DO PSY­CHO­ME­T­RIC TESTS WEIGH DOWN A CAN­DI­DATE’S TECH­NI­CAL KNOWL­EDGE?

Ques­tions like the fol­low­ing one are a reg­u­lar sight when a can­di­date sits for a com­pany’s in­ter­view:

Stitch World - - NEWS -

I ap­proach life in an easy-go­ing man­ner.

1) Strongly dis­agree 2) Dis­agree 3) Neu­tral 4) Agree 5) Strongly agree

Few years ago, tech­ni­cal knowl­edge was enough for a per­son to land a job, but this is not the case any­more. Com­pa­nies are now com­pletely as­sess­ing the skills, knowl­edge and per­son­al­ity traits of the can­di­dates along with the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge. Used widely as a screen­ing method, psy­cho­me­t­ric tests are now in­te­grated by a num­ber of com­pa­nies to an­a­lyse a can­di­date in or­der to avoid fu­ture prob­lems. Mean­ing ‘mea­sur­ing the mind’, the psy­cho­me­t­ric tests are a se­ries of ques­tions specif­i­cally de­signed to mea­sure a can­di­date’s suit­abil­ity for a role and for a com­pany’s cul­ture.

Said to be un­bi­ased, these tests re­flect an in­di­vid­ual’s men­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and be­havioural style and al­low HR Man­agers to make the right de­ci­sion. The suc­cess rate of these psy­cho­met­rics can be judged by the fact that com­pa­nies like Ford Mo­tor, KPMG, Hewlett Packard, Proc­ter & Gam­ble, JP Mor­gan, Mi­crosoft, McDon­ald’s, Bar­clays, Ernst and Young, Deloitte and many more use these tests to se­lect a can­di­date for a par­tic­u­lar role.

There are dif­fer­ent types of psy­cho­me­t­ric tests avail­able that are be­ing used by com­pa­nies. Some of the pop­u­lar tests are:

Per­son­al­ity Tests

These tests iden­tify whether the can­di­dates pos­sess the rel­e­vant traits re­quired for a job such as lead­er­ship, work­ing in teams, self-mo­ti­va­tion, cop­ing with stress, so­cia­ble na­ture, so­cial as­tute­ness, de­ter­mi­na­tion, and goal-ori­en­ta­tion. The ques­tion­naire for­mat in­cludes state­ments with an op­tion to agree or dis­agree, as well as state­ments with an op­tion to choose what most or least de­scribe the sub­ject.

Com­pa­nies nowa­days use these per­son­al­ity tests as a first step of the re­cruit­ment process.

The fol­low­ing ex­am­ple shows how a can­di­date’s re­sponse is eval­u­ated:

I en­joy meet­ing new peo­ple. 1) Strongly dis­agree 2) Dis­agree 3) Neu­tral 4) Agree 5) Strongly agree

If the per­son is ap­ply­ing for a sales job and has en­cir­cled Op­tion 1, he might not be a suit­able can­di­date while the can­di­date en­cir­cling op­tion 4 or 5 will be con­sid­ered per­fect.

Ver­bal Rea­son­ing

The ver­bal rea­son­ing tests are used to iden­tify a per­son’s flu­ency in a par­tic­u­lar (mostly it is English) lan­guage, his com­pre­hen­sion skills, log­i­cal abil­ity and vo­cab­u­lary.

There are dif­fer­ent lev­els of ver­bal rea­son­ing tests. The eas­ier level con­cen­trates on vo­cab­u­lary and sen­tence com­ple­tion. The com­plex lev­els are meant for grad­u­ates and man­agers and con­sist of a short text pas­sage fol­lowed by state­ments on which the can­di­date needs to an­swer as true, false or can­not say.

The high-level tests gauge a per­son’s abil­ity to think con­struc­tively, draw log­i­cal con­clu­sions, un­der­stand the given in­for­ma­tion and con­vey in­for­ma­tion to oth­ers in a clear and sim­ple man­ner.

