Are executive assessments really worth the trouble? Photo: Shutterstock

Thursday 5th May 2016

Testing my patience

The Secret Candidate: why do employers insist on stupid testing?
The Secret Candidate

The journey to find my next role continues and thank god, as I’d have little else to write about. I doubt you’d want to know about the other comings and goings in the life of a People Director, although we are very interesting, it has to be said.

I recently interviewed for a great role. It really sparked my interest and as usual I threw myself into it with gusto. Well, as much gusto as a reflective introvert can muster anyway. (That was a joke, in case I upset the introverts out there. We are a touchy bunch.)

Interview and chats were going well. I answered questions, laughed in all the right places and was impressed with a couple of questions that actually got me thinking. All good news, I hear you say. Until… the dreaded part of the process called testing came along.

Do you remember those tests? No, neither do I. I mean, when I was looking for a grad job out of university it made sense to understand if I could speak, make shapes and count. But now, maybe, not so much.

If you just asked me what I thought, for example, I would be able to tell you (more accurately than one of the various testing providers) that I am crap at maths, logical to a point (well, until I get totally bored and just start to make things up) and verbally stronger than the norm.

Having known all this since I was 16, I’ve worked on my shortcomings. After all, being a commercial People Director who can’t add up their headcount isn’t great for business.

Smashing it out

As anyone approaching a task like this does, I panicked. I ‘picked the low hanging fruit’ (hate myself for writing that) and did the verbal test (easy) and then the logic test (fine for five minutes but I got bored, so…)

And in the meantime I practiced my maths like a well-coached director should. I eventually built up the confidence to smash it out, with the inevitable unfortunate outcome.

Now, who am I to say that these tests are not an important part of any process? I mean, I think it says a lot about the business that’s hiring more than anything else. And as a candidate, that might raise alarm bells.

My concerns were further compounded when I was told the maths tests were actually for mid-level accountancy – which I hadn’t applied for, last time I checked in with the headhunter.

Large business box-ticking exercises, such as testing, for me suggest that everyone has to be put through the sheep-dip without any real regard for the role being applied for.

Another test is the wonderful personality profile. You know – the one where they say there are no ‘wrong answers’ and ‘don’t think about it too much’.

I once did one of these tests whereby the company was so obsessed with the test and its output that there were right answers and you did have to think about it too much. I decided to leave that one well alone. Cloning isn’t my thing.

So, for all you employers out there, testing is a minefield. If you’re using it to tick a box, I’d have a strong word with yourself.

If you’re asking people to complete tests that have little bearing on their job role, I would have a very strong word with yourself.

And, if you run a business whereby the only reason that you employ people is because they fit your personality profile, regardless of talent, then seriously have a word with yourself.

Because it’s called diversity, and you are an idiot.

About the author

The Secret Candidate

The Secret Candidate has been an HRD in various, well-known UK companies. He's currently looking for a role in the south of England. Offers of interviews are welcomed, but make sure you get your recruitment house in order first.