Pre-Hire Personality Testing?

Originally posted on Healthcare Informatics

How do you test candidates to find Mr. or Ms. Right for your IT organization? Many of our clients are always trying to find the ‘secret sauce’ when hiring talent. Well, there’s no real ‘secret sauce’, but hopefully a distinct hiring process – one that’s standard and used consistently for each hire – will give you solid results. No short-cuts. We use a variety of tools to assess candidates, and a few years ago even integrated psychometric testing into our vetting process. At first glance, you might think these online tools are a fluke. A closer look at the results and you might be surprised at how close they come to explaining the DNA of your personality. I have taken several of them and it’s scary close!

We sort through lots of data-points based on the requirements of the role we’re working on. We try to understand key performance indicators (KPI’s) of a candidate’s approach to competitiveness, sense of urgency, interactions with others, the way they analyze data and a number of other behavioral drivers in an attempt to see how they’re wired. Another benefit of the personality tests is the ability to identify candidate’s potential leadership ability and define their work habits. The results can (and should) be used by the hiring manager to coach and mentor the individual into maximizing their potential. The more a hiring manager understands about the candidates we present, the better they’ll understand the candidates’ behavior in the workplace. Besides helping us/our clients avoid making the wrong decision, the KPI’s also keep the search from dragging on forever!

Some of our clients live and die by the results of the psychometric tests, while others simply see it as just another part of the organization’s hiring process. When recommending a candidate, I never put too much emphasis on the results of a psychometric test unless the functional role requires certain analytical skills or other criteria that’s important to the client. Many industrial psychologists question the validity of the tests in predicting success, while others have reservations about the reliability of the results, because test takers may try to answer the questions in a way they think will be viewed most favorably. Neither psychometric testing, interviews, reference checks, nor outside search consultants (or any other tools available to the hiring team) will make a difference if the search criteria are not clearly defined.

Some companies use psychometric tests to screen candidates – that’s a mistake. They might be missing the mark on candidates who have the requisite experience. We’re all wired differently, and just because a candidate is naturally introverted or extroverted doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she cannot be successful in a particular role – nor does it guarantee success. It should be used as one of many tools to assess candidates and not as a stand-alone decision support tool. We all need to remember that psychometric tests attempt to quantify very subjective qualities and traits. Some of the test answers could completely send the wrong message about a candidate’s personality – it happens.

I am a big believer that successful people repeat themselves (unfortunately, that works the other way as well). I like to review candidate’s success metrics, as that really tells a story. The more granular, the better for me! Psychometric testing tells just one piece of the puzzle – nothing takes the place of previous experience, actual accomplishments and strong references

At the end of the day, these online tools are great but should be used collectively with the other components of your hiring process to narrow your slate and find the very best talent in the land.