He got 1%, we can't hire him

Eight young undergraduates were paired up into four teams and were squirreling away on a technical test I had set them, the test was simply to create a normalised relational database for an online bookstore (think Amazon), and then present their findings to a small team of technical folks who would fire some random questions. There was no right answer, and similarly there were no metrics used to decide a winner - the winners would simply be those who we (the developers) felt were a good fit and naturally worked and thought the same way most of the team did. The problem here is that we didn't have the final say.

During the exercise a colleague, Carl, and I made ourselves available to answer any questions and provide guidance to the candidates since we couldn't be entirely sure if we'd provided all the necessary details. Often what would happen is the first ten minutes or so would be socially awkward for the candidates since they would soon realise that they're technically all working against each other, but they also had to work together. Sometimes individuals would break away and choose to develop a solution entirely by themselves whilst the other team member looked on them with puzzlement. Other times we'd have to split the groups into odd numbers if all the candidates didn't show up on the day, anecdotally, I found that in those scenarios we'd typically end up with more disagreement in the group and tiny bit of resentment over whoever was seen to be the leader. Three's a crowd.

Going into a room full of candidates and introducing ourselves was always interesting, almost immediately you could tell who-was-who - the ones with bravado, the quiet ones, the extroverts, the ones who shake your hand limply but are studious and intent on solving the problem. It was early on in the exercise, Carl and I were quietly trying to weigh up which team might shape up to be a winner - which is actually very difficult to determine by face-value. About fifteen minutes into the exercise the candidates were getting more relaxed and starting to become fully-mentally-engaged in the exercise and asking questions. It soon became obvious that a quiet young man of Asian descent was talking to his team-mate and getting his team-mate to ask the questions. To me this seemed really odd, typically candidates are bursting with enthusiasm to show that they thought of something before anyone else in the room in an effort to score extra points with Carl and me.

I decided to approach him directly and ask him what his thoughts were, his English wasn't great and I'd later find out that he'd only been in the UK for two years. But what he expressed was fairly advanced, he began talking about foreign-keys, their data-types and how that might affect index fragmentation depending on the frequency of certain operations - so he was getting his friend to ask questions like "How many people are using the product?", "What's the conversion rate?", "Can people upload their own books?" and "What's the commission split?". Questions that on the surface of it seem like odd things to ask, until you realise the underlying motivation behind asking them.

It didn't take me long to figure out that this kid could see the system from a thousand yards and it was fairly easy for him to mentally model and then optimise his mental model, he was moving at light speed compared to the other candidates in the room. Carl and I had a winner and our job had become easier, we now just had to filter out one remaining candidate from the remaining seven.

Just before our exercise had started the HR Manager had given them all a psychometric evaluation, it was a written test that asked a few questions to determine some key personality attributes of a candidate. I'd taken the test myself when I'd joined the company, I'd never seen my results and I actually thought it was an odd practice, when I asked about it during my interview the HR Manager told me "Don't worry, it's just to check you're a good fit for the company".

During our technical exercise (and the subsequent Q&A) the technical department elected two winners, so we went and conferred with our HR Manager and some guys from Senior Management. We gave our verdict and almost immediately I could see the colour drain from the HR Managers face:

HR Manager: Oh no. You can't have him, he failed the psychometric

Me: What do you mean by failed? I thought it was something that just determined certain personality attributes?

HR Manager: Well it does, there's no right answer to it, but he got 1% - which is uncharacteristically low

Me: If he got 1%, then surely it's possible for someone to get 100% - so there is a right and a wrong answer?

HR Manager: Yeah, but even if they got 100% it doesn't mean they're a good fit for the company

Me: So... conversely, surely 1% implies that they're also not a bad fit for the company?

HR Manager: No, he's a bad fit

Other Manager: Look Matt, let's just drop it and move on

Me: Normally I might do, but I think all the technical guys are in agreement that he's hands-down the smartest person in that room. Have we considered that the test we gave him was in English, yet English is not his first language?

HR Manager: No, but I don't think that would change the outcome - the questions are to determine his personality type

Me: Yeah, but the questions are in English?

Other Manager: Can we invite him back maybe?

