Hiring managers go through many obstacles during the process of filling a position and bringing someone new on to the team. One of the most prominent challenges they experience is the attempt to discern a candidate’s suitability to the role and workplace culture based on traditional hiring methods, which usually encompasses a resume and a few interviews lasting for hour-long stints.
Despite the fact that psychometric assessments have been used in selection practices since the late 1800s, hiring methods used throughout the 20th century were still susceptible to the many errors that assessments can usually help eliminate. Candidate interview faking, lack of cultural fit measurement, and reliance on the interviewer’s subjective bias of the candidate are just a few of the interferences that come into play when attempting making the right decision. Leaders started to realize that the traditional hiring process wasn’t providing them with the most efficient avenue to select the right people for their organizations. Therefore, a data-based approach began to take precedent over the usual “gut-feeling” in order to favour objectivity in the hiring decision.
Psychometric assessments are designed and marketed as tools used in the hiring process to delineate a candidate’s underlying skills, personality, and natural tendencies. These innermost insights usually cannot be uncovered in the short periods of time in which a hiring manager interviews a candidate, simply because interviews are too short to divulge that level of information, but also likely because the candidate is “presenting” during the interview.
Interview faking is a heavily researched phenomenon in Personnel Psychology, in which candidates can present themselves as the ideal – or perhaps, what they believe is the ideal – candidate for the role based on what the job description states. For example, a candidate could present themselves as a social, gregarious person for an hour during the interview, but in actuality, they’re quite introverted. Even further, the interviewer’s subjective bias could come into play where they label a candidate as being a strong communicator when the candidate was actually just a social person. That candidate may be a social butterfly at the local watering hole, but may have a tough time asserting themselves when it comes to communicating crucial, business-related information.
Psychometric assessments can be applied to different use cases depending on what they measure, since they’re created to assess a number of various personality traits, depending on what the researchers’ intentions were. Assessments on the market today typically are heavily correlated with the Big 5 Personality traits:
- Openness: People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score high in openness. Openness includes traits like insightfulness and creativity.
- Conscientiousness: Having a high degree of conscientiousness often relates to being organized, methodical, and detail-oriented.
- Extraversion: Extraversion is related to an energy exchange, in which extraverts receive high doses of energy from being social and interacting with other people. On the contrary, introverts receive their energy from themselves.
- Agreeableness: High levels of agreeableness is correlated with being friendly, collaborative, cooperative. People with low agreeableness may tend to be more distant and rigid.
- Neuroticism: Neuroticism can also be referred to as Emotional Stability, in which people that score high in neuroticism often experience more negative emotions, moodiness, and tension.
These five factors may not be directly measured in all assessments, rather, specific traits that are considered subsections of the five are usually evaluated, such as detail orientation, sociability, or helpfulness. Further, the calibration of general mental ability – such as problem solving or abstract reasoning – is also a typicality of many psychometric assessments. Each question, or “item”, is designed to directly measure at least one of the traits the assessment intends to measure, in which the results of the assessment as a whole is based on how the participant answered all items related to that trait collectively.
Therefore, hiring managers can gauge the candidate’s personality and competence in areas related to the role at hand using a scientific, objective standpoint, rather than using the traditional methods that are subject to error. The results of psychometric assessments can be used to help understand how good a team player the candidate will be, how adaptable they are, or how they approach and solve problems.
That being said, these assessments should not be used as a “knock-out factor” for candidates, or in place of an interview; they should be used concurrently with other hiring methods in order to validate or explain areas of strengths and weakness. The use of this data can allow hiring managers to make talent decisions with a higher degree of confidence.
However, the validity of all of the different assessments on the market today greatly comes down to the design of the tool. In next month’s article I will be discussing how to determine the validity of an assessment based on the structure, length, and type of scale used.
About the author: Erica Naccarato is an Executive Search Consultant and Industrial Organizational Psychologist at Fulcrum Search Science Inc., a Toronto-based executive search firm solving Mission-Critical hiring challenges throughout North America. She specializes in the use of psychometric data and assessments to assist with building and developing teams. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416)-389-0583.