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Why Recruiters Bomb Psychometric Testing: A pub psychologist speaks out.

By October 17, 2019No Comments

For those who don’t know already, we earn a living by recruiting recruiters. This is an activity that has been described as both “herding cats” and “aligning two constantly moving targets”. I’d agree with both sentiments, and also add that having recruited across multiple sectors, both internally and agency-side, and across two continents, the world of “rec to rec” has been the toughest. There are multiple reasons for this- from giant egos, to toxic cultures where only billings matter. Place this shit storm in a country where everyone knows each other and add how a perceived slight from 2003 still festers like knob rot, and you’ll get an idea of what it’s like. Ask any agency recruiter for a list of other agencies they admire and you’ll probably only need two fingers. Ask them who they despise and you’ll be running for the flip chart.

As you would imagine, the above situation creates a challenging enough recruitment process. What makes our job even harder, and often proves a massive barrier to us, the agency, sending you, the recruitment agency owner, a big fat invoice is….the reliance on psychometric testing. When a candidate sails through first interview, the number one reason this “yes” turns into a “no” is bombing the testing. Not references, not meet the team. Testing.

Let’s be clear. I am not against testing per se. Like all good pub psychologists, I’ll tell how it should be done:

  • Step 1: Test all of your existing team, from the owner to the cleaner. Do the usual numeracy and literacy stuff, plus the personality type stuff.
  • Step 2: Get some boffin to sit down with you and figure what are the common characteristics of your top performers. And by “top performers” I don’t mean just top billers. They’re usually toxic. I mean your real MVPs
  • Step 3: Use that as a template of what “good” could look like, whilst also understanding that your top performers are also quite diverse.
  • Step 4: Before you hire, use the above to actually train and develop your existing staff and fill in any capability gaps
  • Step 5: When hiring, use testing after the first interview, not as the final part of the puzzle. Testing should be used to generate areas to probe on interview 2, not answers.
  • Step 6: Never reject candidates on testing alone you utter bell-end.

Sadly, in my experience, very few follow the above model. Many candidates are rejected on a testing score that would no doubt trump the agencies top biller. Just pause for a moment now and gaze across to the top performer in your business. Do they remind you of a young Oscar Wilde? Or perhaps Albert Einstein? Or are they more Kim Wilde and Albert Steptoe? I rest my case.

It would be unfair to only blame hiring managers however, and this brings me on to the title of this blog. Most recruiters are absolutely dreadful at testing. Part of the reason that testing isn’t done before second interview is that the mere mention of the “T word” sends recruiters running for the hills. It’s our kryptonite. And those recruiters who should perform above average still manage to go to pieces and kick themselves in the balls during that dreaded 45 minutes. Why is this? Well now’s the time to hop on to Dr Sean’s couch, close your eyes, and think about your childhood. I promise not to squeeze your boobs.

Successful recruiters are always intrinsically smart. They can keep company with most, are quick witted and mentally agile. They’re also often charismatic and engaging. These aren’t behaviours learnt on some course. Through a quirk of genetics, and/or influences during their early childhood, they just ended up that way. At school however, many recruiters struggled to “knuckle down”. Often the class joker, their wit and charm carried them through the education system. School reports would read “very capable, they just need to apply themselves more”. Often smarter than their peers, but without the interest in academia or work ethic around study, they were prone to distraction. Be it boys, booze, smoking, drugs, or chasing the pus-say, their laissez-faire attitude to study made them a hit with classmates and a disappointment to parents.This was all well and good, until the day arrived where bullshit and bravado wasn’t enough – and that day was typically exam day. This was the day that the smartest person in the room was outperformed by the majority of the room. Many failed, and out of those who did scrape through the exam system to move into further education, the discipline needed for self-study just wasn’t there. Many dropped out. And as much as they tried to apply their standard devil-may-care attitude towards these academic failings, they actually cut pretty deep. Long story marginally shorter, most recruiters carry a chip on their shoulder because they believe they could have done better at school if they weren’t such larrikins.

My proof of this theory? Dr Sean’s School of Psychology doesn’t rely on “proof”. However, just look at how recruiters fear and fail testing. They often excel at all other facets of their job. Meeting a CEO is a breeze. Declining candidates their dream job is no problem. But that spectre of not being able to download their natural intelligence onto paper still haunts them. And most have avoided anything deemed “academic” ever since. And for those who think they can heal the wound,  I guarantee you that at least one recruiter reading this is seriously considering wasting their own money on an MBA in a futile attempt to remove the hoodoo of screwing up their NCEAs.

Anyway, that’s your half hour over. Pay at Reception on the way out.

^Sean Walters pHD

*As an aside, if you are interested in recruitment opinions and insights from those actually qualified to give them, Phil Tusing’s RHUB Conference makes a welcome return to these shores on the 21st-22nd November. Phil always puts together a top lineup from all over the globe, and it’s a good chance to network with other long-suffering recruiters. Tickets here.*