An ex­am­ple of a ver­bal rea­son­ing test is as fol­lows:

Many or­gan­i­sa­tions find it ben­e­fi­cial to em­ploy stu­dents over the sum­mer. Per­ma­nent staff of­ten wish to take their own hol­i­days over this pe­riod. Fur­ther­more, it is not un­com­mon for com­pa­nies to ex­pe­ri­ence peak work­load in the sum­mer and so have re­quire­ment for ex­tra staff. Sum­mer em­ploy­ment also at­tracts stu­dents who may re­turn as well-qual­i­fied re­cruits to an or­gan­i­sa­tion when they have com­pleted their ed­u­ca­tion. En­sur­ing that the stu­dents learn as much as

pos­si­ble about the or­gan­i­sa­tion en­cour­ages in­ter­est in work­ing on a per­ma­nent ba­sis. Or­gan­i­sa­tions pay stu­dents on a fixed rate with­out the usual en­ti­tle­ment to paid hol­i­days or bonus schemes.”

State­ment: It is pos­si­ble that per­ma­nent staff who are on hol­i­days can have their work car­ried out by stu­dents.

True False Can­not Say

Such a state­ment sim­ply leads a re­cruiter to as­sess whether a stu­dent will be able to un­der­stand any busi­ness in­for­ma­tion and con­vey it to oth­ers in a right man­ner.

Nu­mer­i­cal rea­son­ing

The nu­mer­i­cal rea­son­ing tests help to de­cide a per­son’s abil­ity to cal­cu­late and an­a­lyse nu­mer­i­cal data, graph­i­cal data and log­i­cally draw con­clu­sions from nu­mer­i­cal data given. Busi­nesses use fig­ures and sta­tis­tics to de­pict their fi­nan­cials, turnover, progress, busi­ness goals per­for­mance and anal­y­sis. There­fore, it be­comes ex­tremely im­por­tant to se­lect a can­di­date who can iden­tify crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion in data fig­ures or graphs.

The ques­tions in these tests com­prise of dif­fer­ent ta­bles, graphs or sta­tis­tics de­scrib­ing a par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion, which are then fol­lowed by a num­ber of ques­tions. These mul­ti­ple­choice tests are time-bound in or­der to judge how quickly and ac­cu­rately a per­son can solve a prob­lem and draw rea­sons.

Ex­am­ple of a nu­mer­i­cal rea­son­ing ques­tion: Four peo­ple, all work­ing at the same rate, can mow a lawn in 2.4 hours. How many more peo­ple, work­ing at the same rate as the first four, must be added in or­der to mow three lawns in 3.6 hours?

A) 4 B) 5 C) 6 D) 7 E) 8

Ab­stract rea­son­ing

The ab­stract rea­son­ing tests are de­signed to mea­sure the conceptual rea­son­ing skills of the can­di­date, also known as lateral think­ing or fluid in­tel­li­gence. These tests help to know how quickly a per­son can learn new in­for­ma­tion, iden­tify pat­terns and in­te­grate com­plex in­for­ma­tion to ad­dress a sit­u­a­tion.

The time-bound ques­tions are based on a se­ries of shapes or num­bers that fol­low a log­i­cal rule or a pat­tern. The re­spon­dent has to iden­tify the next nu­meric or the shape or the miss­ing one in a given time from (see Fig­ure 1) the op­tions given.

Other spe­cific tests such as Stan­ford-Binet 5, Big Five Pro­file, My­ers-Briggs Type In­di­ca­tor, Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence Test, 16-PF (16 Per­son­al­ity Fac­tor Model), Sit­u­a­tional Judge­ment Test (SJT) are de­signed to mea­sure a sin­gle trait of the can­di­date.

Stan­ford-Binet 5: Com­monly known as IQ test, it mea­sures five fac­tors of cog­ni­tive abil­ity, namely, fluid rea­son­ing, knowl­edge, quan­ti­ta­tive rea­son­ing, vis­ual-spa­tial pro­cess­ing and work­ing mem­ory. Ques­tions com­prise of log­i­cal and ver­bal abil­ity. Each of the five fac­tors is given a weight and the av­er­age IQ score is 100.

Big Five Pro­file: These tests mea­sure five per­son­al­ity traits: open­ness, con­sci­en­tious­ness, ex­tro­ver­sion, agree­able­ness, and neu­roti­cism. A se­ries of state­ments are given which have to be rated by the can­di­date from 1-4 based upon his agree­ment/ dis­agree­ment with the state­ment.

