Why those personality and IQ tests matter in hiring the right workers
Malcolm Pick is a certified coach and expert in information technology and competency assessment, among others.
He used to be a partner at SGV in management services (now known as Accenture) for the Philippines and Malaysia, a former consultant of Price Waterhouse Coopers in the United Kingdom and systems manager at Levi Strauss in Belgium. He earned his mathematical physics degree at the University of Birmingham and his master’s degree in operational research and management studies at the Imperial College of the University of London.
He currently heads Profiles Asia Pacific in the Philippines and Guam. The firm, according to its website, provides firms “with current, valid and easy-to-use employment assessment instruments, so that they could make better use of their human capital resources.”
Q: Is the assessment market in big companies already saturated? What about for small and medium enterprises?
A: While most major organizations have made use of assessments for some time, many SMEs have not. In fact, when I asked the question recently to a group of human resources (HR) personnel, around 70% said they were not using online testings and a little under half were not using testings at all.
The HR’s role within the organization has evolved as more values are placed on its most important asset … its employees. Its role has become more strategic.
Thus, SMEs (which are mostly family affairs) are beginning to realize the need for workforce assessment in their recruitment, training/coaching and general organizational development. Not all the children in the family are going to want to and/or be able to successfully take over the businesses. However, for those who can and want to, through the use of state of the art assessment solutions, they will be able to hire globally competitive talent.
Q: What is the status of the assessment industry? How is the market segmented?
A: The HR market in the Philippines is well developed and ahead of most of its neighbors. The same is true for the assessments used in HR by local and multinational companies. Parallel to the development and usage of assessment tools in the West, paper-based assessments (tests) have been in use here since the late 1960s, especially the IQ-type tests.
In 1998, Profiles introduced computer-based testing, initially on PCs, but later delivered online over the internet. This is now the preferred method of test-taking for most providers and most user-organizations. Testing is broken down as follows:
Cognitive testing (almost all companies and organizations do this). It is known to be the fastest, cheapest and most relevant method of selection particularly for rank and file positions and especially when combined with other selection methods;
Personality testing. There is no right or wrong personality, but knowing who is joining your team can be a great help during the onboarding (getting new hires) process and in developing team cooperation;
Traits-based profiling (for matching candidates to specific jobs), which is our forte;
Skills testing (also for job matching); and Integrity testing.
There are still a number of small local testing entities, but the vast majority of testing is done by a small number of online providers such as Profiles. We provide literally tens of thousands of tests each year.
Q: What are the challenges you encounter when you try to penetrate a big company? What about a small company?
A: For larger companies, the sales process tends to be much longer. Unless there is a specific and urgent project, budgeting is typically done annually and so it may be 8 to 12 months before a contract is signed. For smaller companies, if one is able to speak directly to the owner, then the process can be much faster, but again, they may need more “education” on the benefits of using assessments … Here, a “free trial” sometimes helps.
Q: I understand your company has a 95% client retention rate. How do you do that? How is Profiles different?
A: Profiles Asia Pacific prides itself for its excellent customer service. Our client support team is composed of licensed psychometricians with strong customer service orientation. We have a team of credible personnel that can discuss our products thoroughly, thus empowering our customers so they can maximize our assessment service.
We stay available and connected. Profiles keeps in touch with clients through regular calls and strives to be their number one confidant for any HR-related issues. Client concerns are addressed with utmost priority no matter how small the issue may be.
It is also worthy to note that customer service is not the sole responsibility of the client support department, but the entire organization specifically IT, finance and accounting and sales.
Q: Let me ask you a hypothetical question: Say, a family asked you to do an assessment of family members as part of succession planning. What would be your approach if a candidate does not agree with your assessment?
A: This is not a hypothetical question. It happens in practice fairly regularly. It is quite likely that assessments produce somewhat unexpected results. Most assessments, especially for personality and behavioral tendencies, try to draw out innate traits that may not be recognized by the candidate. Thus, the possibility of a “different” perception exists.
This is the reason why assessments add value to the organization (and to the individual). When one is describing himself of herself to another person, that is self-perception.
But when an assessment is utilized, especially with questions that are situational in nature, it shows what one tends to instinctively think and how one instinctively acts (thus reflecting how others will see and perceive us).
As long as the assessment has been accomplished by a candidate “truthfully and honestly,” results will provide reliable information that the organization can utilize for personnel selection and planning. The candidate can also utilize this for self-awareness and self-development. There is benefit to both parties.
Q: Instead of relying on interviews for hiring decisions, what will companies get from using other assessment tools?
A: The evidence is very strong that a reliable and valid assessment can significantly improve the HR processes of hiring, promoting, career and succession planning. Let me quote from a US Office of Personnel Management document.
“Almost all selection processes include an interview, right? Well, a traditional unstructured interview ranges from only 15 to 35 percent chance of making a good selection (i.e. hiring a top performer). A structured (behavioral) interview increases that to about 50% but still its only 50/50. However, considerable additional improvement can be made utilizing other assessment techniques.”
“For example, an ability assessment (IQ test) plus a structured interview increases the success rate to around 63%, whilst an ability test plus a personality test does just as well. Our main profiling tool, the Profile XT, has three main components, an ability component, as well as components for behaviors (personality) and occupational interests (i.e. what the candidate “likes” to do and therefore what is likely to motivate them). When the information from these three components is combined with a behavioral interview, then the decisions made are right almost all of the time.”
Note to readers
In response to my article last week entitled “Change has come in drugstore sector,” Mercury Drug director for regulatory compliance Edsel Manuel wants to clarify:
“The full 12 percent plus the drugstores’ share in the 20 percent discount for every senior citizen transaction are all cut from drugstores profit.”
(Josiah Go is chair of marketing training and advocacy firm Mansmith and Fielders Inc. For full transcript as well as his interviews with other thought leaders, follow him at www.josiahgo.com.)
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