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How psychometric testing improves diverse hiring

People. They are the most powerful and inspirational creatures on the planet. But at times, also the most foolish creatures on the planet. 

Putting people with different backgrounds, skills and personalities together in a group is a proven success formula to make the ‘impossible’ possible.

Unfortunately, events such as Black Lives Matter have also proven that, despite being aware of the power of diverse groups of people, we not only still tend to form groups with the people within our comfort zone, but we also have non-fundamental views on people that might be outside our comfort zone, based on their background, skills or personalities. 

This also happens in a hiring setting. When looking for a new team member, we tend to hire people who are similar to the people we already have in our teams – knowing that our team performances will be far behind from those of teams who did differentiate themselves through people.

This is a result of our unconscious bias. The mechanism that allows us to make 10,000 decisions a day – but also the mechanism that stimulates us to base hiring decisions on our non-fundamental and subjective views on people.

So, how do we hire more diverse people? Or in other words: how do we challenge our unconscious bias? The answer is actually quite simple. If we want to challenge our unconscious bias, we need to provide our brains with new perspectives on a person. And that’s where psychometric testing comes in. 

Psychometric testing: An introduction

Psychometric tests are standardised and scientific methods, used to test a person’s mental capabilities and behaviour – mostly cognitive skills (such as logical reasoning) and personality traits. Most companies from all across the globe started introducing psychometric tests in the recruitment process over the last 10 years. The reason why psychometric testing appeals to so many companies is because it provides them with more objective insights on a candidate to base their hiring decisions, which can’t be easily identified through reading a resume or conducting a job interview. 

How methods changed, while the goal remained the same

As I mentioned, psychometric tests serve the purpose of providing decision makers with more reliable and valuable insights on a candidate, which should ultimately lead to better and fairer hiring decisions. However, reliability not only turned out to be its goal, but its largest challenge too. 

Over the last 5 years, psychometric tests have developed enormously, after some reliability issues were revealed in their traditional methods. A well-known example here is the traditional personality questionnaire, which we now all know can easily be answered in a socially desirable manner. Another example is the traditional number series test, measuring logical reasoning. Since this test is only taking answers into consideration, rather than the steps taken to come to these answers, it leaves out valuable behavioural insights. 

Gamification is a popular example of a recent innovation within the field of psychometric testing. More and more companies now prefer gamified assessments over traditional assessments, since it stimulates unconscious behaviour, leaves no room for social desirability and focuses on a larger data set to base its score calculations. This is all with the aim to collect reliable insights on a person’s skills and personality traits/behaviour.

One last clarification: What diversity hiring is not about

So now that we know what psychometric testing is all about, there’s one last thing I’d like to clarify before explaining how psychometric testing improves diversity hiring. And that’s what diversity hiring is not about. 

man with his back to the camera looking at a board of charts and drawings

Hiring without bias vs hiring for minorities

Diversity hiring is a hiring approach focused on ensuring that the hiring procedure is free from biases related to a candidate’s age, gender, race and other demographic characteristics unrelated to job performance. In other words: hiring diversity is focused on ensuring a fair process. Therefore, this is not about positively discriminating minorities. Some companies apply positive discrimination within certain positions, but that’s not necessarily a pillar of hiring diversity. 

Psychometric testing and diversity hiring

Alright, so now that we understand what psychometric testing and diversity hiring are, there’s only one piece of the puzzle left. How does psychometric testing contribute to diversity hiring?

Contribution 1: Psychometric testing as a means to objectify hiring (demographic diversity)

The first and most obvious contribution of psychometric testing to diversity hiring is the fact that these tests objectify your candidate evaluations, simply because the results of these tests provide you with reliable facts about a candidate. These facts, providing you with insights into a candidate’s fit with your hiring needs, are crucial to challenge your unconscious biases, which are often for 60-70% based on a candidate’s visible characteristics – age, gender, etc. Or in other words: A candidate’s demographics. 

Contribution 2: Psychometric testing as a means to stimulate neurodiversity

A second dimension of diversity, apart from a person’s demographics, is neurodiversity. This type of diversity focuses more on a person’s neuro-characteristics, such as cognitive abilities and personality traits. In fact, this is the type of diversity that companies are actually looking for, because your neuro-characteristics determine how you look at problems, how you analyse a problem, how you interact within a group, and so forth. However, neurodiversity is of course highly challenging to measure, compared to demographic diversity. That’s why companies focus on and report on demographic diversity. 

Since there’s a correlation between certain demographics and neuro-characteristics, however, demographic diversity can still contribute to neurodiversity. The perfect example (although it’s a bit generalised) is the fact that females on average are better multitaskers than males. In contrast, males tend to take a bit more risk, whereas females can be more risk-averse. Again, this is quite generalised, but it still applies to the majority of cases. So this makes demographic diversity still quite an unreliable measurement to focus on. 

The nice thing about psychometric testing is that you could leverage psychometric tests to get an overview of your current team composition (the cognitive skills and personalities within your team). Such information can be used to search for candidates with different cognitive skills and personalities, in order to further improve your neurodiversity. This requires more effort than the first contribution, but you could consider this as an advanced usage of psychometric tests. 

Alright, let’s summarise

Let’s summarise what you’ve learned from reading this blog:

  • Psychometric tests are standardised and scientific methods, used to test a person’s mental capabilities and behaviour – mostly cognitive skills (such as logical reasoning) and personality traits.
  • Diversity hiring is a hiring approach that is focused on ensuring that the hiring procedure is free from biases related to a candidate’s age, gender, race and other demographic characteristics that are unrelated to job performance. In other words: diversity hiring is all about making fair hiring decisions based on objective insights, instead of focusing on unimportant characteristics that cause bias. 
  • The first contribution of psychometric testing is that it provides you with objective insights on a candidate that help you evaluate a candidate’s fit with your needs.
  • The second contribution of psychometric testing is that you can leverage it to reveal your current team composition (in terms of neurodiversity), and leverage these insights to look for candidates who can add new skills and personality traits to your team.

Hopefully this has triggered your interest in psychometric tests as a means to hire more diverse people. After all, diversity is not just an act of social responsibility. The commercial imperative of diversity is a proven business case. 

Cheers, Charlotte

Co-Founder & CEO at Equalture

Equalture is an unbiased hiring tool that helps you collect objective insights on skills and behaviour for both your team and candidates to hire the one and only who fits your team and culture. Right at the start of your hiring process.

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