Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: The shaky ground of psychometric testing

154 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 7 Newer→ Last

  • Morgan Davie,

    I cringe at psychometric testing with the full power of my psychology Masters degree. (This is one of the few things that qualification entitles me to do.)

    That said, I have come across (second hand) a recruitment consultant who uses psychometrics in a way that I can cautiously endorse - principally by making psychometrics subordinate to other evaluations and processes, rather than using them as an all-powerful oracle or as floating evidence that can rationalise any desired position. So there may be good, smart use of psychometrics out there. But I should note that this specific consultant seems _utterly exceptional_. (And to be honest, it's quite possible they'd still deliver most of the value without using psychometrics at all.)

    Wellington • Since May 2008 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Those questions on the US immigration application? Draft as a coot! I always wonder if anyone ever answers 'yes' to any of them

    Q. "Have you ever been involved in the illegal transportation of children?"
    A. "Yes, but only last Saturday morning when I took them to soccer even though my WOF had expired"

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    I generally despise these things, and consider them in the main to be as relevant and insightful as astrology. But I was recently surprised by some similar tests that seemed genuinely useful for helping people work together. As I understand it (can't find the links right now) the Extravert-Introvert scale is the only one that has any reliability or correlation with other indices, and some recent work my employer did seemed to focus on that (among other dimensions). It was open and collaborative, and it aimed at how to get people with diverse working and communication styles to respect each other's differences and work together more effectively. I learned some things from that.

    However, when used as blunt, opaque tools for recruitment or redundancy, the Myers-Briggs type of testing is inisidious, pseudoscientific and dangerous.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    Those questions on the US immigration application? Draft as a coot! I always wonder if anyone ever answers ‘yes’ to any of them

    My mother-in-law was detained by US immigration last year when she absent-mindedly ticked "Yes" on all of them instead of "No". I would say "hilarity ensued", but hilarity is verboten when dealing with US immigration.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    how great the CEO and each of the members of the leadership team actually were

    See this is the kind of stuff you'd hope boards of directors would be looking for, rather than yet another risk benefit analysis and a new projection of fantasyland growth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to James Butler,

    Not even scoffing. You have one dangerous mother-in-law.

    I recall queuing next to a sign at LAX, where someone had proof-read it (eg It is forbidden to carry knifes on the plane) and awarded it a C+ grade.

    US customs officials must take anti-levity courses.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Danielle,

    This is more evidence for my Grand Unifying Theory of HR, which is that it is the devil’s work and should be flung into a fiery abyss.

    Loathsome box-tickers. The enemies of creativity and our nation: everyone must be pushed into acceptable boxes defined by a corporate flack in Redneck, Texas, or Greyman, UK, or else classified as a trouble-making commie probably too old to be of any use to anyone.

    Identifiable by the use of the phrase “thinking outside the square (box)”.

    Psychometric testing is part of the awful package.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • wasabicube,

    My opinion is psychometric assessment results should not be taken in isolation. Rather, they should be combined with interviews, reinforced with referees’ opinions and taken with any other available evidence of the person’s suitability for a role.

    Assessments exist on a scale of effectiveness ranging from, frankly, pop quizzes with no validity whatsoever, through those that are popular (read: cheap and, apparently, easy to digest) right through to those with solid scientific studies to back their construction and use.

    There are common misconceptions, both on the side of the candidates completing the assessments and those commissioning them, as to what is being sought with a psychometric instrument. Often people will want to know what they can do to “pass” the test. Similarly, some employers will be looking for a “yes/no” answer or a box to put the candidate within. This is naive and dangerous. The better psychometric assessments will present information that reveals the complexity of the human condition and present insights into the way the candidate learns and operates. Essentially, a good psychometric is a means to help determine a candidate’s fit within an organisation or role. Unfortunately, this is not a trivial “yes/no”, INTJ, or other short answer, problem. Experience and skill in interpretation should be brought to bear by suitably qualified people.

    It’s also worth noting that most people’s ability to judge character is much worse than they credit themselves, especially in interview situations. The legality of interview questions and techniques are not considered in determining the future of someone’s employment. Neither is the legality of the opinion-laden annual performance review, which is often touted as another measure of someone’s suitability for a role.

    As an aside, it is interesting to observe the level of duplicity exhibited by some commenters on this subject. Clearly misrepresenting yourself to your prospective or current employer whether through a psychometric assessment, interview or otherwise is something that should be of concern.

    By way of disclosure, I develop software for a New Zealand company developing and promoting the use of psychometric assessments in the New Zealand market. I am not a psychologist but we employ registered psychologists in the development and interpretation of our tools.

    Whangaparaoa • Since Nov 2006 • 15 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    there’s around a 50% chance that you will fall into a different personality category compared to the first time you took the test.

