Jobseeker's online test not approved for use

Tue, 07/05/2013 - 13:47 -- nick

The online personality test for jobseekers UnemployedNet reported on last week has come in for more criticism from those who invented it.

The test, titled 'My Strengths', is the brainchild of the Prime Minister's 'nudge unit', which aims to make changes in people's behaviour.

It asks those taking it to rate how highly they agree with 48 statements including 'I am easily bored', 'I never go out of my way to visit museums', 'Most of my friends are more imaginative than I am', 'I am not very good at sensing what other people are feeling', 'I have not created anything of beauty in the last year', 'I rarely have a well thought out plan for what I want to do' and 'I have taken frequent stands in the face of strong opposition'.

The answers given then lead on to a set of five personal strengths which jobseekers are advised to use in their jobsearch and to discuss with their advisors.

Jobcentres are requiring claimants to take the test and threatening benefit sanctions if they do not do so despite blogger Skwawkbox reporting that the test questions are not connected to the strengths given; he sat the test but clicked 'next' to each question rather than making value judgements, and was still provided with five characteristics.

In a further development, The Guardian is reporting that the VIA Institute on Character, the American organisation that invented the test, has told the UK government to stop using it because it failed its scientific validation.

The Guardian writes:

"Kelly Aluise, VIA's communications director, said the institute had previously been approached by a civil servant from the nudge team to use a slimmed-down version of its 120- and 240-question "character strengths" survey.

However, she said, the civil servant was refused permission by VIA's education director, Dr Ryan Niemiec.

"They were not allowed to use it," she said.

In correspondence seen by the Guardian, Niemiec said the test was a failure. "They are using the non-validated version … we had tested it a while back and it failed," Niemiec wrote."

In a letter written by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to jobseekers, it was claimed that the test was "scientifically shown to find people's strengths".

The DWP has claimed that the test has been signed off by qualified psychologists, but these are understood to be from the nudge unit.

After The Guardian spoke to the government on the issue the VIA refused to comment further except to say it had resolved its differences with the nudge unit on the test:

"Any misunderstandings that may have occurred between VIA and the Behavioural Insights team have been resolved at this point."

This is likely to raise questions on contact made behind the scenes between VIA and the government, which will have paid VIA a significant amount of money for permission to use a version of its online test.

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