Monday, 21 February 2011

Pyschometric / Personality / Emotional Intelligence Testing - Part 1

One of my ideas that led me to setting up this blog was about capturing my experiences of the recruitment processes currently in practice today. Of special interest, and this is something that everyone should start paying attention to, is the topic of Pyschometric Testing, sometimes known as Pesonality, Intelligence or Emotional Intelligence testing.

Apart from my knowledge gained from a few books and training seminars on project management, I hadn't realised this topic has now become mainstream in the recruitment process. Despite how you might feel about silly multiple choice questions on scenarios that least describe you, best describe you, or your dislike of solving number puzzles, abstract shape puzzles and logic problems - that they have no direct bearing on the workplace and isn't an accurate measure of the person you really are...well, get used to it - companies are relying more and more on the results of these tests to provide them the guidance they seek in making you an offer or not. Yes, in some companies, it's the deciding factor on whether you get the job or not!

So this came as a surprise to me in my recent foray on to the job market. I've been working for the same company since 2003, started as a software engineer and climbed the ladder to senior software engineer, then switched to junior project manager and climbed again to senior project manager, and about to switch again to become a principal engineer / technical project manager. In my 8 years at this company, I managed to switch roles and progress internally, between various departments since the company was big enough - and all the interviews were basically check-ups with colleagues and previous managers. I hadn't been through the real, full interview process in 8 years, so you could say I was starting from scratch.  I was (and still am) looking for a new challenge, something that'll not only stimulate me mentally, intellectually and emotionally but also to be more meaningful.

As Rob Sutton in his excellent book Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to be the Best... and Learn from the Worst says something along the lines: A meaningful job is one which has these 3 traits: 1) It must be challenging; 2) Degree of Autonomy & 3)Efforts must be rewarded.  Over the years I've found the job less challenging, and despite my heroic efforts, sadly the rewards aren't that great any more. So time for me to move on...

My experience with Pyschometric Tests
My very first pyschometric test was for my first job as an engineer-in-training, straight out of university. Surely enough, the results of that test revealed that I was very efficient, logical, analytical, enjoyed the detail and solving problems - the traits one would look for in an engineer fresh out of university. And the feedback from HR was that my profile sat within the range of all the graduates recently hired, and expected from people with a technical, engineering background.
Personality tests follow largely the same pattern, although the area is abound with research proposing different strategies for measurement and metrics. Like all things dealing with the pyschological, it is difficult to measure and report based on traditional, scientific research which is largely empirical. However, the results cannot be ignored since there are observable and measured from a different perspective.

Nevertheless, I'm of the opinion that a multiple choice test of 60-120 statements with varying degrees of responses, typically: 1) Strongly Agree 2) Agree 3) Neither Agree nor Disagree 4) Disagree 5) Strongly Disagree - for a variety of statements (e.g. I can be described as someone who keeps a tidy desk, or At times of pressure my desk can become untidy which is OK, I plan my work out in detail to the letter, Always planning ahead,  etc) - and summing up this test with some analysis thus producing a report on the type of person you're likely to be, and whether you're good enough for the job - doesn't really cut the mustard for me. The report, though astonishingly correct at most places, tends to fail just when you need it to work - as I'll show you in the next section.

The BBC Recruitment Process
The British Broadcasting Corporation is well known throughout the world, a huge, monolithic giant of an organisation offering a multitude of jobs in various categories that make up the broadcasting television and radio world. What better company to aim for than the BBC in my quest for the perfect job, and also as a natural and sensible move for me to move to a different company in the same domain as I am. Since recruiters will often tell you that your chances of making a complete jump to a different industry and to maintain current expectations of salary, are slim - unless you make a good impression...a point which I disagree with, because I believe one can be a jack of all trades and competent in a variety of areas (but that's a topic for another post).

So the BBC have set-up this elaborate online process of screening candidates. You have to register online, setup an account, answer some questions, submit a CV and a profile; propose the roles and areas you'd be interested to work in. In my case I chose the technology/engineering category related to software and seeking mid-to-senior management positions. Filling in the online forms was ok, the next part comes as a surprise an one needs to ensure enough time has been set aside to proceed. You will need about 2-3 hours to go through the series of tests, that once started cannot be paused and continued later. The tests are timed, so there is a countdown timer for the element assessing response under pressure...What they tell you is that these tests are designed to highlight one's strengths and weaknesses in areas relevant to the role they're seeking...Anyway, unknowingly I proceeded with the next steps, amidst my noisy house of kids and interruptions and somehow managed to get through the battery of tests successfully. I know this because, you wait a few weeks for the results to find out if you're through to the next stage ;-)

I am still waiting for a position to come up with the BBC, but it was a good taste of what's to come in future. I will now talk you through my own results, and comment on the output - if I agree or disagree, etc.