HR Manager: Hmm, well we can't now - he's already seen the test and it would be unfair on the other candidates if we gave him special treatment

The conversation continued and essentially we had to reject him and find a replacement. The psychometric test was supposed to produce a "true" reflection of how someone saw themselves, and I was told it couldn't change over time - i.e. whatever it determined was fixed, immutable and infallible.

About a year later the company wanted to track the psychology of its employees and encouraged everyone to re-take the psychometric test, it's something they were going to do annually. I willingly took the test, not to disprove that it was infallible, but instead as a kind of self-test to see how much I'd changed over time. A lot of other people who took the test got largely the same result as when they joined the company - my results had worsened (by the HR Managers standards) - she later told me that I was anti-authoritarian and more likely to do what I thought was right rather than what I had been instructed to do. I am still baffled to this day about how that is an undesirable attribute, see Milgram Experiment and Nuremberg Defense.

She also told me that if I was re-interviewing at the company then I likely wouldn't get the job based on my psychometric profile, which was actually ironic since I was highly respected in my role and was one of only a handful of people that could convincingly debate technical alternatives with Senior Management.

I still look back on that young candidate who was rejected because of some bogus score on a discriminatory test that ultimately means little or nothing. I hope he's found rich and meaningful employment elsewhere that employs people based on actually having a good conversation with them rather than an arbitrary scoring mechanism designed to be filed in a report to Senior Management.

Additionally - if you want my opinion about technical tests to qualify candidates then I can tell you that I once had the pleasure of using a web-based automated system where candidate scores vary wildly, and sometimes in contradiction to their CV/Resume/Experience. When we decided to give the test to the development team (about 15 developers) - most of them got scores that were lower than our threshold (45%), despite them all being rock-solid developers. Also, there were some candidates who managed to get 95% and above - but would then just be absolutely awful during the interview - we would later discover that they were paying someone to complete the technical test on their behalf.

There is no substitute for taking the time to sit-down and talk to someone.

HN Readers: Thanks for reading - comments are here



  • I think its time to flush HR department. Flush = FIRE (side not for HR manager reading this). If you have personality test that measures nothing but gives you number that you decide on than it means that the level of incompetence is too high to even try to reform this.

    Sorry to say this you guys suck.

  • It's amazing how many proxies we create for "Is this person intelligent, can they apply themselves, and are they able to get along with others?"

    Grades. Technical interviews, Psychometric tests. LinkedIn contacts.

    I think you're right and the truth can only be assessed by an intelligent person actually interacting with the candidate.

  • I too went through the Psychometric test before I could start the interview.

    "No test, no interview" was the hint from the HR person.

    It is a real shame that HR are relying on this sort of thing and it kills the potential of finding amazing skilled people regarding of who they are.

  • HR should never be involved in the evaluation of technical candidates. They are fools and only serve to confuse.

    What's scary is that they are often involved in other department hiring processes. Should they be involved in any hire that has 'specialistion'?

  • Never, ever take those tests. Thank them for their time and be on your way. If asked why, explain that your here for the job at hand not to massage an HR department ego. We allow so many levels of obstruction to our goals it's a wonder we ever get ahead.

  • Always found those personality tests to be prominent when applying for jobs at large corporations, regardless of position or responsibility type. And they're completely useless. Case in point, I had an associate of mine that was like your example incredibly smart, went in for an interview with one of the larger employers in the area at the time, and was turned down just for that alone. He soon got a job with one of their competitors and is now their CTO. The company he applied for? Out of business. Would his employment there saved that company? Doubtful, but it sure couldn't have hurt.

    Nowadays if I'm applying for a position and one of those show up, I just walk out. It tells me they're more interested in some bogus screening matrix to decide on employees instead of who they are, or what their skills are, and thats' not a place that I want to ever work for again.

  • If a company gives you a personality test as part of an interview, you should run for the hills. They are either saddled with beaurocracy or are completely inept.

