Category Archives: PSI Blog

In Memoriam: David Meissner

PSI Services is saddened to announce the unexpected passing of our colleague and friend, David Meissner.  David joined PSI in July 2016 as Vice President, Global Testing Services.  While at PSI, David worked closely with the operations team to assess and implement growth strategies for domestic and global test site operations.

David had over 31 years in the testing industry, holding various distinguished positions in a variety of testing companies where his diverse expertise ranged from Sales, Project Management, Strategic Planning, Operations, Product Management, Testing Technology & Quality Assurance, and Online Proctoring.  David’s passing is truly a tragic loss to the testing industry.

Quick or Interesting? Tradeoffs Between Brevity and Candidate Immersion

In recent years, I have been observing a tension evolving between two important goals in many organizations’ talent assessment endeavors. Understandably, many organizations are interested in the briefest possible assessment processes, particularly for entry-level high volume assessment programs.  The goal of brevity is to ensure candidates do not abandon the assessment, thereby limiting the size of the potential talent pool.  At the same time, many organizations also desire highly immersive assessment processes, to ensure an up-to-date, engaging experience for candidates with innovate assessment content corresponding to cultural and market imperatives.

These two trends can sometimes conflict.  Just like it can be harder to feel immersed when watching a commercial compared to watching a full-length movie, there is often a limit to the candidate engagement possible with a very brief assessment.  That said, brief, validated assessments can still be valuable in high volume selection settings.  As an initial hurdle in a multi-stage selection process, a brief, initial assessment – even if less than maximally immersive – can help eliminate applicants with the least chance of success on the job.

Nevertheless, when more time is available and technology will support a more sophisticated test delivery model, immersive assessments such as multimedia or game-like simulations provide many advantages.  Along with the cutting-edge image imparted to candidates by the organization, evolving technologies can allow for the assessment of a broader range of competencies than more traditional assessment methods.  Candidates can also leverage the assessment experience as a realistic preview of job or training requirements.

This week at the 32nd Annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology Conference in Orlando, FL, PSI will present research describing another potential benefit of utilizing engaging, multimedia assessments in settings that can support such technology.  More specifically, we will present results of a study illustrating how an immersive, multimedia simulation format can potentially reduce minority-majority subgroup differences in the assessment of cognitive ability.

To learn more about this topic, join us for this SIOP Conference session titled, “Alternative Measures of “G”:  Not Your Grandfather’s Cognitive Tests” on Friday, April 28th, beginning at 1:00 p.m.

We hope to see you there!

Joseph Abraham, Ph.D., is Vice President of Assessment Solutions at PSI. Contact him at jabraham@psionline.com or by phone at 818.847.6180.

Click here for more information about PSI’s comprehensive testing solutions.



Creating an Ethical Workplace: Applying a Model for Ethical Behavior

Workplace ethics remain at the forefront of concerns for organizations of all types where employees can do harm as a result of unethical behavior. A report sponsored by the SHRM Foundation (Olson, 2013) underscores the importance of workplace ethics and the prevalence of ethics-related issues and concerns, noting:

  • Nearly half of U.S. employees report witnessing unethical or illegal conduct in their workplaces, and the majority of these events go unreported and unaddressed.
  • More than half of the 10 largest corporate bankruptcies since 1980 resulted from unethical business practices.
  • In 2012, corporations paid almost $8 billion in fines for defrauding the U.S. government and taxpayers. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report found that a major cause of the 2008 crisis was a systematic breakdown in ethics.

Given the prevalence of ethical misbehavior, it is not surprising to see almost daily evidence recounted in the media. High profile cases of fraudulent actions by executives and individuals in positions of authority are frequently described that result in multimillion dollar settlements, criminal convictions, and the destruction of personal and corporate reputations.

At the same time, instances of unethical actions among employees in relatively low-compensation jobs receive less attention in the headlines. There are many such jobs that have access to money, property, or sensitive information. For example, customer service representatives, retail employees, and security guards.  These “low pay/high trust” jobs also pose potential risks to do serious harm via unethical actions.