My­ers-Briggs Type In­di­ca­tor: It is one of the most widely used and ac­cu­rate test to know about a per­son’s per­son­al­ity traits. It mea­sures four traits: Ex­traver­sion/In­tro­ver­sion, Sens­ing/In­tu­ition, Think­ing/ Feel­ing, and Judg­ing/ Per­ceiv­ing. The test in­cludes state­ments on which a per­son has to agree or dis­agree.

Emo­tional In­tel­li­gence Test: Un­der­stand­ing emo­tions and de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing healthy re­la­tion­ships at work is an un­said re­quire­ment. An EQ test al­lows to judge a can­di­date in ar­eas such as in­trap­er­sonal in­tel­li­gence, flex­i­bil­ity, re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment and self-as­ser­tion.

16-PF (16 Per­son­al­ity Fac­tor Model): The test comes with 185 ques­tions hav­ing agree/dis­agree op­tions or rat­ing op­tions. It brings out the fol­low­ing 16 traits of a per­son in or­der of dom­i­nance: warmth, rea­son­ing, emo­tional sta­bil­ity, dom­i­nance, live­li­ness, rule-con­scious­ness, so­cial bold­ness, sen­si­tiv­ity, vig­i­lance, ab­stract­ed­ness, pri­vate­ness, ap­pre­hen­sive­ness, open­ness to change, self-re­liance, per­fec­tion­ism, and ten­sion.

Sit­u­a­tional Judge­ment Test (SJT): To what ex­tent a can­di­date is able to solve a work-re­lated sit­u­a­tion de­pends on his/her abil­ity to solve prob­lems and take de­ci­sions. SJT con­sists of a se­ries of sit­u­a­tions where he/she is asked to choose the most ef­fec­tive and levt ef­fec­tive op­tions.

In­dian com­pa­nies are equally keen like their West­ern coun­ter­parts for us­ing psy­cho­me­t­ric tests for re­cruit­ments and other ar­eas. A sur­vey by Wil­lis Tow­ers Wat­son study in 2016 showed that 56 per cent of the com­pa­nies use psy­cho­me­t­ric tests. And only a small per­cent­age (9 per cent) are not will­ing to

Un­der­stand­ing emo­tions and de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing healthy re­la­tion­ships at work is an un­said re­quire­ment. An EQ test al­lows to judge a can­di­date in ar­eas such as in­trap­er­sonal in­tel­li­gence, flex­i­bil­ity, re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment and self-as­ser­tion.

use these tools. Mostly, IT com­pa­nies and man­age­ment con­sult­ing com­pa­nies use these as­sess­ments. Gar­ment in­dus­try, too, is in­volved in us­ing these tools to se­lect the best can­di­date for their com­pany. Epic Gar­ments, Must Gar­ments, Wazir Ad­vi­sors, Triburg, B.L. In­ter­na­tional, Land­mark Group, Tri­dent etc. are some of the com­pa­nies that use these tests dur­ing place­ments.

There is al­ways a de­bate about the job roles for which psy­cho­me­t­ric tests should be con­ducted. Deepa Sachdev, Prin­ci­pal, Hu­man Cap­i­tal be­lieves that psy­cho­me­t­ric tests should be done for all em­ploy­ees, and the size of the com­pany or the level of the po­si­tion does not mat­ter. “How­ever, there are some re­stric­tions due to which the same test struc­ture can­not be fol­lowed for all em­ploy­ees. Dif­fer­ent tests will check for dif­fer­ent things, thus there is al­ways a need to cus­tomise tests ac­cord­ing to em­ployee groups.”

Wil­son Y.R, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor - Global HR, Epic Group sim­pli­fies the weigh­tage of us­ing psy­cho­me­t­ric tests based on his ca­reer level. He says, “When the per­son is just out of col­lege /trainee, the weigh­tage given to tech­ni­cal tests should be 70 ( Tech­ni­cal):30 (Psy­cho­me­t­ric). When a per­son reaches lead­er­ship po­si­tion, it is pre­sumed that he/she is tech­ni­cally com­pe­tent. And that’s where be­havioural com­pe­ten­cies be­come more crit­i­cal to job per­for­mance.”

