Not all effective accountants, operations managers, financial analysts, etc. are wired the same.
“It says I should be a forest ranger.” My introverted friend and I just received the reports from our guidance counselor’s career assessment test, and he was disappointed. His dream was to drive in the Indianapolis 500, and the race car driver was nowhere to be found on his report.
Despite his disappointment, I believe that career placement assessments like the Strong that I took in the 80s open up possibilities that students may not have considered. Even in early careers where we may not truly understand job roles, a psychometric that sheds some light on role fit may be helpful.
But that is where much of the usefulness ends.
Why Role-Fit Psychometrics are Harmful For Hiring
The World of Work has Changed
Strong and Holland developed the original version of the role-fit psychometric that I took in the 80s in 1927. Then, jobs were relatively stable, and attributes like learning agility were only required for a few at the top. Since 1990, jobs requiring workers to do the same thing almost every day have declined by two-thirds. With the shift from repetitive work tasks to project-based work, a role fit assessment for Monday’s work role may not work with Tuesday’s.
Diversity Breeds Creativity and Innovation
Scott Page explains the Diversity Trumps Ability Theorem in his book “The Difference,” which shows that a diverse group of problem solvers consistently outperforms a group of similar experts when the task is complex or requires innovation. He summarizes a study where teams of college students are given an engineering challenge. The teams with one engineer and nine studying various other subjects beat teams of 10 engineers nine out of ten times. There is little doubt that diversity beats sameness in most of today’s companies.
Despite the mounting evidence on the importance of diversity of thought, many psychometrics are used to hire against a role profile. The result is a team of clones who think and act the same. This approach was effective during the Industrial Age when efficiency was primary, but detrimental in the current age where innovation and agility are crucial.
A Lot of Great Candidates are Ruled Out
“If I had taken an assessment, they never would have hired me,” joked a software engineer over happy-hour drinks following a high potential leadership training session. He was very different than many of the others on his team. He wrote poetry, sang in a band, and enjoyed pushing his workmates to see problems from another perspective. Despite being one of the most valued employees of this tech firm, a Role-Fit Psychometric would have ruled him out.
What to Do Instead
- Identify Character Concerns
Use assessments like the ones we built for our Psybil to uncover character issues like poor self-awareness, propensity to bully others, low-stress tolerance, sensitivity, emotional maturity, and other toxic characteristics.
- Hire for Diversity
Look for characteristics that suggest a candidate will see the world differently from others on the team. Two approaches work well:
- Use a scale that measures Unconventional Personality Types. These are common in assessments based on HEXACO personality theories.
- Use a scale that measures thinking styles. Psybil measures six thinking styles, including primary and secondary approaches.
- Use assessments in conjunction with an expert consultant
People are complex, and investing in an expert to guide your understanding is worth the investment. For example, they can see how the interaction of characteristics may impact their ability to succeed.
- Assess characteristics that are universally associated with success
Candidates’ models for how the world works, critical thinking and abstract reasoning abilities; emotional and social intelligence; and maturity are some of the characteristics that predict success in every role.
Many well-known assessment firms were created between the late 70s and early 90s. Role fit was all they knew, and it worked reasonably well. The workplace has changed since then, but these assessment firms have not. To continue the discussion of a better way to assess candidates, reach out to us at [email protected]