This week, I will be leading a symposium on this topic at the 32nd Annual Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology Conference in Orlando, FL.  This session will review a model for unethical behavior in the workplace and its application to develop a program to foster an ethical work culture, focusing on low wage/high trust jobs in the assessment industry. The presenters bring a diverse range of perspectives, including academic and consulting environments. The session will provide a case study to serve as a backdrop to examine the application of elements of the model, considerations, and implications for research and practice.

In the first presentation, Professor Paul Sackett, University of Minnesota, will review and discuss the development of an actionable model of the determinants of unethical/counterproductive behavior by employees. Drawing from the literature review examining a variety of existing models of determinants of ethical/unethical behavior, the best and most actionable aspects of various models were identified which could be applied in the workplace. The resulting model is comprised of three sets of factors, including fixed individual factors, changeable individual factors, and organizational factors. The model served as a foundation for the design of a program to foster an ethical workplace culture.

In the second presentation, I will describe the application of the Sackett-PSI model as a framework to design a program for creating an ethical work culture for low wage/high trust jobs in the assessment industry; i.e., test proctors.  This presentation will explore the design of program components, considerations for implementation, and empirical research that is underway to evaluate and optimize the program.

The third presentation by Cathleen Callahan, Sr. Manger of Assessment Solutions at PSI, will review the development of a workplace ethics training program designed to address ethical principles and behavior guidelines that are specific to the context of the test proctor role.  A work culture survey was also developed on the basis of the Sackett-PSI actionable model, which is used to gauge the ethical culture.

The session discussant, Professor Neal Schmitt, Michigan State University, will discuss salient points of the presentations, recommendations for future research, and implications and opportunities for I-O practice.

To learn more, join us for this SIOP session on Saturday, April 29th, beginning at 8:00 a.m.  Following the presentations, there will be a facilitated audience discussion, led by Dr. Schmitt and joined by the presenters. Attendees will have an opportunity to share perspectives and discuss implications for I/O practice and opportunities for research collaboration.

We hope to see you there!

John Weiner is Chief Science Officer at PSI.  Contact him at jweiner@psionline.com or by phone at 818.847.6180.

Click here for more information about PSI’s comprehensive testing solutions.



The Importance of Recertification

Months ago, United States soccer legend Landon Donovan announced that he would come out of retirement and return to the Los Angeles Galaxy right before postseason to help them win an unprecedented sixth Major League Soccer championship. This isn’t the first and definitely won’t be the last high-profile return from retirement in professional sports. As always, the question fans are asking is a variation of the same concern:  After an absence of almost 2 years, is he still as sharp as he was when he signed off? Come to think of it, the same question could be asked of professionals in pretty much any profession.

On the whole, we do a very good job of assessing professionals’ capabilities upon entry to practice. However, are we doing enough to ensure that professionals continue to maintain the competencies necessary for safe and effective practice of their job role throughout their careers? I imagine that there would be quite a lot of variety in reactions to that question, which may be reflective of the amount of variability in recertification and renewal practices across the credentialing industry. While it is customary for lapsed credential-holders to start again from the bottom, it seems every credentialing program has their own unique requirements for their credential-holders.

Due to rapid rate of change in some professions, certification programs are faced with the challenge of keeping up. Likewise, practitioners are tasked with staying current with new technologies so that they can effectively perform their responsibilities. In many cases, credentials don’t have the same shelf life as other fields, so, for example, it becomes less important to ensure that programmers are still proficient in a specific programming language if there is no expectation for programmers to use that language 10 or more years after initial certification. In other cases, the skillset is as important as ever but the tools change often, such as the evolution of medical and surgical treatment of vascular maladies. In other words, physicians still need to know about the same physiological functions and diseases yet also adjust practice according to updated clinical evidence and changes to diagnostic sonography tools. On the other hand, there are always going to be professions where things don’t really change from year to year. For example, the techniques and methods that ocularists use to create ocular prostheses go back a few decades and they have stayed the same for a good reason. So in this case where little is expected to change across a professional’s career, should we still be checking they still meet the minimum standards of practice?

In order to address some of these questions and concerns, the ATP Recertification and Renewal subcommittee of the Certification and Licensure division have developed a survey designed to solicit from credentialing bodies, such as state licensing authorities and professional associations, information about their recertification and renewal requirements. I am one of the chairpersons of the subcommittee and I would appreciate your help with completing the survey. We hope to learn a great deal about the different recertification and renewal practices and plan on sharing the results at the 2018 Innovations in Testing conference.

