The Role Of Psychological Assessments In Executive Hiring

Posted by The Garner Group on Apr 15 2019




The job hiring process is often fraught with mine fields.

Many employers rely on ATS (Applicant Tracking System) algorithms to pre-filter resumes, while others scroll through social media profiles to assess candidate qualifications. In terms of efficacy, how is success measured? If our top candidate likes drinking beer while cavorting with half-naked women at annual Burning Man events, is that a deal-breaker? In the same vein, if a promising candidate admits to using marijuana for a chronic condition, will she show up to work under the influence? 

Navigating the employment process takes ninja-level HR finesse, preferably the kind that reduces the risk of costly discrimination lawsuits.

However, are robot-created algorithms and e-stalking the only tools we have at our disposal?

We all know that fit is pivotal in the executive hiring process, yet it can be nearly impossible to measure. How do we quantify a candidate's leadership skills? Additionally, if we're unsure about a prospective hire's ability to adapt to our corporate values, how can we confidently hire them? There are no simple answers to any of these questions. However, many companies are increasingly turning to psychometric assessments to navigate hiring challenges.

Types of Psychometric Assessments

Companies can choose from a wealth of psychometric assessments, depending on which traits they want to measure. While individual tests vary greatly in their methodologies, most can be categorized into one of several broader groups.

Personality Profiling

Generally, every aspect of the hiring process should provide some insight into a candidate's character. Personality profiles probe deeper, however, using standardized measures to determine candidates' styles of thinking, interacting, and leading. The individual traits measured vary depending on the specific test, but most attempt to narrow in on broad characteristics similar to the "big five": openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Some examples of this style of testing are the Myers-Briggs Type Index, the DISC, and the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire.

Aptitude Testing

In a personality profile, there are no right or wrong answers. In contrast, aptitude tests highlight candidate qualifications on a more granular level. Depending on the industry and role, these tests may triangulate abilities in verbal, mathematical, or logical reasoning under time pressures. There are also specialized aptitude tests to assess leadership or decision making skills; these simulate environments that executives typically handle.

Biographical Data Instruments

Rather than explicitly testing a candidates' personality or abilities, biographical data instruments attempt to predict job performance from a different perspective. They extrapolate chances of job success based on education, work experience, interpersonal skills, and job-related knowledge. While not necessarily the focus of the assessment, there may also be questions relating to personal characteristics.

Why Test?

All assessments have particular advantages; each delivers clear value from a unique angle. An aptitude test may say little about the way a prospective executive handles face-to-face interactions. However, psychological assessments can insert a measurable degree of objectivity into the hiring process. The tests deliver consistent results and have generally been accurate in measuring what they claim to. They are also often administered by trained psychologists. In that light, psychological assessments can be crucial tools when combined with job interviews, which may be marred by subjective biases. 

The Role of Tests in Hiring

Given the promise of quantifiable results delivered by an expert, it can be tempting to think of psychometric tests as the endgame solution to better hiring. Yet, although they tend to deliver reliable, actionable insights, it's important to assess their efficacy appropriately.

Choosing the right executive is an art. The challenge is to create a cohesive picture of a candidate from a whirl of interviews, documents, and recommendations. Psychometric assessments are nothing more than fragments of information that add to the mosaic of the whole person.

While they certainly have their place, they are most useful when contextualized within the framework of a candidate's history and character. A stellar performance on a leadership test shouldn't necessarily outweigh a bland interview, just as lagging aptitude scores shouldn't disqualify an otherwise outstanding candidate.

Sorting through these sorts of complexities is challenging and time consuming, and a wrong decision can result in expensive rehiring costs. When used judiciously, psychometric assessments can highlight aptitudes and weaknesses missed by other key performance indicators. In that light, experienced executive recruiters can help by selecting the most reliable assessments and highlighting key elements that relate to cultural fit.



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