Testing the Talent

March 16, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, OpenView’s Recruitment Analyst, Diana Winings, wrote a blog post about the effectiveness of using personality tests when interviewing candidates for open positions at your company. Not surprisingly, Diana’s post got a lot of traffic from Google searches. Why? I would imagine that a lot of hiring managers out there are exploring their options and seeing what others have to say about using this screening mechanism. Based on some recent market observations, it seems like the hiring trend is picking up (yes, finally it appears as though the economy is improving – sigh of relief), however companies are more cautious than ever before. If businesses are going to allot money towards adding staff, the new hires coming on board better be the “best of the best” to justify the expense.

Before becoming a Sales and Marketing Analyst at OpenView, a Boston Venture Capital firm, I was a recruiter with an international recruitment agency, Michael Page International. One company that I provided recruiting support for, Kohler, swore by the personality tests as part of their six-step interview process (Yes, this was a contingency recruiters nightmare!). Despite this elaborate testing procedure being quite time-consuming and costly for my client, the executives within the company swore by the practice. A candidate’s leadership qualities, work ethic, and thought process were just as important, if not more important than their previous job experience. Check out what some candidates who interviewed with the company had to say about the exhausting process.

The questions have to be asked: How accurate are these tests? Could a candidate answer the questions in a way that they know would impress the employers? As Diana made reference to in her post, manipulative (sales – no offense) candidates are more likely to skew the results.

I was surfing the web this afternoon, and I came across some free (and rather amusing/borderline ridiculous) personality tests. What are your thoughts? To hiring managers at expansion stage companies, would you ever use these tests to screen out the good from the bad from the ugly?

  • Alienation Test By C. George Boeree. 30-item test measures a person’s sense of meaninglessness and estrangement from work and society.
  • Anxiety: The Computer Anxiety Scale: Cohen & Waugh This is a good example of a test which is very “transparent”…the items are so very straightforward that one could probably ask a person “Do computers make you anxious?” and get an equally valid result.
  • Defensive Pessimism Questionnaire: Julie Norem
  • IQ Test Lab This 15 minute multiple-choice test can only be taken once from a particular computer, requires personal information, and uses a password to give your results.
  • Shyness: Henderson/Zimbardo Shyness Questionnaire Find your “ShyQ” or how shy you are. Results are provided immediately and compared with aggregated data from web participants.

Are personality tests effective? Perhaps – but only to a certain extent. A thorough background check including references with previous managers and peers, seems like it would more telling. On a final note, if you find yourself in a hiring position, don’t forget to throw your candidates’ names into Google and Facebook. You’ll be surprised to see how much you can learn about a person’s “personality.” Pictures tell 1000 words alright!