My Feedback Report from BBC
I've shared with you the complete report on Google Docs. I'll briefly go through the feedback for each category here, along with my brief responses to the accuracy of BBC's intelligent interpretation, which of course is based on 30 years of data mined from a history of similar tests and applicants ;-)

Inductive Reasoning Ability
This assessment measures the ability to identify specific patterns in data or situations and generalise that information to broader contexts. It provides an indication of the ability to solve complex problems using limited information...This form of reasoning is commonly required to support work and decision making in many different types of jobs at many levels...This report provides information regarding an individual's ability to accurately identify missing pieces in complex figures and select appropriate next steps in a series of figures

You demonstrate an above average level of inductive reasoning ability compared to others in similar job levels. You are likely to be very skilled at working with fairly complex concepts and should be able to quickly identify trends, patterns, and key facts from abstract information.
At work, you are likely to understand and interpret complex data quickly and make well-reasoned decisions based on newly acquired ideas and the central relationships amongst them. You demonstrate the ability to examine information from multiple perspectives, think strategically, and combine new concepts with existing knowledge to solve complex problems.
You have the ability to see the underlying relationship between many moving parts. Use this ability to identify the commonalities between recurring issues at work

My Verdict: Yes, that's sounds about right, thanks 


This component measures the tendency of one's sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others, as well as the extent to which he/she values agreement among co-workers. This trait can be viewed as valuing cohesion; being helpful and co-operative with others; and easily accepting other people.

You are likely to be very accepting and considerate of others, and to be open to others' attempts to build relationships. You may often consider the feelings and opinions of others prior to making important decisions. You may also value teamwork and seek co-operation among co-workers. You may be naturally inclined to be very trusting of others' intentions. 

My VerdictYes, that's sounds about right, but I am not always that trusting. It depends on the situation, politics of the project and politics of the company. In general though I am trusting at the workplace, but outside of work, real-life survival instincts one cannot be too trusting.

Influencing and Persuading
This component measures the tendency of a person's effectiveness in directing and influencing others. This trait is characterised by: persuading and negotiating effectively with others; influencing others' decision making; and co-ordinating others' efforts to accomplish work
Your responses indicate that you may confidently take charge in situations where leadership is needed. You tend to be firm and decisive in your decision-making and others tend to be drawn to you for guidance. You appear to enjoy taking on this role and the attention that typically comes with it. You may also enjoy the opportunity to motivate and direct others and feel a certain obligation to co-ordinate team efforts toward accomplishing goals.

My Verdict: Yes, that's sounds about right, thanks 


This component measures the tendency to work effectively despite changes in co-workers, settings, and environment. This trait is expressed as one's desire for variety and flexibility in work, and a comfort level in the midst of changing circumstances.

You are likely to be somewhat uncomfortable with changes in your work setting. While you are able to make some adjustments when needed, you may be reluctant to adapt to new surroundings. While you may be able to handle additional workload and changes in the environment, you will likely prefer that things remain unchanged unless anticipated and met with adequate preparation. 
My Verdict: No no no no no no no! This is absolute garbage. I find myself very flexible and versatile. I left my country of birth on my on volition, I make my own choices in life. I thrive on the unknown, I switch jobs and roles every 2-3 years because I get bored and look for challenges. I'm not reluctant to adapt to new surroundings!!! This assessment couldn't be further from the truth. I wonder what statements I'd answered to have given such an assessment. So case in point here, this is so untrue of me....

Self Development

This component measures the tendency of one's desire to understand how things work and to seek out opportunities to learn and grow. This trait is described as: a willingness to take advice; asking questions to better understand something; and applying new learning to relevant situations.
You may have a wide range of interests and enjoy learning about all sorts of things. You may find some fulfilment in growing in your knowledge and understanding, and you may actively seek out opportunities for training and development. If constructive feedback is not readily offered, you may seek it out from a variety of sources, including those whose knowledge you admire.
My Verdict: Yes, absolutely on the money here. I'm always striving to learn more and do more. I don't want to settle. In fact, these are qualities of a leader, as Seth Godin in Tribes says about one of the traits of a leader is "Don't Settle".  I'm not unstable, it's just I've got a desire to do different things - to learn as much as a I can about the software product development industry. And so true, I do seek out criticism and feedback from colleagues I work with, how else does one grow??

