on a customer because he ‘Didn’t have enough sense.’) and Last but Not least of my list Harvey Cushing MD the greatest Neuro surgeon of the 20th Century had dyslexia
    These are people who are known to have Attention Deficit and/or Learning Disorders

    So to conclude this finally – If a Company were to consider that they must and should continue to maintain personality/skill tests, instead of implementing tools to create a more effective, learning, training and rewarding, social environment within their organizations, not only will they be losing out on some of the best workers, they will also be creating some of their biggest adversaries and competition.

    Maybe we can learn somehting From Bill Gates Bill Gates, ‘Helping people with disabilities helps everybody’

    FYI Bill Gates is said to display several traits associated with an autism disorder called Asperger’s syndrome (though he has not been publicly diagnosed with the condition).

  11. And nobody told me !

    While his choice of words was unfortunate, I don’t think WW was engaging in any kind of ‘hate speech’ vis mental illness, I suspect that he just does not have much experience with people impacted by it.

    My first thought when I read that passage was ‘hmmmmm, this language is not used in normally used in business, I wonder if WW has an ear for business-speak or not ?’

    I guess not…..

    On the subject of self-promotion on ERE- I say go for it ! If your stuff is not so good, word will get out. If your stuff is great, you are doing a service to the community. Dalton and company know where to draw the line.

  12. Wendell,
    the EEOC and Federal Government may implement ‘some aspects’ of Scientific Selection Hiring, and mainly for the purpose of SELF-ASSESSMENT: BARRIER IDENTIFICATION AND ELIMINATION and also note they are extremely big on
    Employee Development and Training Opportunities
    Analyzing Employment Processes
    Promotions and Other Internal Selections
    Award Distribution
    New Nine Job Category Titles categories are more consistent with those EEOC uses in private sector enforcement
    Many of the above which you tend not to agree much with. Especially 1-4.

    I guess in this world it truly is Not ALL or Nothing.

  13. An ear for ‘business speak’? No. Not when it means missing the point in favor of political correctness. Our population has become so sensitive to the needs of every possible group, that sometimes we end up saying nothing.

  14. Sheesh…give me a break!

    The point of the article was not to use clinical mental illness tests for hiring purposes. That has more severe impact on organizations and individuals than being politically incorrect.

    Let’s look at the impact of these tests on otherwise mentally healthy people and vent our anger on the people who use them improperly…That’s the real tragedy!

  15. Scare tactics? No kidding!

    Qualified applicants are screened out using a few ‘magic’ interview questions that have nothing to do with the job!

    Organizations suffer daily from low productivity due to poor selection practices!

    Recruiters argue vehemently against doing job analysis and establishing test validity!

    There were almost 80,000 EEOC charges brought agaist organizations last year.

    There were $168 million in settlements in 2004 (not including attorneys).

    I’ve had more than one recruiter tell me they measure success by the number of people who survive the guarantee period.

    Scary? What could be scarier than professionals arguing against using best practices, discriminating against hapless applicants and filling organizations with unqualified people?

  16. ‘Forgot to mention something about validity generalization that was raised in the last post.

    Theory is often a summary of experimental designs that make a theoretical point. It is often very difficult to directly apply theory (epecially one based on meta-analysis) to specific situations. This is the case with validity generalization.

    Before recommending validity generalization to anyone, professionals recommend comparing job analyses from job ‘A’ to job ‘B’…something that is seldom done. Instead, they just say, ‘If ABC test is used in our industry, we can use it, too.’

    We prefer to know that test scores–any test scores–predict job performance in specific jobs. Don’t you?

    BTW. Don’t blame ERE for publishing controversial articles…it takes courage to swim against all the nonsense that characterizes our industry.

    Do I question readers’ intelligence in selecting assessments in this forum? Only when they use totally inappropriate instruments that have nothing to do with the job, hurt qualified applicants or staff their organization with unqualified ones.

