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An introduction to mining for top performers with psychological assessments

An introduction to mining for top performers with psychological assessments

What do you think is the most dreaded managerial task? Hiring and firing win this unpopularity contest, hands down, and for a good reason. Financially speaking, the costs of a bad hire are surprisingly high, ranging from $3,000 for entry level positions to hundreds of thousands for top-level positions. While there are people who enjoy firing as a little power trip, most managers consider dismissals to be a necessary evil at best. In fact, most managers find the process stressful, emotionally taxing, and downright unpleasant. In addition to the discomfort experienced by the manager and the unfortunate employee who gets their walking papers, the situation impacts the morale of the entire team, disrupts projects, and affects productivity.

What about hiring though? Why would people hate it? It should be an interesting experience right? Well, yes and no. It can be energizing to welcome a new team member, but it also creates a lot of pressure on the hiring manager. After all, he or she has to sift through hundreds of résumés that look similar, meet with complete strangers for a couple of hours at best, and based on such limited information, pick the person with whom the team will work for years to come.

And just to add another wild card to an already wild guess, most candidates are on their best behavior during interviews - very few fully display who they really are. So the potential for making a mistake when selecting candidates is substantial, even for hiring managers with lots of experience. If you are responsible for hiring or employee development (or both), psychological assessments can make the process much easier. In fact, they can become your ally and one of the best sources of information and insight, not only for hiring decisions, but also for training, development, and succession planning. In this Diamond in the Rough series, you will learn about all the potential uses of testing in managing, motivating, mentoring and nurturing talent in your organization.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Recognizing talent during screening process

The process of hiring has become a lot like our morning routine: predictable, boring, and uninspiring. You likely have a specific, step-by-step structure that you follow:

  • Advertise the job position and the necessary requisites
  • Review tons of résumés
  • Pick the strongest candidates based on their self-reported skills
  • Interview them
  • Check their references

It's certainly a good foundation to work from. You need to have a structured approach to interviewing because each candidate needs to be treated in the same way. The problem is that there are several pitfalls to standard screening procedures. Here are some quick facts:

  • 40% of résumés contain lies or inaccuracies
  • 60% of applicants believe that they won't suffer the consequences of lying.
  • 7% of job applicants have a criminal record

Most hiring managers look at résumés with an objective eye and a healthy level of skepticism. Extracting the right information from a résumé and reading between the lines is not an easy feat. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Cookie-cutter résumés: Paying a professional to build an incredible and perfectly structured résumé is quite common nowadays. That's why you get that déjà vu feeling: Chances are you've read or seen the same résumé structure and tone a hundred times before.
  • Omissions: People conveniently omit pertinent information that they are not keen on disclosing, like how long it really took them to get that Bachelor's degree, or trying to explain away gaps in their employment history.
  • Amazing, fantastical, stupendous embellishments:
    • Exaggerating GPA
    • Adding awards won, or big-name projects for which they take substantial credit, while in reality, their role was rather minor
    • Extending employment dates to hide job hopping or being fired
    • Exaggerating skill or language proficiency
    • Adding/Exaggerating duties or responsibilities of previous positions
    • Listing fake companies they worked at
  • Dress rehearsals: This is why you should avoid asking the standard interview questions: Because most people have a practiced response ready to throw back at you with feigned innocence. "My biggest fault? I'm a perfectionist and a workaholic."

You might think at this point that you can easily catch the "spinners" with reference checks, but references aren't as reliable as they might seem either. There are many tricks in the job-seeker's toolbox, including:

  • Choosing only the people who will give them a good reference
  • Creating fake references
  • Creating fake references

In addition, some references will only provide confirmation of employment, either as part of company policy and/or fear of being sued. Now this is not to say that every candidate is a cheater or that everybody who applies for a job has a closet full of dark secrets. Nor do I want to suggest that you approach the recruiting process with à priori distrust. However, you need tools to spot the confabulators - and psychological assessments can deliver on that.

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