The treasury select committee was told this week that the disgraced former chairman of the Co Op Bank was appointed to the post because he did better than rival candidates in the psychometric tests. Well I don't believe it. I have had lots of involvement in the recruitment of senior managers and psychometric tests are frequently used as part of an assessment centre approach based on using a range of technics which may include an intray exercise, a role play or observed group discussion plus the traditional interview with presentation. But nobody in my experience is ever given the job because they did an outstanding test. For a start psychometric tests are not just the old IQ test they include candidates expressing preference which are then used to identify personality traits of which there are clearly no right and wrong answers.
In theory if two candidates were equally qualified and experienced and both performed well in interview, the psychometric test results could be used to decide but it won't. The chair of the interview panel might turn to another panel member and say,"well they are both appiontable, it's your post, you are the one who will be working closely with them, it's your decision." However the interview process for senior posts in the public sector often involves large interview panels. The chair will go round the table asking how each panel member has scored individual candidates in the hope of revealing a clear winner. More often than candidates might think two or even three names come out. Each panel member will then be asked to justify or explain there score. At this point it will become clear that there is no agreement on what is a good answer. The panel agreed the questions but neglected to agree the answers. It turns out a good answer is short and clear not complex,technical and long winded. The questions weren't intended to test knowledge or probe too deeply experience since this was covered in the short listing. The scoring reveals how well the individual came across, communication skills, ability to tailor the message to the audience,confidence and like-ability. Which is why management consultants and candidates often refer to the process as a beauty parade.
Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk