5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

Nice Packaging No Content – Fallacy of Psychological Testing

What is more important – performance needed to get a firm to the next level via documented real world capabilities or passing a psychological battery of tests consisting of word and math games? Think back to your school days – how relevant is it to determine when train A leaves the station how long will it take to pass train B. Wouldn’t it be much more applicable to understand and be able to implement a real world cash flow forecasting model? Jesus, when was the last time anyone took a train anyway?

Here is what is mind boggling – firms that have problems that can clearly be addressed with the candidate with the demonstrated requisite skills but instead rely upon psychological tests to make decisions for them. Isn’t that the easy way out? Instead of making the harder judgment call utilizing your management skills you default to what some crank psychologist has come up with for a compatability score! The easy way out of making a decision don’t you think?

It is the nice packaging, no content syndrome and can result in hiring the person at the lowest common denominator. Of course, those who utilize these types of scoring criteria have a vested interest in asserting their credibility. Wouldn’t you if upper management has chugged down the Kool Aid regarding how effective hiring requires such brain dead testing? My brother who is an upper management human resources professional hit the nail on the head – those who rely upon these tests are either too lazy and/or too uneducated to know any better. His take – if you are an HR professional you should do your job, not defer to some psychologist to do it for you. I would agree.

Here is the boilerplate answer you would get from the HR guru at a firm using these tests:

I want to take this opportunity to clarify for you the process of our decision.   Over the years we have developed a selection process that is multifaceted and includes carefully evaluating C-Suite candidates based on a number of criteria including  the Psycho Babble Business Reasoning Inventory and  Assessment Suite.   Candidates are chosen based on their individual and overall performance on each of these selection criteria.   After carefully evaluating all the selection criteria, we have decided to extend the search until we find a candidate whose overall profile is more compatible with the highly strategic direction that we are taking at this time.   So, while your background and accomplishments could take us to the next level we have decided we would rather have someone who could maintain the status quo. What the hell, we have lived for the past 20 years with our problems so why change now! I am sure you understand that raising the bar at this time would discredit our past decisions and might actually require us to improve our hiring process and might result in hiring the right individual. We are accustomed to one of two outcomes from our current process – 1.) We accept less than the most qualified person and they skate on by with a career in our firm – hooray, since this validates our hiring process and no one is the wiser 2.) The candidate we choose fits our 3 three year cycle model. Meaning, it takes us three years before we figure out we screwed up on the hiring process – 1 year honeymoon period and 2 years to come to the realization the person fits in real well but doesn’t do jack.

Anyway, thanks for your interst in our firm and continued success on your career. You would not have wanted to work here anyway – trust me as the HR manager, we are screwed up.

Lesson Learned: Take responsibility for the hiring process and hire the BEST person for the position. While cultural fit is a factor it should not be the determining factor unless perpetuation of bad process or the fostering of groupthink is the objective. No psychological test measures the effectiveness of a person in the real world and their attempts to do so are flawed and not reliable. Tests cannot measure the judgement, reasoning and experience a person brings to bear on a situation. Many times effective problem solving utilizes these skills more than quantitative analytical skills.

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2 thoughts on “Nice Packaging No Content – Fallacy of Psychological Testing

  1. I love this post. I work for the BLM, and as a government agency we are required to give preference to military personnel. That’s fine if they meet the criteria, but in so many cases people that would fit better in that position get passed up because they went to college instead of joining the military.

  2. Yes, too bad companies have lowered the bar so much that more competent people end up underutilized. It is what America has come to. ..and we can’t understand why we cannot compete.

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