Dr Alex Linley: Are people analytics and psychometric testing essential to recruitment?

When reporting on a company’s financial performance, we don’t ask the CEO how they think the company did. If we want to be sure, we look at the actual financial numbers, metrics and results.

When looking at the monthly sales figures to determine how much investment we can make in new product lines, we don’t say ‘It feels like a good month’, we run the analysis to be sure.

This methodology should be the same in recruitment, but as we all know, it isn’t always the case. If we want to be sure about a candidate, we can’t rely on subjective interviews and personal impressions alone. With humans left to make decisions in the absence of any systematic data based on just their own ‘gut instinct’, it’s no surprise that hiring managers are inevitably subject to some prevalent human biases that include the following:

Halo effect: When you see something good about somebody and you assume that everything about them is good. For example, it’s well-established that candidates who are physically attractive are also assumed to be more intelligent and capable, even though there is no reason that physical looks would be associated with intelligence or capability.

Horns effect: Here when you see something less desirable about somebody, you assume that everything else about them is also undesirable. This could be to do with how they are dressed, their hairstyle or their general presentation, but again, we can fall into the trap of thinking that everything about them is ‘bad’.

Primacy effect: This is when we are influenced by the first person we have seen and they become the benchmark by which others are judged – because we are more likely to remember them, being first. This could be good or bad depending on the quality of that first candidate, but it certainly isn’t fair on the people who follow. It’s simply an accident of scheduling.

Recency effect: This is when we judge everyone relative to the most recent person that we have interviewed, remembering only the things about this most recent candidate as the comparison. Again, this can be good or bad depending on the quality of this candidate, but it cannot help but anchor our judgements about other candidates as well, rightly or wrongly.

‘Like me’ bias: This is perhaps the most pernicious of all biases, since it is the one that most gets in the way of diversity and inclusion in hiring. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ is very true of people as well, so we need to be especially careful of avoiding the ‘like me’ trap. This is seen in places when forming a view of somebody based on the university they attended, the subject they studied, or even the football team they support or how they wear their hair. Sadly, I’ve even seen cases of these decisions being made – by people who should know better – based on whether somebody likes cricket!

By being aware of these inherent human biases, we can work to overcome them. Through using consistent assessment formats, embracing the power of people analytics and data, we can put them to one side once and for all.

When we measure things objectively – which is what people analytics and psychometric assessment are focused on doing – then we can reliably compare and contrast people to see what is working, what isn’t and why. This is why people analytics and psychometric assessment are so critical to getting recruitment right, because they provide the data to better inform what could otherwise be subjective and very fallible decisions.

To get recruitment right, we need to know we are looking for, why we are looking for it and how we are going to assess it.

The what is defined by a process like success analysis, where we work with you to understand the parameters and definition of success in the role. How is that measured? What does it look like? What does it take to get there? Success analysis done well not only answers these questions, but also provides the validity framework and legal defensibility for why you are then going to take the hiring decisions that follow.

The why is defined by the outcomes that we want to achieve to deliver success in the role and the organisation overall. Are these success criteria more sales, higher customer satisfaction, improved retention, a better mix for diversity and inclusion, greater team cohesion or all of the above? When you know what you’re aiming for, you have a far better chance of getting there. Data can help guide you and keep things on track.

The how is defined by the process that you follow to deliver these outcomes. We know from over a decade of research and practice with our enterprise clients that authentic assessment, provided in an immersive way that represents the context of the role, consistently delivers the best results. Candidates are at their best when they can show their authentic best selves. When organisations can be explicit in showing people what they need to do in the role through immersive job previews it makes a big difference. Get these things right and the chances of finding the right match that will sustain over time are so much greater.

This what, why and how of recruitment all rests on having the right data, whether from people analytics, psychometric assessment or behavioural strengths-based interviews. Whatever the data source, paying attention to the right data will always yield the best results. As the great psychologist Carl Rogers once said, ‘The facts are always friendly.’





Dr Alex Linley is the CEO and Co-Founder of Capp and its international brand Cappfinity. The company is a leading provider of assessment and development solutions, with more than 300 clients worldwide and offices in the U.S, U.K and Australia. A world authority in the field of Positive Psychology, Dr. Linley’s proprietary strengths methodology is the foundation of the company’s offering.
Prior to co-founding Capp Dr. Linley was a distinguished positive psychologist and noted academic. He has authored and edited eight books and published over 150 articles and book chapters. He was Visiting Professor in Psychology at the University of Leicester and Bucks New University and holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Warwick.
Dr. Linley co-founded Capp with a clear purpose: to bring together human insight, data and technology to ‘strengthen the world’ by empowering companies to make informed talent decisions and enabling individuals to thrive in their careers through strengths-based assessment and development.