So back to the original question: After 2 years, are we still talking about the same soccer player? While there is no doubt that Landon will be an asset to his team, only the most optimistic of fans would expect him to light up the pitch without first seeing if he still has the chops. In other words, even sports superstars are required to demonstrate their continued competence. But don’t feel bad for them; they can retire at age 32.

Amin Saiar, Ph.D. is Senior Psychometrician at PSI.  Contact him at amin@psionline.com.

Click here to learn more about PSI’s comprehensive certification solutions.



The Best Get Better Together: PSI Services LLC Acquires Software Secure

What the PSI acquisition of Software Secure means for you

We are pleased to share that Software Secure (SSI) has joined the PSI family today. After spending 17 years building a successful remote proctoring business, we felt our customers would be best served by SSI partnering with an organization that had a complementary set of attributes and help allow us to scale faster and more efficiently.

We are writing this [letter/blog] to you for two reasons. The first is to thank you – our valued and loyal customers. You have supported us through the years and entrusted us with the noble endeavor of protecting the integrity of your distance learning programs. We are grateful and honored to have this relationship. The second is to share with you why we made the decision to join PSI and what it means for you.

Why did we make this decision?

We believe it is imperative that we provide the most up to date technology and services to our customer base of 450+ customers. In some cases, live proctoring is considered a better option by a course, program, or institution in higher education, or a certification organization. PSI has developed a live proctoring solution that meets the needs of these customers, and integrated with our Remote Proctor Now (RPNow) solution, will allow us to offer our customers the ability to choose the cost-effective solution that meets their particular needs best, all backed a world-class customer support and services organization.

PSI offers a comprehensive solutions approach from test development to delivery to results processing, including pre-hire employment selection, managerial assessments, licensing and certification tests, license management services and professional services.   Their focus on exam integrity and putting the customer first fits perfectly with Software Secure’s principles.

Why PSI?

PSI Services LLC (PSI) provides worldwide testing solutions to corporations, federal and state government agencies, professional associations and certifying bodies. It continues to grow globally with a presence in over 50 countries. PSI recognized Software Secure’s strong team, technology and market expertise; attributes that would enable PSI to compete more effectively in all market segments with a more innovative offering.  Software Secure’s strength in Higher Education dovetails with PSI years of experience and customer base in certification organizations.   PSI’s focus on test security as a priority, complementary product strengths, and global reach fit Software Secure’s needs perfectly. Which brings me to sharing why we believe this is a positive outcome for you.

Our Customers

Since day 1, our goal has always been to create convenient, affordable, scalable and efficient solutions that delight our customers. The Software Secure business has two main segments: higher education and certification/corporate assessments.

  • Higher Education: Working as one team, PSI and Software Secure will be able to serve institutions with the broadest range of proctoring services – including live proctoring. Together, we will be able to drive higher market penetration of online proctoring.
  • Certification/Corporate: PSI’s extensive experience sharpens our assessment delivery capability to drive increased ROI. With a combined base of over 1200 clients, PSI and SSI will be able to better serve this market, from assessment to credentialing.

Most importantly, as a Software Secure customer, we will continue to provide you with the same exceptional service and products you’ve come to expect from us. And we’ll do so as part of one of the world’s leading assessment companies.

The Marketplace

As the online education market has matured, and as testing has evolved –  the needs and requirements of institutions are changing. There is a growing need for integrated solutions that provide unlimited access and scalability. Together, PSI and Software Secure will provide higher education with the broadest product and solution set; and certification organizations and corporations with everything from test delivery to psychometrics and test banks. We are uniquely positioned to provide a complete offering; from the assessment and monitoring of online learners, to the testing of employee competency, all to help support life-long learning.

The future with PSI-Software Secure

The coming together of PSI and Software Secure is significant and we are excited about the future. Let me share a few of the key outcomes of our acquisition:

  • Single Source: With expertise in higher education, certification and licensure assessments, we provide a seamless solution. The PSI-SSI offering will help us continue our market leadership.
  • Shared Vision: We come together with the shared objective of solving the integrity challenge that faces our clients; colleges and universities, certification organizations and corporations.
  • Leading the Pack: Together PSI and Software Secure are best positioned to help the integrity and productivity of the assessment landscape through innovation in remote proctoring and test delivery.

