Since the early 2000s, recruiters have been asking potential recruits to sit various tests to determine their eligibility for certain jobs. While such tests give an insight to a person’s ability, and some even into a persons personality traits, are they really of worth?
To answer this question, knowing why tests are conducted, what qualities are being searched for and if such tests are both reliable and authentically responded to must be addressed. While there is much online to suggest that your hiring process is failing if you don’t do some kind of testing, may other opinions will discredit personality and aptitude testing as pseudoscience.
Yes and No
Testing of job applicants was introduced as a way to limit turnover and improve hiring retention rates. If tests could reveal the candidates who would best perform based on the traits or qualities the company required, they would be more likely to not only attract the right talent, but to retain star talent who are real assets to a company.
While this idea, in theory, sounds solid, there are many problems, the least of which is that testing has become a business. Recruiters offer testing almost as a matter of course. The problem with this additional and expensive option is that is is very likely a generic test, perhaps designed for the industry as a whole, but very often not designed with your specific goals for a new hire at the forefront of the model.
When you assess the personalities and skills that people in your company have, you are likely to find that they are varied. If you have a team that you believe is strong, loyal and working in a way that most benefits your company, it is likely because of the mix of people coming together, good leadership and real motivations that you have such a team of productive and engaged workers.
Too often we hear that one rotten apple spoils the barrel. Is there a test that can determine who that apple is? Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test was once of the most common personality tests offered at job interviews. However, studies have shown that the test result varies for more than 50% of people when they retake the test, even only 5 weeks later. The test is only useful for conversation, not making an assessment of how a person will behave in an office environment or contribute to a team.
The Dark Side
For every recruitment agency selling testing to find you the right talent, there is a site selling ‘cheats’ to passing tests for various roles. People use these ‘cheats’, not because they are dishonest or because they don’t have the skills for the job, but because competition for some positions has become so fierce, and often based on personality over real ability, that some people are driven to finding answers that are not true to who they are.
Choosing applicants based on their personality over their ability is one of the reasons that so many businesses find motivating staff and maintaining productivity challenges. A group of people who are similar might compete for attention, or not challenge each other creativity, while a mixture of people with various traits is likely to bring diversity to an environment. As a business owner, you need to know what you value. Do you want your team to be a productive group of friends who have deep trust and respect for each other or do you want a group of busy people who are happy to work together but spend less time becoming friends? There is no right or wrong answer, only the answer that serves your business best. Remember, despite what over-zealous young bloggers filled with positive thoughts say, not everyone wants to be friends with their colleagues. Many people are happy to have separate work and private lives.
The Real Test
If you are interviewing for an engineer, rather than an arbitrary maths test, ask the candidates to complete a real task. If you are seeking a content writer, have them write copy for a mock site. The test is then based on their skills, their ability to produce work under pressure and show their talents to the best of their ability.
If the personality of the candidate is important, ask the person how they would describe themselves. Ring their references. Do the work to determine who is the right fit for your business. Some of the best hires are the most unexpected. Keeping an open mind and disregarding some of the pseudoscience that has lingered too long in hiring will attract candidates who might be surprising. As we shift towards working increasingly online, it is the inner world of your potential hires that will be more important than the outgoing personality who dominates the open space voids of the 2000s that are fast redundant in our (one day) post-corona world.