Decrypting Candidate Behaviour with Psychometric Personality Tests

Let’s start with a frightful - but true story. A multi-national consumer goods company needed to hire a sales manager. A comprehensive job description was drawn up and applicants were shortlisted via of their resumes. A candidate was finally hired after a long recruitment process and everyone expected him to settle into his role quickly since he already possessed the required skills. Three months later however, the HR team was reeling with complaints against him regarding his team management skills, abrasive behaviour and his general lack of urgency to get anything done in time. Needless to say, he was out of the company within 5 months of hiring and the same painful cycle of recruitment for his replacement began yet again, squandering time and money that most definitely could have been better utilized somewhere else.

In all probability, this organization would have continued making the same hiring mistakes because their existing recruitment process only captured domain knowledge and requisite job skills and did not focus much on soft skills, temperament, emotional quotient, cultural fit and other key parameters necessary for correctly assessing the job fitment. As Einstein once said, “You can’t be doing the same things and expect different outcomes”.

What would definitely change the outcome in the above scenario is for the organization to recognize that they need to go beyond resumes and personal references to arrive at an accurate system of candidate assessment, one that significantly reduces acquisition costs as well as man-hours involved. Psychometric tests for hiring are a fantastic assessment tool that evaluate a person’s performance across work skills, personality traits, knowledge, abilities, aptitude, intelligence, ethics, etc.

One of the most popular types of psychometric personality tests is the 5-factor model of personality, also known as the OCEAN model, first put forth in 1961, but still favoured even today. In this model, five overarching domains have been found to contain and subsume most known personality traits and are assumed to represent the basic structure behind human personality. These traits, commonly referred to as The Big-5, manifest in behavior, as shown below:

  • Openness to experience is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things. g. an applicant who scores high on this factor may not be able to function well in a role like that of a medical researcher conducting new drug -trials, which could require him to work in an extremely structured, protocol-heavy environment that expects a ‘go by the book’ style of working rather than ‘thinking out of the box’. However someone scoring at the other end of the scale on this factor may just be the right candidate for such a job. This just goes to show that there is no right or wrong score for any of these criteria, just a preferred range depending largely on the job in question.
  • Conscientiousness refers to a tendency to display self-discipline, act dutifully, and strive for achievement. It is related to the way in which people control, regulate, and direct their impulses. High conscientiousness is often perceived as being stubborn and focused. Low conscientiousness is associated with flexibility and spontaneity, but can also appear as sloppiness and lack of reliability. g. very low standing on this factor by a candidate interviewing for the role of the Head of Procurement could reflect the lack of a strong moral compass and raise some red flags with respect to his work ethic.
  • Extraversion is characterized by pronounced engagement with the external world.

Extroverts enjoy interacting with people and are often perceived as full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals. They possess high group visibility, like to talk, and assert themselves. In social settings, extroverted people may appear more dominant as opposed to introverted people. Introverts have lower social engagement and energy levels than extraverts. g. an applicant for the role of Business Development or Corporate Communications manager scoring high on this factor would definitely proceed to the next round.

Introverts, on the other hand, tend to seem quiet, low-key, deliberate, and less involved in the social world. They need less stimulation, and more time alone than extraverts. This does not mean that they are unfriendly or antisocial; rather, they are reserved in social situations. E.g. when you see low scores of an applicant on Extraversion for a Tax Audit role, it may be worthwhile to consider this candidate.

  • Agreeableness reflects individual differences in people’s concern for social harmony. Agreeable individual’s value getting along with others. They are generally considerate, kind, generous, trusting and trustworthy, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature. Individuals who fall on the opposite end of the agreeableness spectrum place self-interest above getting along with others. They are generally unconcerned with others' well-being, and are less likely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others' motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative. E.g. a candidate for a Shop Floor manager role who does not score high on this factor may not consider it important to resolve team conflicts to achieve a goal or ensure that no one is ‘left behind’ when leading his team.
  • Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress, they also tend to be flippant in the way they express emotion. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. g. an applicant for a Front Desk Manager scoring high on Neuroticism may allow their negative emotional reactions to persist resulting in frequent spells of ‘bad mood’, which could also mean they may not be suitable to handle a customer-facing job at all.


Incorporating a psychometric personality assessment within the recruitment strategy has helped thousands of enterprises take informed recruiting decisions because they offer first-hand, reliable information on prospective employees who would fit well with the corporate culture, imbibe their ethical standards, and contribute positively, other than having the requisite work skills.

For the consumer goods company we talked about in the beginning, employing psychometric and cognitive assessments would have immediately identified the top candidates, with clearly defined degrees of competencies and personality traits. The sales manager eventually hired would have had a much better job fit, cultural fit and given an exponentially higher performance than his predecessor. Long gone are the days when hiring managers relied on their ‘instinct’ to eventually choose and hire from a shortlist.  Not only do psychometric assessments bring enormous value to the table by shifting through the applicant pool and highlighting the right people for you, they deliver great ROI with respect to savings in man-hours and resources spent in talent acquisition.

If your organization has this critical piece missing in your talent evaluation process, you might want to seriously consider using psychometric assessment test as your go-to tool for standardized testing of candidates, streamlined recruitment process and for your hiring team’s collective relief.

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