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Assessment Tests Often Exclude the BEST Candidates for the Worst Reasons

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In a recent post I made the case that PI, CI, DISC and similar style-based assessment tests are ill-advised for screening purposes. Despite their problems, they have value when used to assess the finalist candidates. First, here are the problems when using these tests for screening purposes:

  1. They measure preferences, not competencies. While these assessment tests do a reasonably good job at predicting likes and dislikes, they’re useless for predicting on-the-job performance. The problem: Preferences have nothing to do with ability! For example, for me, I’d rather go to party, but I’m a much better data analyst.
  2. Team skills (EQ) and flexibility are ignored. Those with the strongest team and leadership skills are able to modify their dominant style depending on the situation. The problem: These “either/or” tests exclude those who possess the #1 interpersonal trait of success from consideration.
  3. They’re anti-diversity. Diversity is more than race, religion, gender, age and ethnicity. How a person views the same situation from a different perspective is another component of diversity. The problem: These tests force the cloning of the personality traits of everyone already hired.
  4. The most talented people are excluded. Even if the most talented people fit the criteria, few would agree to take the assessment before discussing the job. The problem: Unless there’s a surplus of great talent willing to apply, the use of these tests too soon prevents the best people from being considered.

What I’ve discovered is the only common thread among the most consistently successful people is a track record of past performance doing comparable work, with comparable teams and in similar environments. In most cases their success is attributed to their ability to adjust their dominant personality style to handle a range of business situations and the different people involved. This is the very definition of team skills and EQ.

This is why I recommend that any assessment tests that screen out the best people and most diverse people should obviously be discarded for screening purposes.

Personality Style Assessment Tests Have Great Value When Used Properly

Despite the nay-saying, I do recommend the use of these types of assessments for the 2-3 finalists. Finalists are the people who have already been determined to be competent and motivated to meet the actual performance requirements of the job. When used properly these types of assessments can help to determine how the candidates’ styles mesh with the hiring manager’s, if they’re flexible enough to collaborate effectively with their co-workers and if they can manage, lead and develop others. Let me introduce you to my zero cost BEST Type Indicator shown in the graphic to demonstrate both the flaws and the opportunities represented by these types of styles-based tests.

First, put yourself on the right side of the 2X2 matrix if you prefer to make quick decisions and on the left if you’re more cautious. Assign yourself to the top half if you tend to focus more on results than people and on the bottom half if the reverse is true. Based on this analysis you’re either a Boss,Engager, Supporter or Technical.

How well do the descriptions reflect your actual dominant style? Whether they’re close or not, you can see why these types of assessments shouldn’t be used for screening purposes.  Despite the simplicity though, here’s how the BEST Type Indicator can be used for assessing team skills, flexibility and cultural fit.

During the interview dig into the candidate’s major accomplishments most related to real job needs. After a few accomplishments, patterns soon emerge revealing whether the candidate adopts his/her style to meet the needs of the situation or uses a “one size fits all situations” approach. Be very concerned with people who are this one-sided.

After working with hundreds of different managers over extended periods of time I’ve seen that the strongest people, regardless of their preferred style, adjust their dominant style and move towards the center or coaching position as they mature. On the other hand, the least flexible people move away from the center exacerbating their core style, especially under pressure. In these cases, the Boss becomes belligerent, the Engager becomes pushy, the Supporter becomes bureaucratic and the Technical becomes controlling.

There’s obviously more to fully understanding how personality style impacts performance and team skills, but it’s clear that those who are inflexible tend to be more difficult to work with especially under pressure and in rapidly changing circumstances. While I believe these types of assessments have value when used this way, it’s important to recognize that they are useless when it comes to screening candidates or for hiring only those who fit the “right” style cookie cutter. In these cases, a company is building a workforce of clones who think alike. And in my mind, that’s not thinking at all.