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Psychometrics in the Recruitment & Selection Process

psychometrics

In our last post, we began to explore some options in the Recruitment & Selection Process.  One option that I said I would come back to is Psychometrics, so I will look at some of the pros and cons of investing in this technique.  But mostly pros, because 30 years of experience shows me that psychometrics only enhance a selection process.

Why use Psychometrics?

To return to a point made earlier, “Recruitment and Selection” is all about discrimination. There is anti-discrimination legislation in most countries, it is easily circumvented and routinely is.

Discrimination is essential in selection.  The difference, of course, lies in the kind of discrimination you use.  There is positive discrimination, and there is negative discrimination.

Negative discrimination is using selection criteria that have no bearing on the role being selected for.  Some of that is catered for in legislation.  Much of it is personal and cultural bias

Positive discrimination is using the right criteria to discriminate between the right and the wrong person.

Psychometrics and Role Definition

So the starting point is always, to begin with, the right criteria or definition of the role.  If you define the role, it is easier to find someone to fill it.  Many psychometric systems have a tool to help you with this task.  An instrument that allows you to describe the ideal candidate in terms of behavioural traits is ideal.  It helps you overcome most of the difficulties of measuring these nebulous and qualitative traits.

These Role Definition tools allow the recruiter to canvas the views of the often many stakeholders in the role.  In particular the views of those participating in the selection process.  A primary source of error in selection comes from the differing expectations decision makers may hold about what makes the ideal candidate.

By defining the role in advance you will stand a better chance of having everyone sing from the same hymn sheet.

Behavioural traits are the key to successful discrimination since they are the valid and most accurate predictors of success.  Forget about traits like skin, hair or eye colour, gender, accent, education, college or home town, they tell you little of value at this stage. They are more reflective of personal and cultural bias than valid discrimination.

Limitations of the Face-to-Face Interview

In a face to face interview, one rarely has the time or skill to thoroughly probe a candidate’s behavioural traits.  Many useful questioning techniques can make our job a lot easier and more fruitful.  However, it takes a highly skilled and experienced interviewer to do it properly.  Skilled Interviewers are genuinely rare, despite what some people may claim.  But skilled Candidates are ten a penny.  Don’t be taken in without using an objective measure.

On the other hand, a psychometric assessment of a candidate will be validated during an interview by a trained and conscientious line manager looking to find the right person for their team.  A psychometric assessment can guide the interviewer to the core areas for investigation.  The right tool can highlight critical concerns and offer tips and guidance on how to prepare for the interview.

I used the word “conscientious” in describing a lesser skilled interviewer because a less careful interviewer will rely solely on the assessment.  They will only use the interview to gather supporting evidence and not probe for contrary evidence.

The Biggest Risk of using Psychometrics

We know from validity and reliability studies that the major psychometric tools are highly accurate both in reliability and predictability when applied correctly. However, there are always margins of error, and a good interviewer will always make sure that they are not missing a great candidate or hiring a weaker candidate because of these error margins.

A lot of the successes and failures in any selection process at the end of the day will come back to Interviewer Bias and Judgement and that often abused concept of “Gut Feel”. At the conclusion of any selection process, the final decision is always a human decision. I will address this issue in the next blog.

For an example of a highly reliable, valid and easy to use psychometric system, take a look at The McQuaig System in Ireland, we have a track record in Ireland going back just over 30 years.

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The Interview

What is an Interview?

In my experience an interview is a conversation. In many cases it is a conversation with a purpose and in a small proportion of those the purpose actually makes sense.

I have witnessed some interviews where the conversation was nothing more than a casual chat about weather, sport and common interests with a lightweight discussion about a loosely defined job opportunity. You can see conversations like this every night in bars and lounges up and down the country. You should not see them in the meeting rooms of a professional business.

Sometimes the conversation has a more clearly defined purpose to explore or validate the interviewers bias and opinion and to impress the applicant with the sophistication and magnificence of the business and the top team.

Occasionally you will come across a well prepared interview with goals and objectives, where the interviewer clearly understands to key requirements of the job, where the interviewer has highlighted areas from the candidate’s past where an in-depth exploration of experiences and achievement can be conducted to ascertain the degree of fit with the job and their potential colleagues.

The prepared interviewer will have covered the previous four steps in the process and will be fully aware of how important this interview will be to the future success of the successful applicant and to the business.

The typical interview is in or around 50% successful in picking the right candidate. Half of the time, the wrong person will be chosen for the job. This is true for most organisations that do not invest in developing their recruitment and selection processes.

Even more worrying is that when mistakes are made, very few of them are corrected. A company would sooner lower their expectations, accept poor performance as standard or be happy with second best, rather than put the small effort required into raising the bar for their business.

The difference between top performing businesses and those who struggle is just a few percentage points, just as the difference between winning athletes and their followers may be only fractions of a second. It is by consistently being that few percentage points ahead in every sale and action involving a competitor that margins are built into a competitive advantage.

People make a difference; the right people make a big difference. Our business is about helping you to make that difference part of your competitive advantage.

Hire the Best. Manage the Best. Develop the Best. Become the Best.