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Debunking myths in personnel diagnostics

Many myths and prejudices surround the topic of personnel diagnostics. In general, myths and prejudices have not only disadvantages: There is always a bit of truth to them. In addition, rigid stances on certain issues provide stability. If several people have the same view, they even connect. A team feeling develops. However, the more cultivated myths are, the more they can slow down progress. Where fixed paradigms rule, there is usually little room for innovation, forward thinkers have a hard time, and change managers are fighting windmills. How can HR developers and managers escape this struggle and get back to the basics? As HR consultants, we encounter certain myths in HR development/diagnostics on a regular basis. In the following, we would like to point out the two most common myths from personnel diagnostics and review them.

Avoid black/white thinking and overcome boundaries of prejudice

Many myths and prejudices surround the topic of personnel diagnostics. In general, myths and prejudices have not only disadvantages: There is always a bit of truth to them. In addition, rigid stances on certain issues provide stability. If several people have the same view, they even connect. A team feeling develops. However, the more cultivated myths are, the more they can slow down progress. Where fixed paradigms rule, there is usually little room for innovation, forward thinkers have a hard time, and change managers are fighting windmills. How can HR developers and managers escape this struggle and get back to the basics?

As HR consultants, we encounter certain myths in HR development/diagnostics on a regular basis. In the following, we would like to point out the two most common myths from personnel diagnostics and review them.

1. “Aptitude tests are only useful in large companies.”

Yes, it’s true. Partial. Aptitude tests primarily help to pre-select a large number of applicants. Conversely, however, this does not mean that aptitude tests in smaller and medium-sized companies are without significant added value. Depending on the test procedure (skills, psychometrics, typology), recruiters gain a targeted insight into a specific part of an applicant’s personality. For a personal conversation, this is worth its weight in gold. Against the backdrop of the test result, recruiters can ask more precise questions and obtain information about a candidate that would take time in a simple interview. An aptitude test is like a magnifying glass, directed at a specific area of a personality that is difficult to see with the naked eye. Aptitude tests are therefore not only useful in large companies. They are always useful when a precise look at a part of a personality is necessary.

2. “Aptitude tests do not capture the complexity of a person.”

Yes, it’s true. Aptitude tests are not designed to fully capture a personality. A magnifying glass is made to precisely capture certain points. So this myth has a kernel of truth. But is this a reason to faint? Might there be more than a choice between using aptitude tests and using a personal interview?

Increasingly popular are multimethod procedures (good mix of different methods) to avoid deficits in personnel assessment. Strametz [&] Associates offers procedures for various diagnostic application fields and customer needs. Another possibility is behavioral diagnostics by means of reality simulations, e.g. In the Real Business Assessment and/or Development Center. Here, candidates experience compressed, realistic management and or stress situations as they may occur under normal conditions in the company. What hardly any aptitude test or interview can do is move candidates from a reflective mode to a situational mode of action. Where the real behavior of a person to be expected in reality becomes visible within a very short time, personnel diagnostics has done its greatest service.

Conclusion

Myths contain partial truths. Therefore, they enjoy wide acceptance. However, with the right partner on their side, companies today can step far beyond the boundaries of myths to significantly increase their clout (or effectiveness).

Aptitude tests scare off applicants and put them under pressure

The majority of German HR managers are critical of aptitude tests in personnel selection. As we already wrote in the news entry from 28.07.2015, there are a number of myths surrounding this topic, which we will get to the bottom of in the form of a series. Our facts and figures are taken from a two-part study by Humboldt University Berlin on the prevalence and acceptance of aptitude tests. In the following, two further widespread assumptions are set right.

3. “Aptitude tests discourage applicants.”

As the Psychological Institute of the Humboldt University in Berlin found out, 65% of HR managers who do not use aptitude tests agree with this myth. Interestingly, this number drops to 44% when HR professionals have experience selecting employees using tests. This suggests that the problem is less widespread in reality than is assumed.

However, an important question in this context is how the environment of the applicants is designed in the test situation. For him/her, it makes a big difference whether he/she takes an impersonal test on the Internet at home by himself/herself or whether a trained test administrator supervises the selection. Since this is not always possible, thorough preparation and personal consultation in advance is advisable to minimize the risk of deterrence.

4. “Aptitude tests put unnecessary pressure on applicants and are most likely to measure anxiety.”

Certainly, people don’t necessarily like to be exposed to pressure situations and some may perform differently in those moments. However, under this assumption, one must not disregard the fact that a pressure situation also exists for the instruments without tests.

Unstructured interviews, which most make use of in personnel selection, expose the applicant to a special situation, as do tests relevant to hiring. The questions can trigger anxiety, in this case social, and distort the outcome. For example, introverted but high-performing applicants may be inclined to give short-syllable answers, which means that their real strengths can only be revealed by professionals and with a lot of effort.

The mix of structured interviews and the appropriate aptitude tests is most promising. With it, you can assess the applicant well and are not guided solely by sympathy and gut feeling. This ensures that the position is filled with the most suitable candidate and not the one who can sell himself the best.

As you can see, the traditional interview has many weaknesses that can be improved with the help of aptitude tests. If you have further interest in the topic or realize that your selection process should be redesigned, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Avoid manipulation with modern test methods

In the previous articles in our series “Debunking Myths in Personnel Diagnostics”, we have already debunked four myths and are now turning our attention to another myth:

5. “Aptitude tests are transparent and manipulable!”

Even top consultants and experienced diagnosticians need some time and expertise to get behind the structure and higher-level idea of unknown, complex tests. For applicants, these are usually neither transparent nor can they be deliberately manipulated.

In the serious tests, control questions are always asked to verify the result. If applicants do not answer a test to the best of their knowledge and belief, these control questions can be used to detect manipulation. However, the underlying study in this series finds that even the HR professionals who use recruitment tests in their selection processes succumb to this myth.

In addition, there are modern test procedures today that no longer work with the classic self-assessment questions and therefore cannot be manipulated at all. In any case, these are enjoying rapidly growing popularity among our customers because they are also very accurate.

Reality reference modern test procedures

Having already highlighted 5 myths in the last three articles, today we will look at myth #6.

6. “Aptitude tests provide results that have nothing to do with the reality of everyday work.”

This statement is simply not empirically correct. As various studies have shown, aptitude tests are the most reliable predictors of an applicant’s later career success.

However, more than half of the HR professionals who do not use recruitment tests in their selection processes agree with this statement. You seem obviously unaware of the results of Schmidt and Hunter’s meta-analyses. For this reason, here is an excerpt: “…in a comparison of 18 selection methods, general intelligence tests showed the highest validity (next to work samples).” Furthermore, they write that cognitive ability tests are the best single tool for predicting training success and performance for nearly all occupations. The studies by Nachtwei and Schermuly proved similar. Although only an average of 10% of companies use aptitude tests in their selection processes, they have the highest hit rate of 36%. This result supports the fact that HR professionals who already use aptitude tests believe in only 35% of the cases that aptitude tests have no relevance to reality. You seem to have already had a good experience with the instrument.

Scientifically, the effectiveness of attitude tests has been proven. Our customers also have positive experiences with aptitude diagnostic procedures that are well adapted to the company and the requirements of the job.

We have aroused your interest? Please feel free to contact us

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