What Can Your Pre-employment Assessments Really Tell You?

If I gave you 30 minutes to describe the next five years of your life to me, you would either do a poor job of explaining it or give up trying. So when it comes to interviewing a new hire, you can’t rely on the interview to tell you everything.

That’s where pre-employment assessments shine. Since behavior is the biggest indicator of performance, personality testing is a staple in the hiring process. It can help you predict whether your new hire is going to behave reliably or unreliably, and it gives your interviews some much-needed context.

So if you’re looking to weed out the unreliable individuals in your hiring process, you need to first understand what information you can actually get from a personality test.

Defining reliable and unreliable behaviors.

While traits like “turns in work a few days late,” or “commits arson on the weekends,” are easy to label as unredeemable, not every unreliable trait is as black and white.

Unreliable behaviors involve character traits that don’t work well in a cohesive work environment. Maybe an individual doesn’t pick up on social queues well. Maybe they’re highly impatient and critical of others. And of course, if they commit arson, that’s a huge red flag too.

But you can’t focus on only turning away the unreliable hires and accept everyone else who walks through the door. Just because an individual isn’t irresponsible, doesn’t mean they’re a great hire.

When you’re looking for a reliable individual, you need to find someone who will stand out in an office setting, and go beyond their expectations in a team. Individuals like these will have specific traits such as self-awareness, drive, emotional resilience, and great communication. Though, finding out an individual’s real behavioral traits can feel like pulling teeth without the proper tools.

What you can learn from behavioral assessments.

Despite what most behavioral assessment companies might tell you, testing an individual doesn’t automatically give you the ability to predict their every move. But depending on the type of test, and depending on the reliability of the test, you can get close.

Tests like the Myers-Briggs or the DISC give you key details about an individual on four different traits. And with the comprehensive nature of these tests, you can learn key details that would be hard to learn from a 30-minute interview.

For example, with the Myers-Briggs test, you can learn whether an individual tends to take time to think about their options or act on their instincts to make an informed decision. However, it’s not always about what you can learn from a single test.

What you can’t learn from behavioral assessments.

Sometimes, the most important part about choosing a pre-employment assessment is learning what the test is unable to tell you. Every personality test has its own limitations that can leave you in the dark about crucial details.

If a test doesn’t measure an individual’s anger and aggression, then you can’t rely on a test to give you that kind of information. Which, for those specific traits, that might be something you want to iron out unless you’re hiring for the WWE.

When these assessments are paired with others that cover their weaknesses, these tests can be crucial to find out comprehensive information about your new hires. But if you’re using them in a vacuum, you can’t trust them to tell you the whole story.

Reading between the lines.

However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, some tests like the 16 PF can be a great indicator of an individual’s behavior if you know how to read the results.

At a first glance, the 16 PF can tell you base-level personality traits, but nothing too in-depth. But when you combine the measurements, you can learn about complex behaviors the individual is prone to.

For example, if a new hire has a B- (low reasoning) and a Q4+ (impatience) score, that means they’re likely to give up on a task the second it gives them hardships. Either that or they aren’t willing to complete the tasks in the first place.

Don’t take behavioral tests at face value.

Overall, you can’t always assume that behavioral assessment tests will give you the information you need to predict your new hire’s next move. But when you combine tests into a battery and know what you’re looking for, you can use these tests to your advantage, and weed out the weak links every time you hire.

Growth usually takes on one of two very distinct pathways: a linear path and an exponential one. The latter sounds great, right? Just pull a few levers and watch your organization reap the benefits of exponential growth, making all of your dreams come true. Wait till that next quarterly review, you’ll show them you mean business!

Except that isn’t the entire story, and consistent leadership development results are better than exponential growth that isn’t sustainable.

So why talk about exponential growth in the domain of creating better leaders in the workplace? Well, because it never hurts to have something to aspire to. It never hurts to see what can indeed happen when consistent action is scaled out. That’s the key to making leadership development a potent component in today’s fast paced business environment.

What does feedback really mean? We talk about feedback, but we know that not all feedback is created equal. Feedback should begin with empathy, which is truly understanding the other person's perspective. From there, we want to come forward with evidence that backs up the statements we're going to make to that person. Direct, professional, and straightforward is the name of the game here.

Feedback and accountability go hand in hand within the world of strategically assessing leadership strengths and weaknesses.

What Comprehensive Feedback Isn't

Sometimes it's important to highlight what something isn't before we can really start visualizing what it is constructively. If you want to build or even transform current feedback and accountability processes, here's what to avoid most:

  • Relying on one assessment. There is no perfect assessment, and it's critical to avoid idolizing any assessment as the One True Measure of performance

  • Keeping resources too narrow. This isn't about trying to use as few resources as possible. Pull out all of the tools and see what's reasonable in terms of the specific leader being refined for greater opportunities (the ultimate goal)

  • Don't settle for just covering strengths and weaknesses in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Full insight requires full analysis; KPIs are just a shortcut.

Collecting quantitative data is important, but don’t skip the opportunities to collect qualitative data along the way as well. For example,

Breaking Down Strategic Leadership Assessment - The Best Path Forward for Growth

In order to get the growth needed to stay competitive, it's time to go back to the drawing board. What does strategic leadership assessment look like in action? Well, the important point is that it begins with realizing the end goal: you're getting insight into an individual's makeup and identifying what their true strengths and weaknesses are. We're going back to the 3D Leadership model as one of the key foundational points of this plan.

Staying the Course

Motivation is a big topic in the business world because we're used to watching people quit. Why do people quit before they've reached the finish line? Sometimes it's a matter of not being able to visualize the end. Or perhaps it's not having enough milestones to reflect upon as they move deeper into their journey. Not everyone will finish their leadership development plan, or approach it with enthusiasm.

Reassurance isn't a bad thing, and it can help bolster morale to the point where employees buy back in. For entry-level employees, leadership development can feel impossible because they're starting their journey with a lot to cover. For the more seasoned leader, development often takes a "been there, done that" feeling.

Dive Deeper Into Refinement With Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development

Digging into the roots of better leadership development isn’t an easy journey. Yet it is absolutely essential for companies of all sizes.

Did you miss the deep dive on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.

Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.

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