Home' HR Monthly : May 2016 Contents May 2016 HRMonthly 19
I’M SURE THAT MANY OF US HAVE PARTICIPATED IN
tests like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in the past
and subsequently labelled ourselves as ISTJ (Introverted Sensing
Thinking Judging) or some other combination of personality types.
MBTI was developed in 1921 by Katherine Cook Briggs and her
daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, who were drawn to the writings of
Carl Jung. However, neither employed research to develop or test
their concepts, relying instead on their observations, anecdotes and
intuition. So, although you may feel attached to your MBTI label,
it may have no valid empirical value.
In Australia, around 40 per cent of recruiters and employers
still ask candidates or employees to participate in psychometric or
personality testing and profiling.
Recruitment firms offer up a suite of aptitude tests including
verbal reasoning, comprehension and grammar, spatial reasoning,
information processing, problem solving and IQ. They are based
on the premise that organisations can gain greater confidence in
knowing that a candidate will be skilled appropriately or a good fit
for the organisation.
There is a sizeable market being generated out of this business:
a conservative estimate in the US puts the value at around $500m
per an num. It’s not unreasonable to ask, therefore, do these tests
work, and are they of any benefit?
Research would suggest not. B eing generous, there is at best a
tenuous link between the tests and the competency being assessed
as it will not determine how the person will operate in their role in
At times, the test scorers are not qualified in the science of
psychology, and rarely are copies of the test results shared with
the candidate, which does not lend reassurance that this is a
transparent system. If the tests are valid there should be nothing to
hide, so why not share those results?
Ninety-five per cent of all psychometric tests are created and
tested on Anglo-Saxon people. I think we all know what that
means in terms of skewing the results. Psychometric tests can kill
your ability to create a diverse workforce and a healthy culture.
If attempts are made to homogenise recruitment to get the right
‘fit’ and create a generic standard – then you will get what you
desire, a generic organisation. That goal may also kill creativity
and innovation, which are highly valued characteristics in an
increasingly competitive business world.
The killer for me is one profile test offered by a company
“designed to identify people who are most and least likely to
engage in unethical and illegal behaviour within organisations”.
The test supposedly identifies integrity, honesty, poor impulse
control, stress tolerance and conscientiousness – and says that it
will safeguard your workplace against fraud and misconduct.
No one profile test can determine on any day whether a person
will engage in or be susceptible to any of those conditions. There is
no absolute proof.
Despite the tenuous links between intent and outcome of these
tests, the lack of proof and flaws in practice, candidates are
screened out of opportunities on the basis of the results.
Of course, many organisations use these as just one part of a
process of selection, but how sure can we be that the test results are
the not the final deciding factor?
In several countries, an increasing nu mber of civil rights groups
and agencies look at instances of discrimination and bias that arise
from applying tests of this type. By applying them to people who
don’t conform, parameters are set that inevitably rule them out. We
are not yet seeing the same trend in Australia, but I think we will.
If tests are to be used as a final decider in any process, we have to
be sure that empirically and scientifically they are sound and valid.
ON THE LINE
The market in psychometric testing is huge. But where’s the proof tests have any value?
BY PROFESSOR PETRINA COVENTRY
“THE TEST SCORERS ARE NOT
QUALIFIED IN PSYCHOLOGY,
AND RARELY ARE TEST RESULTS
SHARED WITH THE CANDIDATE.”
18/04/2016 12:15 pm
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