  17. I feel only pity for those who find it amusing to make light of mental illness. Ever known someone who has been hospitalized for his own protection because he was caught banging his head into his bedpost ‘to make them go away’? Ever talk someone out of suicide? No? Find those incidents funny?
    Also, I noticed that no one responded to my key point…why is it okay to poke fun at the mentally ill but not say, a race or relgion? What’s next, an article about intelligence testing that would disparage the less intelligent among us (no, I won’t use the terms, but I’m sure you know what I mean). Imagine the furor if Dr. Williams had used some sort of racial epithet in an article. But somehow it’s okay (even amusing, I guess) to talk about ‘Uncle Nutso’. Did using such words make the article better in some way? Did the phrase ‘nutso behavior’ make Dr. Williams’ points clearer? So why use those words?
    Railing against political correctness is too often used as a license to be callous. I do believe there is a happy medium to be had.
    And Bill, I do hope you didn’t mean to imply I lack a sense of humor. You don’t know me, and are therefore not qualified to make that determination.

  18. This is better than Leno, Letterman, Stewart, and Comedy Central combined. Interesting also how it has expanded from a discussion about the use/abuse of tests to one focusing on the larger topic of what is fact versus what is opinion.

    The article was dead on target; undoubtedly most of the comments were posted in hopes of chipping away at WW’s core message – tests are not universal, each has it’s own specific target audience and target trait[s], value[s], belief[s], etc.; they are not designed to be used in every situation, they are specifically designed for specific audiences.

    Incidentally, WW has been wholly consistent in his postings for all the years I’ve been here; he never said that the MMPI was bad and the Scientific Selection is good (whomever said this is drinking sour grapes whine). Nor does he shill his company. Perhaps he should the same way Marty should speak more boldly of Main Sequence Technologies (that would be PC Recruiter)- if the product and services are great, tell everyone. By the way, does anyone really believe that no ERE poster puts their best foot forward in hopes of being noticed to the point of being a recruiting target or the recipient of more business?

    Back to point…

    Opinions are wonderful things that last until the next Presidential election; facts are better – they last until rigorous study ‘proves’ them otherwise (I place ‘proves’ in quotes because of external validity – being able to general the study to a larger population; no a meta-analysis is not proof – only a possible new direction for research). Want to learn more about validity before your next post? Read ‘Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research’ by Campbell and Stanley – there is no better discourse on the topic. It’s an expensive book that can actually help you become more creative.

    But then again, maybe some just want to continue to listen to their opinions. Reminds me of an elementary school teacher of mine who in a frustrated voice during the middle of a lesson, lashed out with ‘Is there anyone here who doesn’t believe that thinking causes mind pollution?’

  19. Steve,
    Before you jump down throats, Please Note I had said the same in my earlier post and I quote – ‘He states that there is proof that his methods work, and that is true, but there is also proof that it does not work as well as he thinks it does. And that it does all come down to the environment, trade, skill sets of the people utilizing the tools.’
    ‘The best way to always find out what is true for you and what is not (trust me I am being nice here) – is to do your own research, on both sides of the coins.’

    RE The MMPI, there are only few certain circumstances that the MMPI can be used in employment and they are few and far apart. Mental Tests cannot be used as a standard tool for Employment Selection. Mental tests have Nothing to do with the skill sets, and as I stated also in my earlier post, Scientific tests do have their pros and cons, and can very well limit companies in hiring excellent candidates for Certain Positions.

    In regards to the article, well can you imagine if Wendell was speaking to a large focus business group (which he is), and utilized the terms Crazy, nutso and such like (which he did), and there are many individuals out there who may have some type of Mental Health Issue – manic depression, depression, Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety; that they would not be upset (which they are), and the Ruckus that it would create (which it is, well deservedly)

    We are a group of professionals, and there is no way that one can or should detract from what was said, and how it was presented. It is the same as using the N. Word, or other decretory labels, especially when it comes from a professional, and even more so a P.H.D.