Summing it up . . .

How do we feel about all this? Well, we’re pretty excited this is happening! It’s a great moment for Software Secure – and one that could only have been possible with the people around us – from our talented and dedicated employees to you, the 450+ customers who have supported us over the last 17 years. There will be changes and challenges ahead, but we couldn’t be more optimistic about the path ahead in 2017 and beyond.

Thank you, and looking forward to the future – with integrity!


Douglas M. Winneg
Founder, Software Secure
Senior Vice President, PSI Academic Market
+1 617 658-2831

To read more about PSI’s acquisition of Software Secure in the press release, click here.

Wake Up, You’re Dying!

In the time it’s taken you to read this title, another few seconds have passed from your life.  That time is gone forever, and it’s never coming back.  As time ticks by, we sit in front of computers, we watch meaningless shows on TV, we play meaningless games on our iPads, we eat, we sleep, and then repeat.

When will you make your mark on the world?  At what point will you stand up and fight for something that matters?  At what point will you take back your life?

Years ago, I worked at a supermarket chain.  On the surface, my job didn’t seem to matter much.  I sat in a windowless office, that was walled up inside another larger windowless office, which sat within a windowless building that had been converted from a warehouse.  Work started at 8:00, but I showed up every day at 5:00 AM, because I was grateful for the job.  As I analyzed data, typed reports, and did many other equally meaningless things, I had an epiphany.  The impact of my job, my individual efforts, could only matter so much.  However, if I could influence others to up their game by even a small margin, the impact would become enormous.

Personnel selection is a path toward having that level of impact.  In the supermarket business there’s something called grating fruit.  When you grate fruit, you rotate it and check for bumps and scrapes.  Any bad fruit is discarded.  Grating fruit matters, because if you go to a grocery store and notice damaged fruit, you might not go back there again.  In fact, in the supermarket industry everything matters.  Margins are so thin, that buyers need to negotiate good contracts, purchasers at the store level need to maintain inventory without overbuying, virtually everything they sell is perishable (especially beansprouts), and planograms need to be flawless, lest profits will tank.  A single supermarket might employ 300 people.  Multiply that across 1,000 locations and you’ve got 300,000 employees that need to be on their game.  According to Hearst Newspapers (2016), average turnover in the supermarket industry is 100%, and the cost of replacing even just one cashier is more than $3,600.  At the industry level, retailers lose more than $23 billion a year due to turnover (Nextera, 2005).

Hiring better people matters.  Hiring people who get up to speed faster, perform better, and stay on the job longer, has a significant impact on organizational success (Cascio & Ramos, 1986; McKinsey, 2000; Schmidt & Hunter, 1983).  My epiphany?  One person can only grate so much fruit.  However, all it takes is one person to put a selection process in place that ensures that you hire better employees.  It’s those new employees, tens of thousands of exceptional workers – fruit graters who make sure every fruit is perfect, cashiers who greet guests a little friendlier, purchasers who ensure you’re never out of stock, and leaders who grew from those entry-level feeder pools, that drive the business toward success.

Today, 15 years later, that business is a Fortune 500 company, and one of my biggest clients.  When I think back on that time, I don’t really remember the windowless office.  What I remember, with a little smile and a lot of fondness, is that I made a difference.

Brad Schneider, Ph.D.Brad Schneider, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President of Talent Assessment at PSI.  Contact him at bschneider@psionline.com  or by phone at 818.847.6180.

Click here for more information about PSI’s assessment solutions.



Marketing – Using Our Stories

blog-9-ice-photo-1Four weeks ago, I gathered with more than 15 other PSI staff members at the annual conference of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). This is the last major testing conference of the year for credentialing bodies and is a great opportunity to visit with hundreds of colleagues, clients, former coworkers, and others in this industry. At this conference, PSI hosted an event where we welcomed more than 80 representatives of our clients. As we had discussions over the dinner, I was struck by how many people these 80+ individuals represented. Each person represented their own professional background and story, but they also represented their organizations, each with thousands of credential holders and thousands more of individuals who practice in their professions.

blog-9-ice-photo-2At this conference, I also co-presented on market research and how credentialing bodies can leverage the data they collect. Data like satisfaction surveys, post-exam surveys, demographic information collected at time of registration, and more can help organizations better understand, reach, and communicate with prospects, candidates, and credential holders alike. Using this information is critical to being able to target limited marketing and communication resources to grow one’s credentialing program.

