In searching for a job you have likely gone through the steps of the interview process in filling out an application, scheduling an introductory phone screening, followed by a few rounds of interviews. In some cases, you may have even had
to fill out a personality or intelligence assessment.
These are typically psychometric assessments that are designed to measure candidates’ personality characteristics and cognitive abilities to match the extent they fit the role. Today, many big companies use these tools as a way to sort through candidates. However, the problem is that many organizations use the psychometric assessments in the wrong way.
Building an effective team starts with the hiring process. At EII Consulting, we believe it is crucial to understand the correct practices in both testing and understanding personality characteristics in order to build a successful team. To give this context we reference the Economist article, “Questionable Behavior” in our discussion below. We often encourage our clients to think about what these types of psychometric tools mean for their leadership. They can be extremely beneficial to the cohesion and communication of a team but are only effective when used correctly. As more companies are relying on psychometric assessments, we need to look into what companies are doing wrong and how they can use the right assessments in the right way.
The Increase in Psychometric Testing
The method of psychometric testing in the hiring process gained traction in popularity in the 1970s. According to a 2020 Society for Human Resource Management survey, 22% of HR professionals today use personality assessments. That number is continually growing each year as these tests are becoming increasingly popular.
The assessments often measure behavior in hypothetical situations. Often assigning a score from 1, “strongly disagree” to 5, “strongly agree” to describe how they would act in certain situations. In most questions, there is no right or wrong answer. The goal is to build a profile of the characteristics of the candidate to see if they match the traits needed for the job.
Psychometric assessments often judges on the basis of five characteristics, known as OCEAN. This stands for openness, conscientiousness, extroversion (or introversion), agreeableness, and neuroticism. These tests can also judge for what is known as the “dark triad” — psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism.
These assessments often seem simplistic to applicants who obviously want to stand out as having a strong work ethic, being highly motivated, attentive to detail, and excel when working with others.They will usually answer questions in the way they think the prospective employee wants. To combat this, multiple questions are purposely asked in various ways in order to gain consistency in personality traits. Research shows the validity of this method is effective.
When used correctly, cognitive personality assessments increase the chances that new hires will succeed in the position. The ideal characteristics for certain positions can also be surprising. For example:
As you can see, ideal characteristics often aren’t as obvious as they may seem. That is where the use of these assessments can go wrong as large companies are relying more and more on the usage of psychometric assessments to pick an employee based on assumption, such as an extrovert would be a better call center employee. On average, a bad hire will cost a company about 1 year in compensation. When using the incorrect psychometric assessment, your hiring process will be flawed and could overlook great candidates or pass subpar candidates through. Therefore, the tests chosen should not be just a fun personality test to see what the candidate is like. It needs to find actual data in the correlation between the candidate’s traits and the traits of a successful hire for that specific role.
At EII Consulting, we help you to gain a deep understanding of the characteristics that are most important for the roles within your team. With a developed self-awareness of your current team, we can help you find the qualities that you want to continue to look for in your future hiring.
Where Psychometric Assessing Goes Wrong
A huge problem with psychometric assessment is using the wrong assessment! Just because it is a popular psychometric test does not mean it is the best one!
A popular psychometric test that we use at EII to focus on developing self-awareness and understand
ing of team dynamics is the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. It is a powerful tool that needs to be used and understood correctly in order to be effective. Luckily, this assessment is our specialty! The MBTI really only works for leaders to develop an understanding of members already within their team and finding where they fit best.
For this reason, the MBTI should not be used in hiring decisions (even the assesment’s publisher warns it is not ethical for that use!). This is because it measures innate preferences we have within our personality. These are JUST preferences.
Consider using horoscopes as a method of predicting personality characteristics. A horoscope may define some broad traits in someone’s personality but it is not actually predictive of results on a job. That is the same as using the MBTI to hire someone!
The MBTI is a relatively simple and well-known tool. It is detailed enough to define essential preferences as well as differences between individuals in order to improve communication. In a hiring decision, however, it would be an ineffective tool as it would fail to actually predict the desired results and characteristics for the needs of the job.
The MBTI is effective for leadership. This is because it allows us to step into the shoes of our team members and understand various habits in the forms of self-awareness, communication, mental resilience and accountability. At EII Consulting, we use MBTI to help develop strong leaders to build effective communication and understanding within their team.
It is crucial to have the correct psychometric assessments done in the correct way in order to build an effective team and organization that can succeed. The Harvard Business Review article, “How to Use Psychometric Testing in Hiring”, highlights what organizations need to know to minimize the risk of using psychometric tests incorrectly and maximize their accuracy.
How to Use Psychometric Testing in the Right Way
The concepts of compatibility, organizational skills, communication skills, etc. in hiring are important but how do you actually rate abstract skills? It can be hard to define and that is where psychometric testing gets tricky. This is why we can’t fully rely on these assessments and where the work of a leader comes into play.
As a leader, it is YOUR job to build the team! There are no shortcuts to building a team. Building the correct process to assess a candidate’s experience, skills, and fit within your organization is a crucial first step that cannot be overlooked.
At EII Consulting, we will help you find the tools to build an efficient team that will be set up for success! If you’re interested in setting up a consultation, contact us today!