Predicting Workplace Performance with A-Levels: Why Academic Qualifications Fall Short

Published August 13, 2015

The A-level results are in!  While students across the UK anxiously await the grades that may determine their future, at a&dc we’re asking a simple yet important question.  What does an A-level grade, or even a degree qualification, actually tell organisations about potential future performance?

Well, for many large-scale employers, not as much as you might first think.  I came across a couple of news articles on the BBC last week highlighting the ineffectiveness of academic performance at predicting workplace performance.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Ernst & Young, using A-levels and other academic qualifications is “too blunt an approach” for recruiting graduates.  PwC believe this so strongly that they have removed A-level grades from their graduate recruitment process.  Similarly, for their 2016 graduate scheme, Ernst & Young will now choose which graduates to interview based on their performance in online tests instead of their academic qualifications, including at university level.

Thousands of teenagers (my brother being one of them!) today find out their A-level results, which have been two years in the making, involving hours of studying and revising.  Surely this calls into the question the validity of such qualifications, and the time investment required?

Of course, many professions require proof of technical competence, which academic courses can provide.  But what about all those other competencies which are needed to succeed at work?  The skills they don’t teach you in the classroom.  I’m thinking about presentation skills, persuasive verbal communication, effective prioritisation and planning skills, and leadership behaviours.  These are so important for carving out a successful career, but all too often are not part of the academic syllabus.

If these important workplace behaviours are not formally measured in the classroom, it comes as little surprise that employers need to measure these behaviours during the recruitment process.

There are many effective ways to assess workplace behaviours as part of your recruitment process.  You can sift out unsuitable candidates using an online psychometric just like PwC and Ernst & Young, create competency based interview questions, or run an assessment centre.  There are methods to suit different needs, as well as budgets.  Take assessment centres, for example, they can be done as either “day in the life” or discrete exercises and can be done virtually or face-to-face.

Behavioural assessment is one of the most effective and statistically valid methods for predicting workplace performance, with many employer giants scrapping academic qualifications in favour of behavioural competence.  If you’re not assessing for behaviours as part of your recruitment process, isn’t it time you should be?

To find out more about behavioural assessment, take a look around a&dc’s website and get in contact with us for some free advice.

Author: Sofia Brzostowski

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