This component measures the tendency of a person's responsibility for his/her own actions and a commitment to performing assigned tasks. This trait is characterised by: reliability; proactive involvement in work; and a dedication to complete even the most mundane tasks.
Your responses indicate that you tend to plan and prioritise tasks in order to accomplish your work on time and according to expectations. When assigned boring or routine tasks, you tend to focus on your work with the same diligence as you would for more exciting projects. You tend to plan carefully and adhere to expectations when accomplishing even the most challenging work. People may see you as someone they can count on to complete work and to accept responsibility when things go wrong. 

My Verdict: Yes, absolutely...however I do find myself seething sometimes when faced with boring repetitive work that strictly speaking should be done by a project co-ordinator or a junior member of the team. A few times is good, but wasting time repeatedly doing mundane activities when I could be putting fires off, or learning a new skill is not my cup-of-tea. I generally seek out ways to eliminate repetitive work by automation, or cease doing the work if there is no real value from the task. Don't get me wrong, I'm am a team player, but there are some tasks that just shouldn't be assigned to you just to keep you busy....


This component measures the tendency to be thorough and precise in approaching work and personal activities. This trait is characterised by: being accurate; finding and correcting errors; and maintaining order in work and personal affairs.
You are likely to balance efforts to remain organised and orderly with the need to get things done. While accuracy is important to you, you sometimes feel that too much time spent on fine details can affect overall productivity. As a result, you may not always take the time to keep track of some information. Your work area is typically organised, but there are times when you struggle to quickly find everything you need.
My Verdict: Not really happy with this one. I am generally highly organised and try to maintain a sense of organisation even with the lowest priority tasks, however, there may be an element of truth of slight disorganisation for tasks that are in the low-value, low priority area and sometimes finding that information is a little tricky. But for most of the time, I'm efficient and organised and know what's going on in my work, my team and all around me...I'm one of those people that stores all information in my head, but I don't generally fail on communicating the important bits...But this is uncanningly true with respect to my current situation at work where I've been at a lull and not really motivated to perform the usual 150% that I deliver....


This component measures the tendency of one's ability to think clearly and objectively during times of stress or intense pressure. This trait is often described as "grace under fire" and is further characterised by operating under a positive outlook despite criticism, worries, and guilt.
Your responses indicate that you are likely to become upset and discouraged by criticism. When confronted by stressful situations, your feelings of doubt and worry may cause you to avoid making important decisions. You may feel vulnerable to the opinions of others and may tend to worry about situations that are beyond your control. When you experience obstacles and setbacks, you may spend significant time focusing on the situation, making it difficult for you to maintain a positive outlook. 

My VerdictABSOLUTELY NOT!!! HOW DARE THIS ASSESSMENT INSINUATE THIS!!! I approach everything from a professional angle first, look through the evidence and accept the criticism or blame and see it as a learning experience. I do become upset if I'm attacked personally and will stand up for my rights and will maintain my personal, principle and moral ethics. When you're a project manager your job is to worry about the risks, hence things beyond your control...Every situation must be analysed whilst simultaneously preparing for the good/bad outlook as a result. This assessment couldn't be further from the truth...

Situational Judgement
This is a measure of the degree of alignment between one's approach to resolving work-related issues and the expectations of BBC. This is characterised by responding to work-related scenarios in a way that promotes original thinking, connecting with audiences and communities, being open to new ideas, taking responsibility for decisions and actions, and displaying a can-do attitude when faced with obstacles.
Your responses to the work scenarios demonstrated a high level of match with the judgements and behaviours looked for by the BBC. The BBC values and promotes original thinking, connecting with audiences and communities, being open to ideas and partnerships, taking responsibility, and having a can-do attitude.
My Verdict: Yes, interesting then...why haven't the BBC called me up yet?? :p

1 comment:

  1. To be honest, I did get called to London for an interview for 4 different roles at the same interview, but wasn't successful because apparently I'm burdened with too much process & methodology, and not "Agile-enough" as the nature of BBC projects are always changing, dynamic, not rigid like NDS's product development I was too heavyweight.

    Regarding the feedback assessement, response from BBC HR:
    Unfortunately we do not have any further feedback to provide, there is no IQ score on the test (it is numerical and verbal reasoning). You passed the online assessment and are currently in the talent pool for Technology (experienced).