  • You have hit the nail right on its head. I had faced similar situation. I had taken this psychometric test two times at a reputed Belgian retail firm. Twice i was rejected due to low score in the test. That was 4 years ago right now i am making 6 times what they offered and i have had good success in my IT career which i am proud of. I really doubt these psychometric tests and their validity and reluctance to disclose the score. Excellent article i thought i was the only one who had no respect for these tests.

  • well these things sucks but you know you don't need to undergo:
    fight the system. hack it, aren't you all developers/sysadmin ?
    if your recruitment depend on those funny test from hr department, instead of test of your tech skill, then just compile those test as if the average guy would compile them.
    I highly doubt they are using subtle test, i think most of them are quite easy to see where they are pointing, what they are evaluating.

    And finally, if your "new company i'm applying" really think it's best to have a "yes man" rather than someone with good skill, well take your time to think if it's really worth passing 8-10 hour of your LIFE there.

  • The classic phrase "correlation is not causation" comes to mind here.

    IMHO, HR people should not have any veto power when it comes to hiring candidates, unless they have some absolutely incontrovertible reason for doing so (e.g. criminal record). In general, assessing people technically can only be done by other technical people in the same field.

    Also, in my experience it's good to have a diverse set of minds working together. This effect is seen everywhere--in science where discoveries that only occur due to cross-pollination, in universities where students go to different schools for graduate school or professorships that prefer hiring candidates from other schools, etc.

    The automated web-based system is interesting. Would like to see two levels of that: (1) online for pre-screening, later followed by (2) another web-based one in-house that would also verify the persons identity. This all before an in person interview.

  • I have to agree with the author of this article on the grounds that there is no substitute for a face to face interview (or a hardy hand shake). As stated before test results can be bought, and thusly rendered worthless. In my opinion if someone took the insensitive (acting on ones own) for the best of the company then that person is worth keeping.

  • Hi,

    It is well known that psychology is a pseudo-science in the sense that the "scientists" are satisfied with results which fit a small percentage of the sample. (60-40 is the norm). This means that when they reach a conclusion based on their tests, it is just barely better then the coin-toss.
    Given the level of incompetence of HR people, the companies should just ignore their suggestions when hiring decisions are made.

  • the situation described above is f*cked up. i took one of those tests recently at a job i was applying for. interestingly, in many ways i thought highly about the company, but this does raise a red flag about them. i'm not working there. i didn't think twice about taking it at the time, but now i might refuse. i have to think more about this.

  • I always find it interesting how company's hire and judge candidates. Over my career in IT I have found a increasing number of hires and promotions by not what you know or how you scored a personality test or even how excellent your education is. Roles are increasingly being filled by who you know.

  • This is a great story. I will be sharing this with a few people.

    To me, the money quote is "...she later told me that I was anti-authoritarian and more likely to do what I thought was right rather than what I had been instructed to do. I am still baffled to this day about how that is an undesirable attribute..."

    This depresses me more than it baffles me. As a self-taught, anti-authoritarian engineer and entrepreneur myself, I've had to develop skills specifically to get around this [hiring barrier] and to be honest, it's difficult and tiring. I wish people would think and act critically instead of relying on pseudo-scientific tests to do their job for them.

  • "she later told me that I was anti-authoritarian and more likely to do what I thought was right rather than what I had been instructed to do"


    "was one of only a handful of people that could convincingly debate technical alternatives with Senior Management"

    Do you see the correlation? they want a sheep, you are not, but you are already in, the Asian isn't either, but they got it before joining.

  •  rfk

    I won't take a psych test, I won't piss in a cup, and I won't tell you my previous salary. Those are all terms to walk.

  • If you've interviewed anywhere in the last 10 years, they all have that same psychology test, at least if you live in the US. If you think you're going to just "walk out" you'll be walking out of 99% of interviews. The psychology test is the easy part, you just answer strongly agree or strongly disagree, and they throw in one or two questions that you can't strongly agree or disagree with (double-negative wordplay and so forth) so you have to actually read the questions. To create software you do need to know how to read, don't you think so?