    Since Myer-Briggs forces binary categorization, you can't choose a middle score, and you can easily be flipped from one group to the binary opposite in one of the 4 dimensions. Or even more than one of the dimensions if you were on marginal scores for multiple. If you flipped on all 4 you'd end up with a diametrically opposite personality type, just from changing "slightly agree" to "slightly disagree" on 4 vague statements.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Tom Beard,

    open and collaborative, and it aimed at how to get people with diverse working and communication styles to respect each other’s differences and work together more effectively. I learned some things from that.

    I’ve found the Perceiving/Judging aspect helpful to understand. Because I’m a strongly Judging type (I like to make and follow plans, make decisions quickly and then move on) I’ve always found Perceivers exasperating: to me they can appear indecisive and time-wasting. But they have an open and flexible approach that I can see is also valuable.

    I think there can be a lot of value in understanding different approaches when working together. But for hiring and firing, as you say, this type of testing seems spurious.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    There was an article in The Conversation last year that had a number of relevant links.

    Cult of Personality Testing

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    And in the '80s when my dad worked for Telecom, he was given a psychometric test to do. He thought it was bunk so he got me to do it (I was about 13). The testing people could tell something was up but couldn't pick that the answers were those of a teenage girl.

    that was the plotline of a Simpsons episode after Homer wore a pink shirt to work and had to do a test and got Bart to fill it in. He ended being sent to a mental hospital with Michael Jackson...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I found the Myer Briggs analysis useful when done on myself, by myself. It was also somewhat helpful as a way of looking at potential conflict in a team I was managing, mostly to help appreciate that there really are different styles in the way people deal with things, and many of them have advantages and disadvantages in different contexts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    I’ve found the Perceiving/Judging aspect helpful to understand.

    Yes, very much so. I would rather have Js designing systems and Ps looking after them. Unfortunately, design is paid way more than support, so people tend to rate themselves as Js more. It also sounds more professional, in isolation - the methodical planning etc. But there's nothing professional about someone melting down when their plans come unstuck.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rachael J,

    It never ceases to amaze me how few people who work in HR are actually any good with people.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2007 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Joanna,

    Homer wore a pink shirt to work and had to do a test and got Bart to fill it in.

    I remember that.
    Bart: "Do you hear voices?"
    Homer, getting impatient with the test questions: "Well I'm hearing one now, aren't I?"

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Rachael J,

    It never ceases to amaze me how few people who work in HR are actually any good with people.

    And I am still amazed at how many foreign language teachers are themselves really crap communicators, even those with Masters and higher degrees. I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is. The captains of the Rena and Costa Concordia seem to have been a bit lacking in navigational skills.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Ken Double, in reply to wasabicube,

    Hmmm. I'm disappointed by your lack of a cruel and arbitrary methodology but I'm sure this is just a wrinkle we can iron out later. Tell me more about these pop quizzes with no validity whatsoever.....

    Wellington • Since Dec 2012 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Connelly,

    Excellent article - which leaves me wondering, who in their right mind would have asked David Farrar to be on the appointment panel for a CEO?

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2012 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • bronwyn,

    I experienced my first psychometric test as earlier this year. It was also my first (and hopefully last) time going through the recruitment agent process. By the time I got to the test section, I had spent two hours doing tests for data entry, use of Excel and Word, and a typing accuracy test. The role I was applying for was not an administrative one at all. I also had an “interview” with a recruitment agent who clearly had no knowledge of the area I work in. (Sample question: “So, what does this job title mean?”). This was after giving me incomplete directions to the office, AND giving me a wrong interview time.

    So, by the time I was asked to do the 45min long test, I was both deeply irritated and pretty sure I didn’t want to work for anywhere that used such a mickey mouse process. The test pushed me from irritation to near-rage. Here were some of the questions: “Would you prefer to go to a party or read a book?” “When going to the movies, would you prefer to see a romantic comedy or an action film?” It was preposterous. When the agent came back and said “So, how did you find that?” I replied “Not much room for shades of grey in there, is there?” Her reply? “Yes, that’s the way we like it”.

    tamaki makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 86 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    someone who wanted their new appointee to be treated well on kiwiblag?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to BenWilson,

    there’s nothing professional about someone melting down when their plans come unstuck.

    Melting down in such a case is PERFECTLY NORMAL!!!

    (told you I was a diehard J :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Rachael J,

    It never ceases to amaze me how few people who work in HR are actually any good with people.

    I think it selects for people who are ok with putting their employer's interests ahead of the normal rules of interpersonal interaction. If you respected people's rights and abilities and autonomy it could do your head in. That's not so much a criticism of the people involved (the same qualities can make a person loyal, or a fair decisionmaker), but of the workplace and economic structure that sticks people there. It's like a gentler, more everyday version of the Stanford prison experiment.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to BenWilson,

    It also sounds more professional, in isolation - the methodical planning etc. But there's nothing professional about someone melting down when their plans come unstuck.

    Wait, are you suggesting there are people who think their careful planning will survive contact with the real world unscathed?

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to wasabicube,

    Experience and skill in interpretation should be brought to bear by suitably qualified people

    and there's the weakness

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 7 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.