DO YOU REALLY HAVE TO STANDARDISE EVERYTHING?
Why psychological test must be adapted for each country
“If I want to find staff for a new plant in China, I can simply use the same tests that I use in Germany can’t I?” Unfortunately not. Every culture is different, and in each country, you encounter different conditions. So to win the best applicants from other countries, you need to understand the cultural differences and adapt your selection accordingly.
CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH AS A GENERATOR OF KNOWLEDGE
The basis for the selection of scientific testing methods in an international context is cross-cultural research. This shows us the similarities and differences between different cultures. In our globalised world, cultures increasingly mutually influence one another – and these developments must also be taken into account when using test methods in international selection processes.
INTELLIGENCE MODULES ARE GLOBALLY RELEVANT FOR APTITUDE STATEMENTS
Despite the many country-specific differences, there are also international similarities. Intelligence is thus globally relevant for predicting professional success. Test formats with figural contents are particularly suitable because they are less culturally specific than linguistic formats and are therefore often referred to as being “culture-free”. Numerical tasks are also far less problematic than language-related ones which pose special challenges for translation procedures.
THE “BIG FIVE” OF THE PERSONALITY AS INTERNATIONALLY VALID TEST METHODS
In addition to intelligence, personality characteristics are among the central test dimensions. The five major personality factors of a person, the so-called Big Five, are considered to exist internationally, but in different, country-specific forms.
Compatibility, conscientiousness, extraversion, emotional stability, and openness to new ideas can thus be measured anywhere in the world with scientific testing procedures.
Non-verbal intelligence tests and universally valid personality tests thus function globally - even if the average values differ markedly from country to country. These differences can usually be addressed with a project-specific standardisation. This ensures that the test results of the individual are compared with results from their own culture. This prevents cultural differences from distorting the results. The culture of the respective country, for example social forms of contact, characterise the responses of your applicants in behaviour-based and personality-related test procedures.
CULTURE AS AN INFLUENCING FACTOR
Punctuality, for example, is not an important value everywhere in the world – in some countries it is socially acceptable to arrive an hour late. Cultural differences like these have to be taken into account both in the development of the test methods and in the evaluation.
A UNIFORM LEVEL OF EDUCATION DOES NOT EXIST
Education systems and types of schools are different from country to country – it is therefore problematic if you assume that the same level of education as in Germany is available everywhere. A test procedure that is derived from occupational requirements in Germany can both overtax and underchallenge candidates in other countries, especially if the same benchmark is used. As a recruiter, you may receive totally distorted test results because your applicants have not understood the test, or found it too difficult or too simple without you being aware of this.
The advantage of scientific testing and assessments is that as few as possible education-specific aspects are included.
For this reason we refer to these as procedures that function as free from cultural influence as possible.
Test content should therefore function as independent of specific national, socioeconomic and educational conditions in order to be able to analyse the interdisciplinary competencies of international candidates reliably and fairly.
LANGUAGE BARRIERS CAN DISTORT TEST RESULTS
Studies have shown that it is easiest to take a test in one’s own language – ensuring that all candidates have an equal chance. Test methods can and should be translated into the different mother tongues of the candidates or should at least be uniformly available in English in order to create a fair basis for comparison. However, this decision depends on the tasks in the test: for example, if the candidates have to generate as many words as possible with a particular first letter in a limited time, the task will make little sense in China, because Chinese is a symbol language in which a single character can represent the whole word. This example illustrates how important it is not only to standardise the country and language specifics on the macro level of individual tests, but also to select the test formats on the micro level that work best in the respective culture area.
THE TRANSLATION PROCESS
Translating test methods is a highly complex process, just like language itself; there are countless synonyms, ambiguities, and grammatical structures that have to be taken into account. For this reason, we work with professional translators right at the first test development phases of our test procedures in order to assess the general suitability of individual procedures for other cultures. In the translation process itself, it is important to prevent linguistic misunderstandings and to ensure the scientific quality criteria of the tests. This takes place, for example, via a translation and reverse translation by two independent translators who must be native speakers. Only if the reverse translation has exactly the same result as the original is the translation accepted. This principle can be used to ensure that there are no mistranslations. In this way, we can provide quality assurance even for the versions of our tests in languages which we ourselves do not speak. We now provide our test procedures in over 20 languages.