  20. This may seem like a conversation about political insensitivity; however, I only wish my critics would respond with the same enthusiasm to inappropriate test use, using only interviews to qualify candidates, and staffing client organizations with unqualified people.

    Ms. Mattonnen speaks as one with a deep and profound background in industrial psychology. May I ask her to share her professional qualifications in this field?

  21. Jim –

    No, its not OK, and the good Doctor really didn’t apologize. Yes, my son and I talked someone out of suicide yesterday. And of all the kids I have adopted, collectively they have every problem you have discussed (but they are all great people and productive citizens, thank you).

    Bill Handel, the LA drive-time #1 dis jockey (in the US!)(Jewish) makes fun of everyone & everything. He is so bad I often change stations, but still listen. Why? Due to the interesting responses. I was not offended by the Doctors comments, as I have gotten sick and tired of political correctness. But I applaud this EXCHANGE and its exchange of ideas.

    Honesty is the best policy, and I support everyone here and the good Doctor in his (non) apology. But I admit, I miss many of Karen’s contributions (too long), and I am sure its my loss.

    (My spirituatlity respects yours)

  22. Dr. Wendell,
    As with anything in life, research and Knowledge is easy to gain, especially if it impacts anyone professionally or personally. Science is not infallible, and there are many who do practice Pseudo-Science especially when their opinions thus I find it important and relevant that to make sure that I try to find out as much information as I can, through research, lectures, conferences and such like to stay informed, and up to date with my field.

    In our current modern world, things we believed to be true have been refuted over time; studies and the scientific method to test and disprove hypotheses through a conceptual frame work and experiments will always gather new information and Data, and it is important to remember that Science is self-perpetuating, It is impossible to separate the process of invention, discovery and science ?thus Science Cannot be proved, it can only be disproved. Support eventually comes from accumulated inability to discredit?. (Karl Popper)
    Today, we have even seen that we cannot even prove the law of relativity (take the speed or refraction of light which is a constant, and yet have been disproved (eg the Michelson Morely experiment),

    Thus it is important to remember that Scientific Selection (Neo- Darwinism Science which by the way was utilized in World War 2 by the Nazi?s) just as Natural Selection is as scientific law which is a generalization based on personal observation.

    There has been over the years incompatible observations by other scientists sufficient to raise doubts about the theory Scientific Selection in the hiring of employment.
    It is relevant for Decision-makers to recognize that uncertainty is a fundamental aspect of the scientific process. There are and will be issues of misuse, lack of knowledge and training, invalid or unreliable results, many are not utilized correctly, and many are not specific to job relevance. Remember A 1995 report by the federal Office of Technology Assessment found that more than 95 percent of people who failed integrity tests were incorrectly labeled as dishonest

    RE Taylor Frederick W., 1964, Scientific Management – Taylor’s more general summary of the principles of Scientific Management
    are better suited for inclusion into the TQM methodology, than the narrow definitions.
    As he stated –
    ‘It is no single element , but rather the this whole combination, that
    constitutes Scientific Management, which may be summarized as:

    Science, not rule of thumb
    Harmony, not discord
    Cooperation, not individualism
    Maximum output in place of restricted output
    The development of each man to his greatest efficiency and prosperity

    He also suggested that Scientific Selection should not only be utilized in the hiring process, but to implemented with Current Employees, determining personality with skill sets, and aspects of training.

    So with that in mind, maybe a multi purpose process is something most companies should keep in mind, and not have one process as the end all.

  23. While I feel many of the articles WW contributes are interesting and informative, there are many points he makes in his articles, and replies, that are ‘skewed’ fact to make his instruments seem like they are the only legal ones you can use. Otherwise known as ‘scare tactics’. David from the test publishers has even corrected many of those.

    I have people on my staff with an extensive background in industrial psychology and psychometrics and I think an article on the MMPI was and is warranted. In fact, the language in the law referring to the ADA was written with that particular instrument in mind.

