Giving Feedback – Assessment Performance

The Purpose of Feedback            fback1              

√    Motivation/Control of Distortion Knowing that the assessment is to be fed back, discussed and probed will encourage the respondent to complete the test more objectively. People are likely to be more committed to taking the assessment if they are made aware that they will be given the opportunity to discuss, and make use of their results.

√    Public Relations Assessments can appear mystical or even frightening to the layperson. Thus, feedback, even if only brief, can reassure people and leave them more positive towards both the technique and the counselling process.

√    Ownership Assessment information pertains to an individual and, where this can be used constructively, it is reasonable to share recorded information with the individual that it concerns. Providing individuals with feedback on their own performance during an assessment can help them to take more responsibility for independently and proactively developing themselves, thus giving them a sense of empowerment.

√    Fairness Understanding the data upon which relevant selection and development decisions are based helps to promote equal opportunities thereby, reducing feelings of prejudice and bias. An open system of discussion about results debunks the mystique that may, inappropriately, become attached to personality inventories.

√    Legal If the assessment has been administered by a computer and results stored, there is a legal requirement to provide respondents meaningful feedback scores if requested.

 Coaching and Feedback
The following definition of Coaching serves as a useful mindset to adopt when facilitating a feedback conversation.

 Coaching is a goal focused interaction that helps people to achieve their objectives by raising their awareness and enabling them to take responsibility for the way forward

fback2Coaching is the means of creating an environment that helps people to learn rather than teaching them. It is important for the coach to remember that what enables change is the coachee seeing something, not you. The coaching challenge is to channel heightened awareness into productive development activity.

Adopting the coaching mindset changes our perspective on what we need to say when giving feedback. The key skill of a coach is not telling but asking.

For a feedback conversation to work as a coaching conversation we must have a clear goal for the coaching conversation.  Our role is not just to advise them how their responses compared with others, but also to work to help them own the implication of this for their development.   As the conversation develops we must be prepared to ask the respondent to reflect on how their style works for them and challenge them to think about how it impacts on key challenges they are facing. Ultimately we want to guide them to plan how to address their development challenges.

Preparing to Give Feedback

Adequate preparation is an essential prerequisite of good feedback. The person giving feedback should have a thorough understanding of both the instrument and the profile and be able to describe the latter in simple, exact, jargon free terms. To these ends, it is important to:

√    Be familiar with the version of the test you are using.

√    Provide a simple explanation of how the assessment is benchmarked and whom their performance is compared with.

There are common elements i n how we would approach a debrief conversation for personality and feedback. In each case we need to mange the conversation through four key stages:

»     Establish rapport

»     Understand their needs and expectations

»     Describing his overall performance

»     Relate test performance to his future needs and goals

To establish rapport we should start with some ‘small talk’ time to establish ‘mood/form’.  Ask questions e.g. How are you feeling?  How did you find the assessments in general? In addition it would be relevant to start asking about his/her career goals or challenges to build on later.

Rather than talking too much at the outset we can gain more information by asking more questions. If we can gain an understanding of their perceived strengths and levels of interest in different careers, this will make the feedback much more relevant.  We could also ask about how s/he felt about the tests and what level of performance s/he was expecting.  We can use a mixture of probing and direct questions depending on the rapport gained from the initial introductions.

In describing overall performance we can use any of the statistics we have studied, however it is important that these are clearly explained. Sten scores have some of the intuitiveness of percentiles without the same risks of misinterpretation. The sten scoring system can also be translated into standard adverbs to provide a more user friendly interpretation of performance (with a sense of the margin of error) than that afforded by raw numbers. The table below is useful in interpreting performance and in preparing written reports.

Sten Score Percentile Range Verbal Descriptor

Abilities(Low to High Scales)

Verbal Descriptors

Bi-polar Scales (eg Personality)




98 to 100


Exceptional performance




93 to 97.5

Performed highly above average Very, highly


84 to 92

Performed well above average Definitely


69 to 83

Performed above average Fairly, slight tendency, quite




5 or 6

31 to 68

Similar, like most in the

Comparison group

Neither….nor, typical, like most in the Comparison group





16 to 30

Performed Slightly below average Fairly, slight tendency, quite


7 to 15

Performed Below average Definitely


3 to 6

Performed well below average Very, highly


1 or 2

Clearly underperformed Extremely

The last stage of the process is critical and it is important not to forget to check your clients understanding of the conversation at this point. Ideally we want the client to leave with a clear understanding and a positive sense of what they can do with the information that has been discussed.

Differences between Giving Ability and Personality Feedback

While the process above can be applied to both personality and ability feedback it is important to remember that the task are quite different. Ability feedback comes across as more definitive. It may be perceived as “carved in stone” rather than a snapshot in time. Although we would expect a level of stability in these scores many factors can lead to change. Experience in Ireland with the HPAT has shown that coaching on test technique can significantly enhance scores.

It is important to explain the bipolar nature of personality scales and that high is not better. This can be seen in the table above. We should envisage spending much longer on personality test feedback as people are often less aware of the characteristics involved and their meaning. It will also take time to put these broad constructs (e.g extraversion- introversion) into context with the individual.


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