21 Jul 2015

Psychometric Tests...



Probably 80% of the roles that PMP work on tend to be within Marketing, Digital or Advertising agencies.  Sometimes, we see some wonderful and wacky recruitment processes with briefs designed to test a candidate's creativity or understanding of brands & the customer journey.  What we don't see very often is the use of psychometric testing*. Typically this is a tool utilised only in-house or clientside.

Recently we've had a bit of a flurry of clientside roles and I've been surprised just how many companies do utilise psychometric tests as part of their recruitment decision making and how even after a strong interview, the results of such a test can completely alter the recruiter's opinion of the candidate.

These 'questionnaires' are supposed to discover what kind of person you are in ways that you wouldn't necessarily admit to in an interview, with questions designed to expose how you behave and what motivates you. A good test will be set up to pick up on any inconsistencies and make it difficult for you to put on an act – there is a built-in "lie scale".  Some companies may additionally utilise an aptitude test which is supposed to show how good you are at tasks required in the job and may measure how quickly you get to the right answer. The employer may have a minimum score you have to achieve, or be looking for the candidate with the best score.  

In my view Psychometric and Aptitude tests are only any good if the recruiter knows what they are trying to measure and why. Where they often fail is when people try to use them to assess things that you can't measure, such as creativity or leadership.  The recruiter needs to decide what kind of traits they think make a good leader and look for those.  I'll try to be diplomatic here because there are some companies who think they ought to be using these tests and so they brief HR to use them, without really giving them a proper understanding of the profiles of the person that they want in the role.  Having said that, I do work with several global businesses who do it properly so I'm not (honestly!) having a pop at HR people.

You can't actually 'ace' a psychometric test – the recruiter is using it to see what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how they match up with the job requirements.  Typically recruiters are looking for whether you are a leader or a team player, whether you work well under pressure, whether you are passive in terms of management or potentially a bit of a livewire - none of these are necessarily negatives - it depends on the role in question.

However, while the other elements of the recruitment process should be taken into account, I've observed that clients do take a lot of notice of these tests (those who don't rate the results, don't use them).   A recent candidate was at third stage for a senior marketing role when the tests revealed them not to be able to manage conflict and they were rejected outright.  It turned out the company was in a state of flux with several senior stakeholders proving difficult to manage and the company wanted someone 'robust' enough to deal with it.  On hearing this, the candidate decided they didn't want the role anyway!

In summary, I generally believe you can tell a lot about a person from their CV without the need for the cost and time required to do extensive psychometric testing.  I look for length of time in roles, progression since graduation - speedy or slow, have they spent time crafting their CV or is it a bit sloppy.  Interviewing adds a huge amount of value - I've become pretty good at reading people and getting an understanding of whether they are a doer, a thinker, a leader, a bullsh***** etc. I've also got clients who will analyse school results and will make quite powerful judgements based on A level grades and achievements at university - this includes choice of subject and university.  Giving candidates a brief for a second stage interview tests them properly - how much effort have they put in? How well do they present? How nervous are they? (thinking, how credible will they be in front of my clients)  I then apply all my marketing and recruitment years of experience to understand where those skills could be utilised. There is somewhere for everyone!

* there are exceptions...One of my agency clients does use aptitude tests and often this will involve a test in Excel - nothing particularly complicated, just adding up budgets etc.  Last year a candidate was rejected as they asked for a calculator to check their figures.  This was an Account Director role...