Behavioral Assessment Tools: Fun, Not Fearful

It’s been our experience that, initially, some folks are a bit hesitant or afraid to take a personality assessment.  Their primary concern is usually worrying about how they will “look” to their boss, or prospective employer.  However, it’s also been my experience that once I have an opportunity to talk with these individuals, their perception turns from suspicious and fearful, to viewing the tool as valuable and fun.  It’s fun for team members to share their results with each other, with their manager, and even with their family!  It’s also fun for me, talking to our clients and helping them to better understand not only themselves, but to show them how to “diagnose” what makes others “tick” as well.

I often have people tell me that the results are “scary”, “spooky”, “spot on”…some also wonder who in their family I’ve been talking to!  Certainly, our assessment, the ECI Behavioral Insight® not only helps our clients to increase employee productivity and reduce turnover, it is also a valuable tool to team building, coaching, and personal development.  Personally, being a service-motivated individual, I like talking to people about their assessment results, helping them to understand not only what drives their own behavior, but also giving them insight into how to meet their “opposite style” halfway.  For example, it’s fun to hear the “light bulb go on” in a manager’s voice as they relay a story about themselves working with a particular staff member and that they can now pinpoint where the style difference is likely occurring, and how they can change their approach with the individual moving forward.

Remember, when looking at or talking about someone’s personality, there is no “good” or “bad”, we’re simply looking at differences in styles.  Understanding your personality style preferences, and how you relate to others whose style is similar and different from your own, will strengthen your relationships, enhance skills, and increase confidence.

Finding Your Personal Leadership Style

I am often asked if there is a specific personality style that someone needs to have in order to be a successful leader.  I often answer this question by saying yes and no.  I have seen trends that suggest that certain personality types are more successful leaders, but then you always find people that don’t “fit the mold” and are highly successful.  This brings us back to the question of whether great leaders are born that way or whether you can develop skills necessary to become a successful leader.  I think that some people are born with natural leadership tendencies, but that the people who aren’t can learn how to master those skills.

In order to understand your own natural style, you should take a personality assessment.  I would not suggest using a style inventory like the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, MBTI or the DISC profile, because these assessments only give you an overall style of your personality.  I suggest taking a trait based assessment like the ECI Behavioral Insight®, which allows you to understand individual traits and why you have certain behavioral preferences.  This is where you really discover your personal style.  Once you recognize your personal or leadership style, then you can work on developing the factors that can drive success in leadership roles.

Using your personality results you can work on your areas that you feel are holding you back from being a better leader. Maybe you need to work on your communication style, decision making or organization skills.  I suggest working on only a few skills a year and focusing on one strength as well as one of your weaknesses or developmental opportunities.

Would you like to learn more about Leadership Development or try the ECI Behavioral Insight®? If so, email us today!

How Companies Are Making Better Hiring Decisions

For the last few years, companies were instituting hiring processes that included a number of best practices, but were avoiding the use of tools, such as personality assessments, to assist them in identifying the best candidates. Today,  we are seeing a significant increase in the use of particularly effective personality assessments to enable hiring managers to learn more about the candidate’s natural motivation and talents before they make the hiring decision.

The reasons were varied as to why personality assessments became less used.  I believe that one reason was that we saw too much litigation from unhappy and unsuccessful candidates.  As a result, employers began to shy away from using any tool that could significantly differentiate one person from another.

But the world is changing.  Today, companies understand how expensive it is to hire a new person, how much time it takes to train a new person, and then how much effort it takes to address the disillusionment that arises for the rest of the team when we dismiss that person because they simply did not fit very well in the job or the company’s culture.

So, if you are around long enough, the trends always return.  Today,  companies are again looking for valid and reliable tools to assist them in making better hiring decisions.  Today, however, managers are also much more aware of what makes a good test, the importance of ensuring that the test is job related, and they are doing the diligence ahead of time to be certain that the criteria used for selection purposes is in fact able to identify superior candidates.

Here are some best practices to use when you choose a tool to use within your selection process:

  1. Make sure that the instrument you choose is valid and reliable.  Ask the test provider for study documentation and test user references to prove to you that other reputable companies are using the tool for selection purposes and that the tool meets the Department of Labor’s standards for selection.
  2. Be sure that the instrument does not probe into private information about the candidate and that the content is job related.
  3. Look at the way the test results are scored.  Does someone have to interpret the results?  If so, you risk introducing rater bias into the process.
  4. Does the test provider give you a recommendation for each candidate?  Some companies like this feature, while others prefer not to have the recommendation. The important thing is not to put too much reliance on the recommendation itself.  As the hiring manager, you know your requirements best, so don’t rely on others to tell you whom to select.  Performance and match to the job are at the end of the day the most reliable predictors of success.
  5. Use the results to ask more questions so that you can really get to know the candidate more fully.  If you only conduct one or two discussions with the candidate, you will make mistakes and choose someone who doesn’t really match the position at some point in your selection process.
  6. Make sure you know what you are looking for in the candidate.  What skills, abilities, talents and capabilities do you really need to move your organization forward?  Think about this before the first candidate comes in, not after you become enamored with someone who has a whole lot of capability, but is not really a good match for the job.
  7. Check references.  Don’t use the excuse that you can’t get good information about a candidate’s background or prior performance. Hire a good reference checking service to help out with this part of the process.  Better to know the bad news before you make the hiring decision if it is there to be uncovered.