However, we also have an immense asset in the stories – the professional and personal experiences – of credential holders. Just as each person at the dinner represented their own professional story, finding out the backgrounds of credential holders, how their credential has factored into their professional and personal experience, and sharing that experience more widely is one of the most powerful marketing message any credentialing organization possesses.

PSI consults with a number of organizations, both as separate engagements and as part of our test development and psychometric services, on how they can continue to develop their programs and help them thrive. Our team’s experience working with hundreds of credentialing programs over the years can help you not only meet your functional test development needs, but also assist you with those day-to-day questions in running your program. Through these experiences, we have many stories of our own that we can share, offering case studies that help you enrich your own programs and learn from the successes and failures of others. Learn more about PSI’s test development, psychometric, and consulting services, as well as reading PSI’s evidence based psychometric briefings at http://corporate.psionline.com/certification/test-development-psychometric-services/.

Dr. Rory McCorkleRory E. McCorkle, Ph.D., is Vice President of Certification Services at PSI.  Contact him at rmccorkle@psionline.com, or by phone at 818.847.6180.

Click here to learn more about PSI’s comprehensive testing solutions.



Targeted Market Research

If you’ve checked your inbox lately, you likely have a request or two to respond to a survey from vendors you use, asking you for insights into how you view their product, whether you would be willing to continue using it, or even why others may not be willing. Spending ten minutes to provide an opinion about a product is market research. Companies use the results to determine whether consumers are satisfied, products are in demand, or what areas of a business need to be improved.

The direct benefit of market research is to help organizations identify issues or opportunities and determine the effectiveness of current programs. Organizations that know how to apply what the market research is telling them are also able to focus on the consumers, reduce risk, make a case for funding, and innovate.

In certification, the consumers are candidates, their colleagues and supervisors, and the general public. Organizations need to know whether their consumers are happy, how earning the credential has impacted them, the reason behind earning the credential in the first place, and the overall value of the credential.  Often certification bodies collect information at the end of a computer-based test about a candidate’s experience in the testing center. These post-exam surveys are also becoming popular with remotely proctored exams. But is asking candidates about their testing experience enough?

PSI works with a number of clients who feel like it is not enough. PSI develops targeted market research approaches based on the strategic goals of these clients. For example, PSI work closely with a client that uses both post-exam questions at the test center and a separate marketing survey sent to all registered candidates a few weeks after the testing window closes. Specifically, the survey research is designed to provide insight into the importance and satisfaction levels of various program elements. This way, the organization can target the elements that are most important to their consumers and work to increase satisfaction levels in those areas. PSI makes recommendations to the organization on how to make meaningful changes to their program based on the results. The survey results are compared over time to determine whether efforts are successful.

Other PSI market research projects have included post-conference satisfaction surveys, training needs analysis, new credential feasibility studies including interviews and focus groups, and complete program audits leading to strategic portfolio redesign. PSI has the social science and survey research expertise to provide targeted market research to help organizations ask the right questions and turn their results into action.

Beth Kalinowski, MBA, is Director of Account Management, Certification at PSI.  Contact her at bkalinowski@psionline.com, or by phone at 818.847.6180.



Siddiq Kassam is Associate Psychometrician at PSI.  Contact him at skassam@psionline.com, or by phone at 818.847.6180.

Click here to learn more about PSI’s comprehensive testing solutions.



So Good At Interviewing

“We Are So Good at Interviewing, We Only Have 100% Turnover.”

“Jordan” was the shiny penny among dull nickels during a long recruitment for a new sales rep. He won me over as he did other managers. So, we hired him, with great hopes he would be our next sales superstar.

Within ten days, he was our greatest nightmare.

Hindsight is only valuable if applying its lessons to current situations to affect a better outcome; so, we reviewed where we went wrong. You might expect we saw red flags signaling an impressive façade masking the psychological mess that was Jordan. Nope, the red flag was mine.

And that flag? I didn’t know squat about interviewing. Up until then, I had not taken a single course or been instructed by HR on proper interview techniques, despite having conducted many interviews. Then, I couldn’t have told you the difference between behavioral interviewing, theoretical interviewing, and a fireside chat – or whether one approach was any better than another, because I was dumb at interviewing.