On the other hand, Satish Naik, Ap­parel In­dus­try Con­sul­tant feels that these tests should be used for higher lev­els of man­age­ment at lead­er­ship lev­els. “Do­main skills and ex­pe­ri­ence can­not be re­placed by the test, es­pe­cially in our gar­ment in­dus­try. It should be used as a guide­line only.”

The in­dus­try stake­hold­ers hold a mixed re­ac­tion on giv­ing these psy­cho­me­t­ric tests a pref­er­ence over tech­ni­cal knowl­edge. Many times, it hap­pens that the can­di­date is low on psy­cho­me­t­ric but good at the sub­ject. Be­ing asked about his pref­er­ence, Satish opined, “I would rather se­lect such a can­di­date who is sound in his/her sub­ject as, in my field of qual­ity, sub­ject knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence are more im­por­tant.”

It is al­ways ad­vised to not treat the over­all score as the bench­mark. He/she should al­ways be judged on the scores of per­son­al­ity traits that com­ple­ment the job role. “Can­di­date’s sub­ject mat­ter un­der­stand­ing should be sup­ported by some ad­di­tional, pos­i­tive per­son­al­ity traits, like sta­bil­ity or abil­ity to work hard or team play to suc­ceed in the job,” af­firms Deepa.

It should al­ways be con­sid­ered as one of the in­put to de­cide upon a can­di­date. “If hir­ing is for mid-man­age­ment level, as­sess­ment should be a com­bi­na­tion of the in­ter­view as­sess­ment with a panel, ref­er­ence checks, work per­for­mance of the can­di­date (in his pre­vi­ous roles), po­ten­tial of the per­son to take on the new as­sign­ment, role match and fit, the re­sults of the psy­cho­me­t­ric test et al.,” be­lieves Wil­son.

Echo­ing the same, J D Giri, Vice Pres­i­dent, Shahi Ex­ports says, “For mid­man­age­ment and above, be­havioural traits play a ma­jor role as such po­si­tions deal with peo­ple man­age­ment, cus­tomer man­age­ment, con­flict res­o­lu­tion, strate­gic thought process, etc. The value of tech­ni­cal knowl­edge can be broadly as­sessed by var­i­ous or­gan­i­sa­tions that the per­son has been as­so­ci­ated with, key con­tri­bu­tions and po­si­tions held in the past.”

It is im­por­tant to note that ir­re­spec­tive of the es­tab­lished re­li­a­bil­ity and va­lid­ity, the be­havioural pro­file pre­sented through these tests is only a prob­a­bil­ity, and one need not as­sign any cer­tainty to that. It should be used as a prepara­tory tool prior to the in­ter­view, for iden­ti­fy­ing as­pects that need to be probed for clar­i­fi­ca­tions.

“From my ex­pe­ri­ence, these in­stru­ments pro­vide ad­di­tional data for con­sid­er­a­tion of de­ci­sions rather than aid­ing in ‘ob­jec­tive’ de­ci­sions,” ex­plains Ganesh Chi­dambarakr­ish­nan, As­so­ciate Con­sul­tant, Flame TAO Knoware.

Sup­port­ing Ganesh’s opin­ion, Wil­son presents a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion where these test re­sults can be su­per­fi­cial. One, the per­son might not be good at tak­ing up tests. And se­condly, the per­son might have taken up so many tests that he can out beat the test through con­trived re­sponses.

Ac­cord­ing to Ganesh, un­less the re­sults are re­ally alarm­ing, psy­cho­me­t­ric tests should be used as se­lec­tion tests (with fair­ness) and not as a means of elim­i­na­tion. “Peo­ple grow and learn through ex­pe­ri­ence; we can­not dis­miss a per­son be­cause of his past fail­ures. In that case, we would have no en­trepreneurs/start-ups,” stated Wil­son.

There is no ‘knock-out’ mode in life. We fall and we rise and the cy­cle goes on. That’s the process of learn­ing and liv­ing. – Wil­son Y.R, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor – Global HR, Epic Group

Fig­ure 1 : Ex­am­ple of ab­stract rea­son­ing ques­tion

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