In my career, I ended up sitting on both chairs of recruitment : as a candidate, and as a hiring manager. I observed (and I’m not the only one) a stupendous progression in the appearance of tools and approaches to recruit faster. This also comes with its share of dangers.
As a hardcore agilist who always had a strong bond with the first value of the Agile Manifesto: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools“, I would like to expose you to some tools usage that I judge questionable and dehumanizing in the recruitment world. It goes without saying that these also represent automatic red flags when the time comes for me to look for a job.
That time when I cheated the hiring process
It was in 2016. Following a phone interview, I had to take a psychometric test and a maths test (for a job that requires 90% of soft skills?). I had only talked to a recruiter so far. Not with my future team, not with my future boss.
After the call during which I was told I’d receive both tests by email, I already knew things wouldn’t go any further. I simply didn’t want to work with a company that chooses employees using algorithms. I want a warm, human connection. I want to be chosen unanimously by people. But I decided to play the game anyway. Why? Well, I was between jobs, I had some free time, and I like doing experiments.
I don’t really recall the psychometric test, but I remember answering very haphazardly, sometimes giving real answers but pushed to their extreme, and sometimes answering the opposite of what I was thinking.
As for the maths tests, it was pretty funny. One had to take it using a desktop computer, and the software would know if I used the calculator, so watch out! I’m not very good at maths, so I got my smartphone, disconnected it from the wifi, and unleashed my calculator using skills.
Since I took the test any old how, I wasn’t expecting much from the results. A few days after accepting an offer in another company, I got a call from the recruiter, letting me know that I passed both tests with brilliant success. Bewildered by this information, I answered that I already accepted an offer elsewhere.
To this day, I still regret stopping there. I should have engaged in a discussion with the recruiter, tell him what I did and see how he felt about that. But I was too astonished to think of doing so.
Personality tests used in hiring processes
Around the same time, another company asked me, following an in-person interview, to fill in the MBTI personality test (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). I know the MBTI personality types quite well myself, as I use these often in team building activities. While it should be taken with a grain of salt, knowing the personality type of a colleague can be of great help when it comes to communicating.
As I already know my personality type, I immediately answered that I’m INFP, excited to learn that a company was interested in these sort of things. Some hesitation, however, slowly started growing in my mind. For anyone who knows this tool, it is tempting to be biased on the how two types relate to one another. One can easily judge that they are incompatible with the type opposite to theirs. Not to mention that there are many prejudices caused by a global misunderstanding of what introversion and extroversion are.
I am an introvert. People who meet me have a hard time believing it. I’m extremely efficient in small groups discussions. I often take all the room. What I don’t say is that I need to isolate myself afterwards to recharge my batteries. But I digress. Extroverts have had the wind in their sails for so long. I was often given warnings: “watch out, this candidate is introverted”. With this in mind, I started feeling that it was a slippery slope to use such a test in an interview. It makes it easy to compare people, to become biased towards certain types at the expense of others, and it’s especially dangerous if one is required to pass that test even before being met.
It is only some time later that I found, on the Myers Briggs Foundation’s ethical guidelines page, the following paragraph:
It is unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants. The administrator should not counsel a person to, or away from, a particular career, personal relationship or activity based solely upon type information.
Upon reading this text, I understood the hesitation that I previously had.
Convenience and ease of use, but at what cost?
Monster, Indeed, Jobboom, LinkedIn. And probably a lot of other tools that I don’t even know of, including in-house tools. There is a wide range of technological means to boost our brand, and it goes for candidates as well as for employers.
When one is suddenly open to new opportunities, it can very quickly spread like a wildfire. And sometimes, it cannot even be stopped. I still get approached to know my interest in positions such as developer (I haven’t touched a line of code since 2013) and as Scrum Master, two roles that I can’t imagine going back to in any foreseeable future.
I love technology, but not at the expense of the human experience.
I once got an offer, with salary and social benefits, without even having talked with someone in person. Their need must have been quite urgent (and I’ll tackle this topic in the second article of this series). No one wondered what I was aspiring for, it was simply taken for granted that the high salary would interest me. Which means they knew nothing about me, and that’s exactly my point : it would have been easy to get to know me by meeting me, or at the very least, calling me.
I don’t believe that these practices are widely used. But it’s the extreme at its worst. Let’s do whatever it takes not to get there any time soon.
Tools are not of great help when it comes to understanding people’s aspirations, what motivates them, the organizational culture they need to be at their natural best, and, most importantly, if they will fulfill their future team’s expectations.
Tools can help us find someone quickly, and hire quickly. But is quantity so important that we need to sacrifice quality? Like all tools, it’s what we do with them that really counts.
And, just to be true to myself, if I’m ever asked the very popular question “What tool should I use to select my candidates”, I shall answer “Have you tried speaking to them?“.
Owner of Primos Populi, partner and coach at Moabi. As a former manager, I prefer to use a “people first, the rest will follow” kind of approach. My favorite topics are organizational culture, safe work environments, and lowering the center of gravity of the decision making process. I cultivate people’s awesomeness.