  • The problem is that the minds that can solve the problems are scarce enough that you just have to hire them - quirks and all. That being said, I've used a test that was useful: it tried to assess your two (out of four) top action types research, organize, ideate or implement - and then tried to make sure that your group wasn't completely imbalanced in one or two areas. It worked pretty well, eliminating overlap so that everybody didn't research a thing to death, that at least somebody cared about structure, and that there were some folks that were chomping at the bit to get started so that the project didn't founder in analysis paralysis. Though we never used it to eliminate candidates, we often used it to push borderline candidates over the edge into a hire.

  • HR should stay the hell away from the interviewing process. Working at a relatively known company in Silicon Valley, we had a technically amazing candidate, everyone on my team also thought he was humble and sincere. Well, HR tried to veto our decision because he put "CEO" on his resume (he was actually a CEO of a company), and HR assumed he must be too self-absorbed to be a fit (he was also mid 20's). They never even met with him, but tried to veto him.

  • I once had to take one of these tests. I remember sitting there for a good 20 minutes, just staring at the screen and debating whether to just walk out, balancing how offended I was that it was any of there business against my need for a job. In the end I did the test, as perfuctorily as I possibly could. In the future even the existence of a test like this would be a serious black mark against a company and a good reason not to work there for me.

    My impression was that the test was an expensive toy for HR people who are not technical but want to feel like they're doing something "scientific" - like the SAT's, it's always more comfortable to be able to evaluate people based on scores, even if it's not always clear what's being measured.

    I was also incredibly offended by the privacy issue. You're my employer, and you want to know how often I feel lonely? I feel lonely "fuck you" amount of times. It's none of your business. It's indecent to ask people such questions under pressure, and plain stupid to make hiring determinations based on them.

  • In just under 20 years in the industry, I've never seen this before. If pernicious "tests" such as this are being used to short-list candidates, then it's no wonder that so few of the people I interview are worth a pile of beans. That kind of corrupt, willfully blind behavior is both evil and self-defeating. I hope you find a happier situation soon.

  • I would never work for a company like that, so I wonder why you do? You seem like the kind of candidate that would easily find better work.

  • Reminds me of the test I took at my current position. I was reading the test, and the whole time I was thinking, how would someone who wasn't me answer this. And that was pretty much how I gave my answers. It seemed like a bogus test, but I'm pretty sure it was only there to weed out people who truly don't understand common social conventions. Which sadly is often what you want from an engineer.

    An engineer who isn't antiauthoritarian is often a poor problem solver. They are too constrained by what is allowed, that they often miss what's possible.

  • I really want to say that I hired the guy and we're competing with you. I had a similar experience where a bunch of us tech-execs were asked "what happens when you come across a prima-donna?" - everybody but me said "we don't hire them or we fire them". That 1% score should have been an indicator that you should've hired that young man. Honestly, you should quit.

  •  ffn

    I don't see anything wrong with this. Corporations want mindless sheep who just do as they're told and work hard and fast about it. If you're anti-authoritarian, opinionated, and worse of all gutsy, then you're a risk to the company because you might cause conflict and make the sheep uncomfortable. Small to medium to big corporations can't afford to take these hiring risks because their CEOs either don't have balls (nothing discriminatory implied), or they judge the rewards of taking this risk unnecessary (as in they really don't actually need more employees, it's just nice to have more).

    Thus, the problem isn't that various companies employ bad to shitty hiring practices to get candidates, it's more that good candidates should throw away the idea that prestige and pride comes from working for a big famous company... and instead go start their own companies.

  • I have an unfair advantage in taking psychometric tests because the transmitter that the CIA embedded in my tooth tells me how to answer the questions.

  •  da

    When you take a psychometric test, always remember that you're not supposed to be more ntelligent than the person who created the test.

  • I had the same experience as the young asian at a quite large techie company in Munich. The techies wanted to hire me but the psychological profile from HR voted me in two categories below 5%.

    Meaning that I am a bit harder to control than average persons. As my personal remark there is to say that my point of view on several subjects has changed in the recent years a lot. I have done a lot of collegiate leadership roles at the university and thus I am more committed to the generated output than to listen and follow individuals trying to nail the point when the actually fail.

    In the end I was not that much disappointed because I didn't want to work at this specific company as the management turned out to be awkward at the recruiting day. In general these mental profiles could figure out some realistic profiles but shouldn't set a uncrossable barrier for the technical domain of employment.

