Assessment gaffes

A poll by jobs website reed.co.uk finds that HR professionals are increasingly using assessment tools in the hiring process. Nic Paton takes a look at some assessment horror stories, as recounted by respondents.

According to the reed.co.uk poll, jobseekers say that the worst assessments are those they feel to be irrelevant, humiliating or unfair. Badly-organised assessments are another no-no, while keeping candidates waiting for hours or putting them through a two-day assessment for a low-level job is also frowned upon.

Group interviews are the most difficult to manage in what was perceived to be a fair way, and psychometric tests are commonly not properly explained or put into context, meaning that questions can appear facile or unfair. 

Here’s what some jobseekers said:

Irrelevant assessments

“I did a role-playing situation regarding managing a difficult employee. But the role was for an office-based analyst with no staff responsibilities.”
“Personality-tested participants were discouraged from being Sun newspaper readers or enjoying Carry On films.”
“There were 17 questions on the phone for a major retailer. But the questions were all for the clothes section, and I was applying for food.”
“I was asked to build a horse using only paper.”
“I was asked if I shave my armpits, I assume to check my attitude.”
“They asked ‘how do you get on with your dad?’, which I found irrelevant and intrusive.”

Inappropriate assessments

“I applied for a management position with a company, and at the interview, they got me to organise coloured blocks into a set arrangement while timing me.”
“I was asked to assemble a PC. The job was for a high-level network engineer.”
“I underwent a three-hour assessment/role play for part-time weekend work in a retail outlet.”

Humiliating assessments

“Group interviews are the most demoralising, and only indicate that the company/HR manager has little regard for the candidates’ feelings.”
“I had to do a 30-minute presentation, which was an absolute nightmare, and then had the grilling of my life after the presentation, too.”
“I was asked if I was good at making tea: obviously I was not amused. I did not get the job because ‘I didn’t have a sense of humour’.”

Badly-organised assessments

“There was a technical test where the invigilator did not understand the questions.”
 “I had a 45-minute competency-based interview with a renowned retail organisation, where I was required to think of difficult examples of my experience on the spot. The office worker who entered my answers into the computer system stopped me mid-flow to ask for time to type my answer in. Asking at the end of the interview if I had any questions, she lacked the knowledge and/or experience to answer any of them.”

Easy-to-fudge assessments

“I’ve had psychometric tests that can be answered a number of different ways to produce totally different results. They prove nothing about an individual’s capabilities for the job.”
“I hate ‘how would you react in this situation?’-type questions. People always write what is expected of them. But I equally dislike the ‘10-minute chat’ interview, it’s sloppy.”
“The 16PF test is facile questions based on simplistic personality categories.”
“‘Describe one time when you have shown…’ these types of questions are mainly implemented by Government-run organisations and tend to focus on a skill shown at one point in time, rather than looking for a trend where the skill is present.”

For more information on assessments, turn to Assessing the odds on page 20 in this week’s Personnel Today

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