This didn’t stop my manager from believing interviewing was in my skills toolbox. So, I chose good stuff I had experienced in my own past interviews, all the while thinking, I don’t have a clue what I am doing.

At the same time, peers and senior managers seemed confident in their ability to ferret out good and bad candidates. However, as some of their hires were disastrous, I wondered how they could think so highly of their skills.

The story of bank robber, McArthur Wheeler, may provide insight.

In 1995, 44 year-old McArthur Wheeler decided to rob banks. Wheeler believed that smearing lemon juice on his face would make him invisible to bank surveillance cameras as lemon juice used to write invisible letters only become visible when held close to heat. In fact, Wheeler was confident in his belief. When police caught Wheeler the same day he robbed two banks, after recognizing him from the banks’ video footage, he was, it is said, astonished his plan had not worked.

This inspired researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger, from the Department of Psychology at Cornell University, to explore why Wheeler was flabbergasted by his failure. Their findings resulted in what is now called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, whereby some people are so incompetent they don’t realize just how incompetent they are, and, as a result, believe themselves to be really good. (Witness those awful but crushed American Idol contestants.)

Interviewing, like any other HR function, requires knowledge and skill. There is too much at stake for leadership to allow hiring managers and recruiters to remain incompetent in this critical competency – especially when there are tools (e.g., Video-Based Behavioral Interviewing, Validated Selection Tests, Interviewing Best Practices) that can objectively evaluate candidates’ ability and willingness to do the job.

Perhaps, then, that admitting you don’t know how to interview will make you one of the smartest people at your company.

Kathy Hammond is Account Manager, Talent Assessment at PSI.  Contact her at khammond@psionline.com  or by phone at 818.847.2090.

Click here to receive more information about PSI’s assessment solutions.



Performance Testing – A Lesson To Be Learned From Venetian Art

Blog 6 - Performance Testing picRecently, I took a vacation to Italy. Among many conversations with locals, I met a gentleman who hand-bound books, both printed and blank books for writing. He shared with me the history of this art in Venice – dating back to the 1400s when bookbinding studios became well known in the area. He also knew how to ‘marble’ paper, an art learned from the ancient Chinese, which made the paper look like it had a type of marble veining on it.

In speaking to this older man, I asked him how he learned his craft. He told me a familiar story in that region: he learned from his father and grandfather, who learned from their fathers and grandfathers before them. This tradition of families handing down their art and professions has a rich history, both within patrimonial and apprenticeship models of learning.

In England and several other countries, the final test of an apprentice was making a piece showing their best work – their own masterpiece. The apprentice’s masterpiece was submitted to a number of professionals in their field, who would judge the piece. A successful masterpiece would allow the apprentice to become a master, giving them both freedom from their teacher and the ability to enter the ranks of professionals in the field. A failing masterpiece meant more months or years of work, continuing to pursue their professional dream.

While we no longer demand that students give up their freedom for four to six years in an apprenticeship, the concept of passing a test where you truly show what one can do in a field continues to this day. Until recently, this consisted of manual applications of a final test where the final product was judged by a panel of experts. Rife with favoritism and limited in reliability, this has begun to change. A new wave of performance testing is sweeping professional credentialing: we have begun asking professionals to show not what they know, but how they would apply their knowledge in certain situations and to demonstrate this application. This application of knowledge provides a greater sense of accomplishment in the professional, as well as increased assurances to those who may hire them, that the professional knows not only what, but how.

PSI is at the cutting edge of performance testing in several areas, but particularly in our Certification division. With more than fifteen IT certification clients who use performance tests to assess their candidates, and our innovative use of “in-application testing,” PSI has the technological know-how to provide performance testing for credentialing organizations. The combination of our flexible technology platform and multiple delivery options, including multiple remote proctoring mechanisms, has provided a compelling value proposition for a number of credentialing organizations.

Dr. Rory McCorkleRory E. McCorkle, Ph.D., is Vice President of Certification Services at PSI.  Contact him at rmccorkle@psionline.com, or by phone at 818.847.6180.

Click here to learn more about PSI’s Lab-based and Performance-based Testing.