x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A fitness test for recruiters

The Life: How can psychometric tests help job-seekers in today's competitive market?

Gallup Consulting in Abu Dhabi conducts psychometric tests for other companies, as well as using it on its own employees.
Gallup Consulting in Abu Dhabi conducts psychometric tests for other companies, as well as using it on its own employees.

The mere mention of a psychometric test is enough to send shivers down the spines of most job seekers, but what can it really reveal about you?

Some claim its roots stretch back more than 2,200 years, when the Chinese emperor of the time tested potential recruits to assess their fitness for office.

Others say its origins lie in techniques used by the 17th century English naval administrator and diarist Samuel Pepys to select officers.

A psychometric test usually includes a battery of questions or statements, each of which has a graded answer. Candidates have to pick the one they agree with most.

There are two main types of test - those to assess abilities and those designed to reveal personality traits.

Ability tests typically include questions about the use of words and numbers, while personality tests include statements about how you would behave in a range of situations.

If you think it is easy to cheat in a psychometric test, think again. They ask questions on the same theme in different ways to make it harder to hide the truth.

"It helps organisations make accurate predictions about current and future potential and behaviour for people coming on board or for individuals who already exist in the organisation," says Dr Ehssan Abdallah, a principal consultant with Gallup Consulting, which conducts psychometric tests for other companies, as well as using it on its own employees.

Dr Abdallah says the test is so accurate that between 70 and 80 per cent of those who are recommended by Gallup perform in the top quartile of a company's benchmarks immediately after being hired, compared with 50 to 60 per cent of "conditional recommends" and just 10 to 15 per cent of the people they do not recommend.

It may sound a little creepy but an increasing number of employers in the UAE are using it, says Preeti Goyal, a careers adviser for Summit, which provides a range of services including psychometric testing for employers and job seekers.

"It's getting more popular," Mrs Goyal says. "There is better awareness and people are more conscious of investing money in recruitment. It's in demand, especially by larger companies."

A spokesman for Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia), which has used psychometric testing to assess all potential recruits since 2003, says it is a useful but not infallible tool to support the interview process.

"Adia's assessment programme, which is tailored specifically to our needs, allows us to develop personality profiles of potential recruits and to measure their intellectual abilities against a range of criteria, including abstract, verbal and numerical reasoning, as well as critical thinking," he says.

"Together, the information provides us with a more rounded profile of a candidate and often serves to highlight particular strengths or development areas.

"It also gives us insights into cultural fit. While it is important, of course, that a candidate has the technical competency to perform a role, we believe it is equally vital that people who join Adia also share our cultural values and will be happy working here.

"This is something we look at very closely in our assessments and is one of the reasons, we believe, that Adia has such a low turnover."

Ahmed al Marzouqi, the recruitment manager at Mubadala Development, says the company has been using psychometric testing to vet recruits since 2004.

"Psychometric testing gives us an indication of the personality of the individual," Mr al Marzouqi says. "Most of the recruiters here are certified in it.

"Until now we have used it only on selected employees, which is associate level and below, but now as per the new HR transformation we are going through in recruitment it will be for all levels.

"When Mubadala [a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government] was a small company of less than 100 employees, there was no need for the manager and above to take these assessments but now we're aiming to be 700 there will be."