  •  mee

    I take view on these HR tests as an extra IQ test. If you're not smart enough to research things about a company you're going to work for, and fake the psychological test enough to sneak around an HR, then it's going to be more tough on you. As life generally is to people with less IQ/EQ.

  • Is it possible your HR department is incorrectly using the assessment? I don't know the assessment or the laws where you live, but here in the US, you can't use an assessment to exclusively select candidates for a position. You *can* use it subjectively with many other factors, but not exclusively.

    Its also relevant to know that a person's personality 'type' doesn't dictate success in any one position - it merely dictates how that success will appear - either conventional or unconventional (assuming they are successful).

    If your folks in HR aren't willing to share the raw results of the assessment, it's possible that they aren't confident in their own interpretation (and application to your potential hire) of the results.

    Yes, its safe to say, people change over time. However that statement is only valid if you selectively look at a sampling. If you measured change from youth to a person's mid-40's, yes, you'd see change. But measuring year to year likely wouldn't yield a lot of change. The big factor in determining the amount of change a person has (that can be measured on a test) is in the life events that affect them - such as the birth of a child, death of a family member, or even a simple pay-it-forward moment. It completely depends on the person.


  • The situation in the article is indeed shocking and it's clear there is often misuse and misapplication of psychometrics.

    Though slightly sceptical myself, I do, however, still think they have a value - so long as they're used along side face to face interviews.

    They can show you what someone might be like, whether they'd fit in with the company, whether they'd fill in a skill or personality gap within the wider team - things like that. The decisions on this should be made by the potential employers manager to compare to the team them manager, never someone who's never met the candidate.

    I'd never like to use a psychometic test to completely rule out a candidate, but used along side the initial application and standard interview process, they can be another useful tool to highlight what a person could be like.

    I'd really recommend some of you don't get worked up by psychometrics to the extent you'd avoid an interview if asked for them. The reality is, you've no idea how the company is using the results and whilst you can hypothesis all sorts of horror stories, they could be using them quite reasonably and you could be missing out on an awesome job at brilliant company.

  • I find the number of people criticizing the test for being unscientific... and citing anecdotal/biased evidence to that effect, more than a little ironic.

    The test might have an overall beneficial/proven effect (hard to tell without the test), in which case HR is absolutely justified in applying it indiscriminately.

  • I can't even read your article, not only is it a giant wall of text, but one that's written in a terrible illegible font. UX fail.

  • Phew, sounds like a lucky escape.

    Lucky for the candidate, that is. Thank goodness he didn't end up working for such a shit company!

  • European countries are so brutally saddled with labor regulations that firing a bad worker is next to impossible, almost guaranteeing that HR departments will impose insane interviewing gauntlets for candidates to pace through. It's bad for companies and bad for the whole economy.

  • The stupid thing about those tests is that is very easy to game them. I have sat quite a few.

    It is hard to be sure, but my true self is a little anti-authoritarian, a little passive aggressive, introverted, and aside from the odd exception most teams I have worked on have annoyed the shit out of me (think satre).

    However when I am sitting the test, I know full well that HR want pretty much the opposite of my real traits. So I lie on those tests, and watch out carefully for questions that are repeated with different wording to make sure I answer consistently. I have been offered many jobs after sitting those tests, so I don't think I have 'failed' them despite totally misrepresenting my true self.

  • "naturally worked and thought the same way most of the team did"


    Are they serious? A "team" in which every member is the same and has the same talent? Yeah that will get you real far.

    HR people are clueless idiots.

    I don't have a CS degree, in fact, I never finished college and can't give you the best whiz-bang algorithm in 5 minutes.

    That didn't stop me from writing 20 successful commercial software products including at Apple, Hitachi, and Sony (on PlayStation 2). In fact I was instrumental in the success of PS2 @ Sony (it was the best-selling console in history by a factor of 3).

    HR today would instead judge you on how trendy you are, how good you look, how cool you are, or your personality, not if you've got the goods. Prima donna or not, you need to hire the people with the best skills and delivery record, not because you like them. Steve Jobs was a REAL asshole too.

