Will profiling and psychometric testing mean you always appoint the right people?

Appointing people to key positions is a risk. Decisions that turn out to be poor ones can knock back project delivery and waste time and effort in recruitment and training. In the worst cases, they can damage your business.

Little wonder that more companies are dipping further into the box of selection tools as they try to make recruitment as foolproof as possible. That’s why we’ve seen psychometric profiling increasingly used for senior and strategically important appointments. But does it actually help you get it right?

The evidence indicates that its far from foolproof. Point to any high profile failed executive and you’ll probably find that profiling was part of their selection process. It’s also hard to find any independent peer-reviewed studies that link the use of psychometric testing in selection with ultimate job performance. In fairness, this would probably be difficult to do.

Tools or Interpretation?

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything inherently wrong with the concept or the tools. It’s more likely an issue with what firms are using them for and how they use the results within a broader recruitment process.

Successful selection decisions are a combination of judgements about technical competence, experience, values and behaviours. It’s usually the last two of these that don’t get the attention they deserve and which come back to bite you. And this is where profiling can help.

Well designed tests can explore values and behaviours and look for patterns that indicate how an individual may deal with problems, conflicts or leadership challenges. These are the things that its all too easy to discover after the appointment, to your cost.

So, that’s it then? Select a group of candidates with the skills and experience you need and then let psychometrics sort out the best one? You know its not going to be that simple.


What Do You Want to Know?

First, you have to be super-clear how certain behaviours align with your values and which ones are valued most by your customers and co-workers. You then know exactly the traits you are trying to identify.

One bus company, for example, looked at what sort of experiences would encourage more people to use buses. Their research showed that interaction with a friendly and helpful driver was way more important than they’d anticipated. As a result, they changed their recruitment to incorporate profiling and put much more emphasis on interpersonal skills.

What Do You Do With the Results?

Even when the profiling is carefully designed you have to put the results in context. They identify areas to explore in the interview and shouldn’t be treated as a pass/fail binary choice.

One thing for certain: profiling isn’t going away.

The recruitment stakes are too high. In the future, it may be done differently. AI could be used to analyse our digital footprint for clues about who we really are. VR is already being used to test how people react to different realistic situations in a virtual environment. Whatever the methods, well always come back to the same reality.

Recruitment is ultimately a judgement call. We can use tools and processes to guide us and help us get more of those calls right, but we should never hide behind the process. They came out well in all the tests is never a good enough reason to hire someone.