Taking a Test When There’s No Right Answer

You’ve got the LinkedIn profile up to date, crafted your resume, and nailed the interview. You think the job is yours. Then they say, “Great, we need you to do one last thing. Just take a personality test.”  Before you know it you are answering questions about your childhood ambitions and whether or not you ever get angry and wondering what the right answers are. The problem is, there are no right answers.

Of course, sometimes that’s not the order in which it goes, some companies are now using personality tests to screen candidates before they even get to the interview trying to save their employees time in the hiring process by weeding people out earlier.

Hundreds of companies are now using these tests. The argument in favor? According to an article in Time magazine companies are being convinced that a more perfect workplace can be achieved by analyzing the psyche and running the results through a computer.

Employers, and the estimated $2 billion industry that provides the evaluations, say the tests help lower employee turnover, increase productivity and raise customer satisfaction, all of which sound good. The theory goes that by gaining insight into a job seekers’ personality, companies can identify which applicants will be the happiest and most successful in their potential job. To some point it does make sense.

Nurses may face the Prophecy Behavioral Personality Assessment or Pegged Software.  For pharma and medical device sales people, or those seeking upper management, some of the more famous tests you can google are Cattle’s 16 personality factors, the Hogan Personality Inventory’s seven scales, Gallup’s StrengthsFinder or the Caliper Profile. According to the Wall Street Journal, Gallup’s StrengthsFinder is already used by 457 of the Fortune 500 companies as a way to communicate with workers.

Be warned if you are headed in to take one, clear you day, while some tests are shorter, others can take several hours. Some of the things they measure include independence, spontaneity, and competitiveness.

Questions about independence could ask if you prefer working along, how you spend your free time and if you like meetings or consider them a waste to time. Spontaneity is measured with questions about following your instincts, if you schedule your activities or not, and how much you like to plan. Competitiveness questions ask if other people think you are competitive, whether or not you agree that it takes a killer instinct to get ahead and if you’d let someone else win.

The tricky thing about these tests is, unlike a standard interview, there is no right answer. You can’t have a pat response prepared about your strengths and weaknesses. Its whether or not your answer fits the profile of the personality the company has decided best fits its job description. They aren’t looking for I.Q., which measures intelligence, or E.Q. which measured emotional intelligence and was a popular method of rating potential employees in the 90s, they want X.Q. a mysterious X Quotient no one is able to define. So far its more of a know it when you see it.

The X Quotient is an algorithm that somehow correlates between a candidate’s answers to the questions and responses given by some of their most successful workers. Every job has a different XQ that goes along with it.

Even if you avoid the personality test during the interview process that doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Many companies are now integrating personality tests into making decisions about promotions, transfers and selecting employees for termination.

Proponents claim that personality tests will take unfair advantages out of the equation, the best person will be picked for the job, or the promotion, not the guy who plays golf with the boss on the weekend. They argue it can help reduce discrimination based on gender and race, which can be overt or can be unconscious on the part of the humans doing the hiring.

While objectivity in hiring and promoting sounds good, critics worry that most employers don’t have the resources or the sophistication to use the data properly. Not every company is going to pay for the full analysis of the results. Also, there are concerns that some people aren’t good test takers but perform well on the job, and a test may not convey that. They are worried about the implications of companies making decision that affect people’s lives based on data alone.

Google’s executive in charge of hiring, Laszlo Bock, spoke about this to Time in their cover article on the issue of personality testing. He says the solution is not to abandon analytics in the face of these very valid concerns, but to build an assessment tool that includes personalities as well as other capabilities, to work from a broader perspective. “You actually need to understand how jobs and employment works across the country. And I think in the next five to ten years, someone’s going to figure that out.”

In the meantime, the best advice in facing these tests is to try and be consistent in your answers. Think about the job for which you are applying and what qualities would best suit that job. You can do a little research on the subject and keep those qualities in mind as you work through the test. If those qualities don’t match ones that you have, then it might be good to consider whether or not you are applying for the right job.

MedCareerNews provides information about the medical field that will affect your career options, advice about moving your career forward, quizzes and more! Subscribe on the website today or follow Med Career News on FacebookTwitterLinked In or Google Plus.  You can also get medical career targeted help with your cover letter, resume and sales plans at 306090 Medical Sales.  For more leading healthcare news and career advice subscribe to our blog for free.

Lindsey McCoyLindsey McCoy MPA, is an Executive Medical Recruiter and former Executive Director in the not for profit sector.

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