Employers to put potential before exams

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The Independent Online
GROUND-BREAKING assessment techniques will allow employers to test potential recruits on their ability to learn rather than on past exam results.

But while extra efforts are needed to encourage "under-achievers", employers need to be aware that in the present jobs market, the qualified candidate is king, personnel specialists will be told today.

Too many people are excluded from jobs because the education system has failed them, according to Robert McHenry, chairman of Oxford Psychologists' Press which publishes test papers.

Many employers are being deterred from offering jobs under the Government's flagship New Deal programme because they are unable to see past examination scores, Mr McHenry will tell the Institute of Personnel Development's (IPD) recruitment and selection conference today.

The new "dynamic assessment" methods are aimed at evaluating a candidate's potential, a fact which fits in with the ethos of the New Deal which aims to give a fresh start for unemployed 18- to 24-year-olds, says Dr McHenry.

"Too often tests have been seen as something you do to exclude people. The message we are trying to get across is that tests are about inclusion, not exclusion."

As part of the new techniques being investigated by Dr McHenry and employment agency Reed Personnel Services, young jobless people in Hackney, London, are being "prompted" in order to answer questions they find difficult. They are not told the answers, but are given clues and it has been found that test scores are being boosted dramatically.

Mr McHenry says the method attempts to assess their ability to learn. Part of the project will be to find systematic and standard methods of prompting. "Too often the judgements that have been made about young people by schools, adults and society in general bear little relation to their ability."

"These tests may well mark a far better way of assessing people who for one reason or another have been let down by the education system. They aim to look at young people's potential rather than merely how they were judged previously."

However, another institute seminar will hear how those with the requisite exam results are in an increasing position of power. Adrian Lenard, director of the Marketing and Communication Agency, will today urge employers to treat job candidates as they would customers.

"In the bad old days of customer service, it was 'here's the product, if you don't like it, don't buy it'. That sort of attitude has largely gone now, but it is still with us in the recruitment process," he says.

Hamish McRae, page 21