    Flush HR. They wouldn't know 1 good candidate out of 1,000,000 applicants.

    No wonder our economy is a wreck.


  • HR's job is to do paperwork for benefits, etc. There is no meaningful role for HR in the hiring process beyond determining legal compliance in hiring practices.

    I have to agree with the many negative comments: when HR has that much control in your company, your company has terminal cancer.

  • HR saps may perceive the tests as useful to filter out candidates who "just wouldn't fit" BEFORE the company expends the resources to evaluate the candidate.

    But to use the tests AFTER the company has already spent time and money evaluating the candidate and the candidate's social interactions makes as much sense as flossing before eating popcorn.

    Regardless, personality is not static - just take the introvert who slowly warms to people and becomes surprisingly talkative on subjects s/he actually cares about.

  • That's a sad experience. Reading this article has made me wonder if division of labor is all that is sold to be. Maybe the intellectuals need to update their business theories. I mean do we really think a HR guy is more qualified to hire someone in something he knows little about?

  • "There is no substitute for taking the time to sit-down and talk to someone."

    Unfortunately, you are absolutely wrong about that. The research shows that the predictive value of sitting down and talking to someone is very low. Much better predictors are things like scores on standardized tests, university GPA and where they went to school, honest recommendations from people who've worked with them before, and looking at open-source code they've worked on on other personal code they are willing to share.

  • "If you've interviewed anywhere in the last 10 years, they all have that same psychology test, at least if you live in the US. If you think you're going to just "walk out" you'll be walking out of 99% of interviews"

    Huh? I have interviewed at dozens of Bay Area technical companies in the last ten years, and the idea of taking a psych test as part of an interview is absolutely foreign to me.

  • Your story is really intense and I can't believe the HR result was considered more important than your technical test. I am still amazed how badly the interview process and the candidate selection is handled. In my current company I have seen lots of people who were clearly not able to perform the job but joined at very high level positions. Some have been fired, some are still there and probably will be able to stay if they know how to play their game if you know what I mean.
    I think in your story the good thing is that your company was not the right fit for this guy, and we will soon hear of him and his success and someone will regret that stupid HR test.

  • Seemingly arbitrary personality tests like these are a great indicator of a worthless HR department. (Either because it's underfunded or staffed with incompetent people.)

    The goal of these tests is to reduce the number of interviews. Since it's generally frowned upon to simply throw out every other job application, crap like this happens. It validates the HR department's claim that what it does is scientific when it's not. The whole personality thing is extremely arbitrary and rarely actually relevant.

    I've had the pleasure to hire a guy who by any standards shouldn't have been hired. (I was technical lead in a small company with no training in HR at all. I insisted on hiring him because contrary to the college-educated people, he seemed to like what he was doing. We hired him directly from high school.)
    During his interview, he was nervous & he had troubles with the language (he was an immigrant).
    He turned out to be extremely calm under pressure, extremely diligent & reliable. A few months after I left the company, he was promoted to technical lead.

  • Wow, what a "interesting" company :-)
    Reminds on some assesment centers i did a few years ago - HR managers questions are usually crap...
    For testing candidates skills, you could uses codility.com

  • Well, I am really disappointed with this.

    I am an asian and this is disheartening. And HR department getting to veto someone because of a test that has no right answers? That's truly f*cked up situation.

  • You should treat them just like those cold-callers from marketing companies. Don't walk out. Ask the questions back at them, making them feel how wrong it is what they're doing. Of course they will not hire you, but at least you get to have a little fun, and mock them.

    So there you are, sitting opposite Matt and John from HR.

    Matt: "you are still required to do the psych test"
    Me: "OK. No problem. I have one last question. Does this company believe in team spirit?"
    John: "No of course not".
    Me: "Then I'd like you to sit next to me while I do the test."
    Matt: "Why?"
    Me: "So I can discuss my answers with you personally. You do believe a personal approach is most effective in assessing a candidate?"
    Matt: "Yeah. Well, it's kind of a strange request"
    Me: "Do you believe trust is important in this company"
    John: "Yes, very"
    Me: "OK, lets do it then. I am happy you'll join me, it'll be fun"

    We go to the HR test area where the test is handed to you. The HR official sits next to you, feeling uncomfortable.

