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Laenstidningen, 8 February 1999
Laenstidningen February 8, 1999 [small notice on front page plus two full pages inside]
The test has no scientific foundation
"Does it require an effort from your side to contemplate suicide?" "When something unexpected happens, do you get muscle tics?" These are some of the 200 questions of the U-test used to test prospective employees. A test that is criticized by one of Sweden's leading testing experts.
The U-test is called in its original form the Oxford Capacity Analysis Test, but it has no connection whatsoever with the renowned University of Oxford.
It has been used for more than 35 years by the scientology movement, who stress that it is a personality test, not a psychological test.
U-man has used the test for 15 years, for all categories of jobs.
- We have learned over time what test profiles are best suitable for various professions, says U-man president Maarten Runow.
He also claims 50 of the questions of the U-test are totally different from the one used by scientology. But when LT [Laenstidningen] compares the two tests, only ten questions are found to differ.
But there is one major difference - when scientology uses it to recruit members, the test is free. U-man charges 3000-4000 SEK per test.
When asked if it is relevant to ask about suicide thoughts in a recruitment test, Runow says they don't look at the answer to particular questions. If applicants wants to comment on the questions they may write it on the back, but people rarely do.
U-man also makes a telephone interview with the applicant.
- We are not affected by looks and a charming appearance.
Bo Ekehammar, professor of psychology and one of the leading experts on recruitment tests is not as impressed by the U-test.
LT let him study the test, the promotional materials of U-man and scientology's material on Hubbard's theories of the reactive and analytical minds that form the basis of the test evaluation.
- To say that it is a personality test and not a psychological test is playing with words, as real personality tests are based on psychological methods and theories.
- What I have read lies totally beyond the scientific world. He has created his own theories and there is no scientific and empirical research to back it up.
Ekehammar tells about one of his collegues, a professor of psychology and communication, who was offered to do an OCA at a trade fair. The computer evaluation showed him to have low communication ability and he was offered a communications course.
- I know of few people who are as good at communicating as he is. So they must have been a bit unlucky with the analysis there, Bo Ekehammar says.
During the 12 years that U-man has operated on the swedish market, hundreds of companies have purchased their services.
Telgebostaeder [owns a large number of apartment buildings in Soedertaelje] tried the test three years ago.
- It was only one time. We have not used the test since, says the personnel manager. He says they did not know about the scientology connection.
The personnel manager of Scania [truck manufacturer] has done the U-test himself. In the mid 90's, Scania made their own review of the test market, trying out about 20 various recruitment tests.
- I was a bit sceptic because of the scientology link, but also thought afterwards that it wasn't a particularly useful test.
He doesn't like the testing company making the full analysis without cooperation from the client company, and calls it "sending the result into a black hole, which it then reappers from". Scania decided not to use the test, despite intensive sales attempts from the U-man sellers.
The computer company Mydata in Bromma has been a large client. The former personnel manager bought 50 tests at a value of over 160,000 SEK.
- I know that my predecessor used them, says the present personnel manager.
U-man still keeps in contact, and just sent him an invitation for a meeting.
It is difficult to evaluate if a recruitment test is good or not. Two central concepts are validity - whether or not the test actually measures what it claims to be measuring, and reliability - whether or not test results are affected by chance or other circumstances.
Validity is expressed as a coefficient with the maximum value of +1. If a test reaches 0.4 that is considered good, 0.6 is excellent. U-man does not give the validity score in the standard coefficient measure, but claims it reaches 90 %. "Testbanken" that informs about recruitment tests on the internet warns for tests with extremely high validity figures: "there seems to exist a negative correlation between extremely high claims for validity and the serious nature of the test company"
U-man owner Runow refers to an international evaluation of the U-test that has given this high validity score. Within the next few years he shall make a scandinavian evaluation. But he also expresses doubts as to the value of scientific examination of recruitment tests.
- In the end, it is still a matter of subjective decisions. We usually tell a customer to try the test on somebody they know well. If their opinion of this person is similar to U-man's test evaluation, that shows the test is working.
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