To Profile or Not to Profile – That is The Question

Should you employ some form of psychometric profiling in your recruitment process?

24 Jun 2021
Barbara Best
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≈3 minutes
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Should you employ some form of psychometric profiling in your recruitment process? I think it’s useful. The first point to be clear about is that the profiles are structured personality questionnaires which map behaviours. They aren’t skills or aptitude tests. They give an indication of characteristics such as attitude to work, ability to get on and empathise with others, levels of self–motivation and ambition, determination and so on.

So you won’t know if someone is good at something – rather how they will tend to behave in a work situation. In that sense there are no right or wrong answers. However, there will be a right or wrong profile for your firm. It is hard to know what this might look like unless you first of all map the behaviour of high performers in your firm. So whether you use a highly trained profiling expert or a quick and dirty online test (and there are lots of these), be sure to make your high performers at the right level in the organisation do it first. And study their results.

Getting the level right is important – no point in using your highly entrepreneurial chief executive as the calibration point if the hire is going to be an analyst.

So if you have to get everyone to do it for appearances sake make sure you separate the less successful performers from the stars – and you should get some useful feeling for why they aren’t performing so well.

In order to get the best out of the profiles you should be looking for patterns that match the characteristics of the job. For example in recruiting for a private equity role, you will tend to find highly data rational people (remember, it’s behaviours not skills that you are profiling so it doesn’t mean they’re any good at numbers – just that they like playing with them). If you then match this with a behaviour that shows they are a very cautious decision maker, then you may not have an ideal pairing of behaviours for private equity as you need them at some stage to exercise some judgement.

The profiles can also be extremely useful for the line manager to identify behaviours that may need developing. For example, if someone is reticent about putting their ideas forward in a group, as a manager, you might ask for their opinion rather than assume they don’t have one. And from a developmental point of view encourage them to put their ideas forward without prompting.

The great thing about these characteristics is that they are behaviours, and therefore more appropriate or effective behaviours can be learned. In our feedback discussions with people that we have profiled, we would ask them to think of the scenarios where they have been less effective.

Usually there is a common behaviour which has not worked in those situations and by adopting a different strategy or approach, a more effective outcome can be gained.

I mentioned at the beginning that you can choose between quick and dirty and highly sophisticated profiling. There is no substitute for the insight and guidance that an expert can bring in explaining the profiles and identifying areas for action and development. But if you have never profiled your team before then have a go at the online quick and dirty profiles and see what you think. They will give you a taste for what the more powerful tools can deliver.

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