    Question 1: "How often do you feel lonely?"
    Me: "I feel lonely at least once a week. I like to just faze out at a bar, drink till I drop and pass out on the couch. It fixes me right up. How about you, John?"
    John: "I don't have to answer that, it's your test."
    Me: "Oh, I thought this company believes in trust. John, what's the matter, are you all right? Do you need to talk about something? It's ok, I'm here for you."

    You get the idea. I wish I was still applying for jobs just to mess with them. In fact, I would just apply for the fun of it.

  •  Wow

    How the heck is it that these people born to flip burgers get HR jobs? You're supposed to match personality types and use the information to find conflicting personality types in the team, and make sure the interviewee spends time with that conflicting team member make to make sure they're both mature enough to get along. It's glaringly obvious when one or the other is not. The test itself means nothing, just a way to triage how much time they need to spend with particular people.

  • I think the test actually worked pretty well. It filtered out a mediocre organization and prevented a talented kid from wasting his time on them. Any company on the move (including the HR department) knows genius must be allowed to soar. The test actually did the guy a favor. Now he can go out and find a company where is talent is appreciated.

  • I used to work with someone similar at one point. He was pretty quiet and shy, never wanted to speak up.

    He came to me one day and was really hesitant, he tried to tell me that my code was wrong, in the nicest way possible to not upset me. I simply told him; "Oh, dude, no you're 100% right, your change is great! Nice work spotting that before it got to production"

    He perked right up, he asked me later if i was upset while we were at lunch and I just explained to him no ones perfect, we all write good code and bad code and we learn from each other, so if he finds stuff wrong with my code let me know!

    His attitude changed over the next few months and be became a lot more vocal.

    Turns out he was super smart, but was a little socially awkward. I would definitely work with him again, great guy.

    Long story short. You lost out on a potentially great guy because your HR department sucks balls :(

  • Guess what - I have scored a 96% and the company I applied to did not even invite me to interview. The answer "overqualified" sips trough mind, but the moral is - humans are NOT numbers, and if HR relies on numbers solely - he is bad HR. He must be fired, and the sooner the better for the company.
    On the other hand - this is how us, candidates, filter companies who we can work for, we can easily determine if it is worth spending our precious lifetime with them.

  • This is an unfortunate illustration of HR being charged with responsibilities they do not understand, and so cannot accurately explain to candidates or incumbents or even use properly. Any legally defensible test has been well designed and validated by a Industrial/Organizational Psychologist or another trained psychometrician. Personality tests are no different and have a place in a selection battery (more on this later)

    The candidates English skills WERE a major influence in this test. Any selection tool that requires reading will in some respect be a measure of one's language ability. In this case, a lot of error was introduced, error that resulted in a noisy conclusion. They did not strictly measure the construct of personality; they measured personality heavily obfuscated by the noise of language ability. I'm certain giving the exact same test in the candidate's native tongue would result in a statistically significant difference. There is also here evidence of adverse impact, where a test does not discriminate by design but still results in discrimination. If a candidate pool is mostly foreign and the job does not require explicit language skills then you are adversely impacting a large portion of a candidate pool.

    Now, much discontent with Personality testing has been expressed in these comments as is common when something is misunderstood, however, personality testing does have a purpose. It may be owed to hyperbole or storytelling but a single personality test cannot be used as the sole "select out" tool, as there are legal implications when a single factor is used to differentiate candidates. If a specific personality type has not been empirically proven to be needed for the job, then selecting for that type is indefensible. Personality testing, when used correctly, is one data point among many others (e.g. cognitive ability tests, structured interviews, assessment centers) that are weighted higher when making a decision. Personality testing is helpful in placing individuals as well. The Person-Environment fit literature demonstrates that a team needs to be comprised of individuals with both similar and different personalities and skill sets.

    In sum, this is an example of an unfortunate prevalence of HR departments misunderstanding the science behind their selection tools, but if used correctly Personality Testing can be useful.

