Testing the testers

Online
pyschometric testing has had its critics, but in theory the Internet is the
perfect delivery mechanism for candidate assessment. Our Type Perfect guinea
pig reports on the user experience at three sites. By Sue Weekes

So,
would the tests confirm what I believed? That I am a team-playing, high-energy
individual who shies away from leadership but is happy to take responsibility
for my own patch. While we’re interested to see if the results match up to the
self-perception, this experiment is more about assessing the user experience
when it comes to pyschometric testing for HR professionals who may be
considering its use.

I
chose three companies: SHL, The Test Agency and ERAS. From ERAS I sampled its
free trial personality profiler test. For the other two, I was given a password
and user ID to access each site because ordinarily the recruiter would be the
client and not the candidate. With both SHL and the Test Agency, I would be
sitting the test having already built up some kind of relationship with my potential
new employer. It’s also important to bear in mind that when it comes to
results, the client would receive more feedback and supporting material than
the candidate profile that I received.

Test
one: SHL

Whose
test?
SHLSolutions.com is the online arm of SHL Group, which has provided
pyschometric testing to the HR world for over 30 years. The test is one of the
tools within SHLSolutions.com’s recruitment, selection and development service.

Methodology
The test comprises 230 statements, which SHL estimates takes 35-40 minutes to
complete, but there is no time limit. It took me around 25 minutes to do the
test. For each statement, I was asked to strongly agree, agree, disagree or
strongly disagree. There was also an ‘unsure’ option, although the test discouraged
me from selecting this wherever possible. I was asked to think of work or
similar situations when answering rather than domestic or social situations.

User
experience

Easy to use and although 230 statements seemed daunting, I actually got through
them much quicker than I had anticipated. This was partly because I found that
the longer I dwelled on each one, the more likely I was to opt for unsure, the
option it discourages. It’s fair to say though, that I certainly felt more
stimulated at the beginning of the test than towards the end.

Results
Overall, extremely accurate. The report says that the description of behaviour
is likely to be valid for around 18-24 months, depending on work role and
personal circumstances. It is broken down into three main categories:
relationships with people, which covers influence, sociability and empathy;
thinking style, covering analysis, creativity and change and structure; and
feelings and emotions, covering emotion and energy and drive. There wasn’t too
much that I disagreed with in the results and the questions had managed to
extract the dichotomy that while I like to invest energy consulting and
listening to others and have a strong interest in colleagues, I also have a
tendency to talk about myself and my successes – not the most attractive trait
in the world. The analysis was sufficiently detailed to make me feel like I’d
learned something about myself (it reminded me of my enjoyment at discussing
hypothesis at work, which I’d lost sight of over the years) and it’s certainly
valid for HR professionals. No areas for improvement were given in the report
but bear in mind the potential recruiter receives far more information than I
received.

Overall
perception

Easy to use and readable results.

User
experience: 8/10

Test
two: ERAS

Whose
test?

ERAS Ltd, a management consultancy serving HR for 20 years. The Quest
Personality Profiler test I sat is currently available on its site for free.

Methodology
The test comprises 220 statements which ERAS claims takes around 20 minutes to
complete and this proved fairly accurate in my case. Statements are broken down
into groups of five and I was asked to say which statements in the block
described me best and which describes me least well. The site says not to spend
too long on each one and to consider them in a work context. Before starting
the test it gathers some personal data such as age, gender, industry sector and
position.

User
experience

There were a few occasions when I found it difficult to come down on the side
of best and least well, and hankered after a middle ground option. The need to
be black and white in my responses meant that I dwelled longer on some of the
statements and so gave a less instinctive and intuitive response.

Results
Responses were calculated within a few seconds, which is what today’s
generation of Internet users would expect. I was first given a set of ratings
out of 10 for a number of attributes, which were broken into four groupings:
people (including assertiveness, influence, social ease, outgoingness,
team-working); thinking (including curiosity, creativity, strategy and
analysis); feeling (including freedom from stress, sensitivity, optimism and
buoyancy); and drive (including reliability, need for challenge and risk
aversion). If I scored five or six, then it meant I was in line with most
people. I rated six in the majority of categories and higher in the areas of
team-working and supportiveness, which was what I’d expect. Following this I
received my profile chart, which in the main proved that five or six was normal
and any higher and lower than this was a more marked response. Descriptions are
concise, although an IT glitch struck on some of mine which led to me, the
out-and-out team player, to be told ‘that I don’t work productively alongside
others’. However, after discussing this matter with ERAS, the company confirmed
that it was a glitch that has since been rectified – but it does go to prove
that in an online world, things can go awry. Having read descriptions of
ratings, I then clicked to view competencies, which sets out a number of
strengths and development needs. I found I had a bounty of strengths – 19 –
most of which I agreed with, and while this was good for my ego, my lack of
development needs (just one: information gathering), left me feeling that I’d
been short-changed when it came to areas I should work on.

Overall
perception

Easy to use and thorough package of responses that are delivered within seconds
– and it’s currently free to use. Certainly a worthwhile 30 minutes.

User
experience: 7/10

Test
three: The Test Agency

Whose
test?

The Test Agency claims it was the first UK test publisher to offer a full
online service and this has been delivered through its partnership with US-based
Pan Testing. Its first online tests appeared four years ago and the full
Pan-based system has been available for more than two years.

Methodology
The test comprises 100 adjectives and phrases commonly used to describe
different aspects of behaviour. The site asked me to indicate to which extent
each one describes my typical behaviour at work and I was given the following
options: very accurately; quite well; moderately; a little; and not at all. It
took around 20 minutes to complete the test and there is no time limit on it.

User
experience

The inclusion of a middle-ground option (moderately) as in the ERAS test helped
move swiftly through the questions instinctively rather than dwelling too long.
Because there were only 100, divided into five pages, responses remained fresh
throughout. Clients are able to view the testing process from the inside while
the candidate is performing the test.

Results:
Extremely detailed and I liked the way it put my score (or sten) in context
with the population. That said, having known that my score for agreeableness
(10) is achieved by 2 per cent of people, I hankered after knowing how the rest
of the population was sliced up when it came to this attribute. Again, results
were much in keeping with self-perception and it picked up on my desire to
sometimes work as a team but also that I will equally choose to work
independently. On the emotional resilience rating, it suggested an impatience
with colleagues that I would refute but maybe that is the test doing a better job
of knowing me than I do myself. Interestingly, I probably emerged as being more
creative in this test than the others taken and was myself surprised to read
that I show some willingness to question traditional rules and assumptions.
This was certainly at odds with the SHL findings that, with hand on heart, I
feel are a truer reflection of me on this matter. Each main section of the
report concludes with a list of work environments that I am likely to work best
in which offers good bite-sized information and throughout the report there is
plenty of indication of areas that could be improved upon.

Overall
perception

Liked the fact that there were less statements to get through and good,
detailed results and feedback.

User
experience: 7/10

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