    However, I disagree with the inappropriate use of some of the terms he used to describe behaviors. While I see he was trying to interject some humor in his article, he missed the boat a bit.

    Lastly, WW, you’re not the only one on here with credentials, furthermore, you don’t necessarily have to have the credentials and background we have to choose a legal test, you just have to know the correct and proper steps in selecting and using a test. You might win over some people if you didn’t suggest people don’t know what they’re doing in this regard.

  24. I apologize to the mentally ill and to everyone who might think I disrespected people afflicted with this disease…

    I will also be the first to publicly applaud anyone who takes time to study jobs, chooses a variety of appropriate tests and verifies scores accurately predict performance…For the remainder I ask, ‘Which part of thoroughly understanding the job, choosing appropriate tests and conducting studies to validate test scores do you disagree with?

    Incidentally, while I respect David Arnold’s legal background and deep knowledge of case law, may I also point out David is an employee of a competitor (Wonderlic).

  25. Commonly cited figures indicate that the number of Americans with disabilities is 54 million, making them the single largest minority group in the country. Disability cuts across all socioeconomic backgrounds, geographic areas, and demographic characteristics. Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and other progressive legislation, people with disabilities continue to experience striking gaps in employment, income, education, and other quality of life indicators.

    The most striking disparity between people with and without disabilities is the employment rate. Only 52.3 per cent of people with disabilities are employed, and the statistics are even more stark for those with severe disabilities, who are employed at rate of only 26.1 per cent. At the same time, people who do not have disabilities are employed at a rate of 82.1 per cent. Despite the sharp incongruity between the employment rate of people with disabilities and that of the general population, 72 per cent of working age people with disabilities indicate that they want to work.

    The above was taken from:

    But getting to the meat of this: 54 million people means that about one in five – six people in this country is considered ‘disabled’. Has anyone stopped to think about the enormity of this? There was a fascinating article in the WSJ on a Tuesday about two weeks ago that explored this issue – does anyone have access to it or know where it can be found (besides the library!)? A link would be greatly appreciated.
    I think it discussed the numbers in this class that were considered mentally or emotionally disabled as well – this is what really caught my attention in this string – those in here who were willing to address those challenging subjects. I applaud you your courage.

    Most of the above was copied and pasted by

  26. Wall Street Journal Online is a paid subscription service, so this link may not work if you’re not a subscriber:,,SB112657573036738903,00-search.html?KEYWORDS=disabled&COLLECTION=wsjie/archive

    If you can’t access the article this way, email me privately and I’ll use’s ’email this article’ function to get it to you. No copyright violation that way.

    Even if this isn’t the article Maureen referenced in her post, it’s short and worth reading because it does 2 things:

    1) It offers facts (imagine that?) demonstrating that employees with mental or physical disabilities, properly selected and trained and reasonably accomodated, can help a business trounce its competitors and bring joy to its customers and investors.

    2) It is entirely free of any suggestion that we non-disabled be ‘sensitive’ and thereby expect less of employees facing physical or mental challenges. It’s been my experience that the A and B players in that demographic do not need or value your ‘understanding’. They just want you and I to focus on what they CAN do, give them the tools and opportunity to do it, then get the hell out of their way.

  27. While I’m not quite sure what Dr. William’s point was with respect to my affiliation with Wonderlic, I can provide the following insight. Over the course of time I have worked as an industrial psychologist and/or an employment attorney for United Airlines, Pathmark Stores, Reid Psychological Systems, Pearson, plc and Wonderlic. I have been General Counsel for the Association of Test Publishers for over ten years, and I have served as Chair of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Legal Issues and am a member of the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology’s State Affairs Committee. While the comments I provide via this forum are on behalf of the Association of Test Publishers, regardless of affiliation it has not changed the way I interpret employment law or the scientific realities of employment testing.

    I trust this information is helpful.

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