  • HR should be involved in hiring, but *they* should be the ones telling *you* whether or not your assessment of the candidates is unintentionally discriminatory or irrelevant to the job. HR's role in hiring is to make you set out your necessary and desirable criteria properly, and assess every candidate against all of them, and avoid asking illegal questions, and enforce any specific corporate policies on hiring that the technicians might be inclined to ignore because they're anti-authoritarian. All that stuff.

    Furthermore, if there are two people giving opinions on the hire then they should both get veto -- if one doesn't like the candidate then don't hire, because it's much more expensive to make a bad hire than it is to miss a good one. You can speculate about the most incredible hire, that makes a billion for your company with their skill and foresight. But playing the averages, if anyone in the room thinks it's risky then pass until you find someone you all like.

    Unfortunately, both of these principles presume basic competence from all the people involved in hiring. If the CEO is getting hold of snake-oil salesmen, or box-tickers who just administer a test they don't understand instead of forming their own opinion of the candidate, and is giving those people veto over people who actually know what the business does and what people the company needs: then your company is too big and stupid to be fun. Your team within it might still be small and smart and fun, but you can't avoid the fact that the rest of the company will mess you up. Repeatedly. The more money you make, the more you enable them.

    The main reason personality tests aren't a good fit is that you can work with someone who is quiet, or socially awkward, or who isn't a "team player", as long as they aren't actively corrosive to the team. You can't work with someone who's stupid, or a liar, or who sets people against each other. So unless that psychometric evaluation was a clinically significant diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (which I'll wager it wasn't), it shouldn't get a vote.

  • Last year when I was looking for a new job I came across this. I applied and my phone interview went well, as well as my in-person interview with the Web Department Head and the VP. Then came Mrs. HR B-tch who surprised me with a personality test (which had never happened to me before in applying for a design-related job).

    My interview with the Head and VP took about half an hour to forty-five minutes and included a tour of the facility.

    The personality test was, according to the HR lady, going to take "at least an hour". So I took my time, did it honestly and never got a call back. I was flabbergasted since my interviewers made it seem like I got the job and "oh, well just do this test from HR and I'll see you Monday".

    In fact, I ended up calling back MYSELF a few days later and the Web Department Lead who first interviewed me said, "Oh, you didn't get the job? No wonder I didn't see you on Monday."

    After such a soul-crushing defeat I made it clear I was NEVER going to do it again. I even went on to read a few books criticizing the use of such tests and even read about an experiment that involved Best Buy. One of the things they mentioned with the fact that such tests purposely deceive people and that people who have English as a second language are much more easier to confuse with their deceptions.

    So, from then on, *before* I even bothered to have any form of interview I asked, "So, do you guys have a mandatory personality test prior to hiring?". If so, I firmly declined further involvement and moved on. That, however, is NOT to say that I did not encounter competency tests, which to me are fine--you don't want to end up with someone who claims to have certain skills, only to find out they exaggerated or out-and-our lied about it.

  • Ouch. Just, ouch. As someone with 15+ years of experience in HR, I would like to apologize on behalf of the profession for boneheaded HR moves like the one described in this article. At no point should a test override the collective judgement of the interviewers. Culture fit is indeed important but I would trust my interviewers to discern that; not a test.

    People have lousy impressions of HR based on experiences like this but I would argue that HR can (and in many places does) add a significant amount of value to an organization whether it be the basic HR plumbing (comp, benefits, HRIS, recruiting, training, compliance and admin) or higher level HR strategic work such as org design, workforce planning, performance mgmt, exec coaching, change mgmt, learning and development, culture shaping, etc.

    So don't write us all off. We've been a profession in flux over the past twenty years and as higher level skills are demanded from us, we have been developing those capabilities to meet the challenges. Hopefully, you'll all experience that for yourself one day. At least that's my hope.

  • I still question the person who came up with this grading system, he is also a human. I believe that we should look into good qualities of a candidate than his dark side. I Agree these test help in knowing few bad(according to the test) traits of a person, which can be changed with proper schooling. But still the HR's should consider a candidate, if he is a life saver for a project or team. Finally that guy in the article is someone who will work for himself not for a company with biased approach of hiring.

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