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How to Assess Judgment Skills

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Good judgment can come in handy for nearly any job. In some cases, however, it can be a matter of allowing a business to sink or swim -- or even a matter of life and death. A police officer, for example, depends on proper judgment to make sound decisions, and make them quickly. No matter what type of field you're in, a few common interviewing and screening techniques can help you assess a candidate's judgment. These include tests, behavioral interview techniques and working interviews.

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing involves asking the job candidate how he's behaved in the past in certain situations, or how he'd act in a hypothetical situation. For example, you might ask a teacher candidate how he'd choose between various discipline strategies when dealing with a particular student problem. With behavioral interviewing, the idea is that a person's judgment or decision-making in past situations is an excellent indicator of future behavior.

Situational Judgment Tests

Instead of asking hypothetical questions during an in-person interview, another option is to offer an assessment test, sometimes called a situational judgment test. Police bureaus and investigative institutions sometimes use these tests as an initial screening. The FBI, for example, administers a situational judgment test that tests candidates' skills in organization, planning and prioritizing, as well as the candidates' abilities to assess information and make judgments based on that information. For example, the candidate might be asked how to deal with an insubordinate member of the team or how to handle ineffective co-workers. These tests are often available online, but ask your human resources officer for other resources.

Working Interviews

If you're getting close to hiring a candidate, another option for assessing her judgment is to have her perform a "working interview" in which she spends a day on the job. When she's actually doing the tasks she'd do during a normal day, you'll get an even clearer picture of what she's capable of. To really measure the candidate's judgment, assign her a project that she has to get done by the end of the day, and include pieces of a puzzle that will challenge her to use good judgment. For example, introduce a common issue that employees face in the workplace, or ask an employee to pose a problem for her to solve.

Measuring Responses

Whether you use one or all of these techniques, monitor each candidate's progress and develop a rubric to track each person's success. The FBI, for example, uses a scale from 1 to 7 for candidates' responses to the situational judgment test. If the response was extremely effective and very likely to lead to a positive outcome, the assessor would give the candidate a 6 or 7. Highly ineffective responses, on the other hand, would earn a 1 or 2. By using the same system for each response and each test, you'll get a strong indicator of the candidate's overall judgment across each assessment.


Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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