View from the board: psychometric skew

The CEO liked him, but the HR function insisted that a battery of
psychometric tests was carried out before a final decision was made.

Dates were put in the diary, the tests were undertaken, some of which were
done on a computer and then, as happens in these situations, we had to wait for
a short while to see what the results were. Let me remind you that the
individual concerned had been screened first by the executive search firm, had
come through the shortlist and been interviewed by the head of HR, another
member of the board and the chief executive officer.

You can see what came next. There were certain aspects of the psychometric
tests, in this case it was verbal reasoning rather than numeracy, which began to
perturb the HR function. The CEO, not a particular fan of testing, insisted that
he had the insight to judge whether an individual was the right fit or not. So
what should happen in situations like this?

I think there would be a general consensus that testing should be used to
augment rather than challenge a view. The tests themselves shouldn’t be decisive
other than to confirm the negative. If all the instincts had enabled somebody to
get to the top of an organisation, however large or small, telling him or her
that an individual is a good fit into an organisation, then that judgement will
almost certainly be right. The use of tests, therefore, is best applied where
there are lingering doubts.

This, in a way, is an extension of the role of qualifications themselves and,
in this instance, clearly I am not talking about professional qualifications.
The current search for talent will frequently calibrate that talent by reference
to their academic background. There are, however, a lot of people who are
supremely well educated, first class at passing examinations, but completely
useless at managing people.

Their orientation is always to analysis, often to the point of paralysis.
Managers who like running things are not necessarily those that have sought to
progress by way of passing examinations, but it is the people who are bright,
well educated and can run things that are what is in greatest demand today and
what truly earns the title of ‘talent’.

Andrew Garner is CEO of Garner International

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