A Hire Power: Do You Really Want Potential Employers Inside Your Head?

You’re applying for a job and your potential employer asks you to respond to 90 statements like this one:

“I get really angry at co-workers or customers who are annoying.”

Your choices range from “strongly agree,” to “strongly disagree.”

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Do you:

a) Go with your initial impulse and “agree”?
b) Play it safer and “agree slightly”?
c) “Strongly disagree,” assuming that’s the answer the prospective employer wants to hear?

Such is the dilemma you are likely to face (if you haven’t already) as a job applicant today. More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies use online psychological assessments, ostensibly to determine if your personality is a potentially good fit for a particular job and their corporate culture. They have become a hurdle nearly as ubiquitous as the SAT. Dallas-based OutMatch says it provides more than 10 million pre-employment assessments annually for companies ranging from 99 Restaurants to Raytheon. Their assessments are designed to be completed by candidates for every job, from mailroom clerk to CEO.

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Some of the statements the OutMatch Science and Research team developed seem rather innocuous: “I find myself having little to say at parties,” and “I like my work stations to be clean and orderly.” Others are worded in a way that suggests that they can and may be used against you: “I get upset easily at work,” and “I hold grudges against people who offend me.” You don’t need a psych degree to figure out that these could be used to weed out candidates most likely to “go postal.” Ensuring a safer workplace is a noble goal, but such statements could also ensnare those who don’t pose a safety risk. Similarly, an affirmative response to “When I am working, I sometimes feel sad for no reason” could convince an employer that a job-hunter is depressive, and therefore, less productive or more prone to absenteeism.

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