If you would like to know more about personality testing and how such a tool can help you make better hiring decisions, call us to talk.  We can help you build a best practice selection process that includes the necessary steps and tools to find the best new hire possible.

What Makes a Good Personality Test?

There are many different sorts of personality tests, word list choices (which is most like me or least like me), statement list choices, rate this statement as to how much it reflects who you are, picture tests asking you to interpret what you are seeing, lickert scale response tests, ipsative tests and a host of others.  How do you know which one is the best to use for hiring or developmental purposes?

I think the first question to ask yourself is “what am I trying to accomplish?”  Is it an issue of finding out if the person might work well in a team made of other diverse individuals?  Is it an issue of finding out if the individual matches the criteria for success you have identified in your environment?  Is it an issue of understanding what you will need to do to develop the individual after you hire him/her and will you invest the funds?  Or is it an issue of getting the test to make your selection for you?

The first three questions are fine uses of personality tests.  The last one is not appropriate.  Any assessment you use should be for the purpose of gathering valid and reliable information to help you or the individual better understand the true capabilities, motivators, potentials or personal styles that the person possesses.  And to ensure that the results you get are valid and reliable, make sure that your assessment meets this criteria:

  1. Does it measure what it purports to measure?  Another way to ask this question is “Is the assessment valid?”  We can get into a long discussion around validity.  Face validity, content validity, context validity…all important.  Is it the right instrument to use in your particular situation?  Does it measure job-specific requirements, motivators and behavioral traits?
  2. Does it measure what it purports to measure consistently?  Another way to ask this question is “Is the assessment reliable?”  Does it consistently produce the same scores for a person through test-retest review in a population?
  3. Is it a tool that is more appropriate for use in team building?  Styles inventories (Myers Briggs, DISC, color grouping inventories) are excellent tools for team building, but assigning a particular quadrant of preferred style is not an ideal way to select staff.  Myers Briggs’ validation literature states that the tool is not appropriate for selection purposes.
  4. Is the tool fakable?  Is it easy for the person to skew the results through answering a particular way or by choosing answers likely for a particular type of person?  One of the problems encountered with lickert scale type tests (ones where the respondent is asked to rate a statement on a scale of 1 to 5) tend to have this issue.  This is the reason that additional items are often used to determine the levels of fakability.  Ipsative tests (forced rank type items, where the individual is presented with a number of statements and asked them to order them) overcome the issue of fakability.  Depending upon how the scoring routine works, the frequently made argument that ipsative tests cause scores to be high in one area, while automatically causing another area to be low, can be overcome.
  5. Does the instrument show good predictive capability?  Can to results predict, consistently and accurately, whether the individual will be a success greater than 75% of the time?  We offer an ipsative assessment that has shown to predict success at better than 97% of the time in some situations.

Personality tests are very useful tools, providing you integrate the use of the instrument within a process and let the tool offer objective information to support your selection process, assist you with developmental planning, or to increase team effectiveness by enabling people to understand how others might be the same or different from themselves.

Prudent Risk Taking and Other Such Terms

Consultants usually have their own jargon that they consistently use to describe various behaviors their clients demonstrate.  Over the years, ECI has devised or adopted several of these terms.  The interesting thing to me is that as we work with clients for the long term, many of them begin to speak in the same terminology.

Here are some of the terms that we have used and that clients have adopted for their internal use.

  • Prudent risk taking – this means that people are able to make decisions on the basis of limited information and that they will rely on their intuition or their gut reaction to choose a course of action
  • Act with urgency – this means that when opportunities arise, individuals with rise quickly to take advantage of the situation, particularly when their is an obvious gain at stake
  • Strong resiliency – this means that people are able to bounce back quickly when things go wrong.  They are able to move forward in the face of setbacks or challenges.
  • High energy – this means people have the gas in their personal tanks to drive action consistently throughout the day
  • Low urgency – this means that people have less drive than may be needed to achieve success in an organization

So where did these terms come from?  Most are adaptations from the scales within our assessment tool, the ECI Behavioral Insight.  Interestingly enough, as clients begin to utilize metrics, they begin to think in those terms.  Such tools provide an objective benchmark system against which to compare various individuals or groups of individuals within an organization. They become descriptors of the culture and enable team members to understand what good behavior looks like.

In a way, I suppose, this is a compliment to us and our work.  To me, it is a way to know that we have made a positive impact on an organization and perhaps helped people to understand what the cultural expectations are.

International Hiring Processes

I just returned from a trip to Europe where during our mealtimes we ate with people from a variety of countries.  Of course, as always occurs, people ask “what do you do?”.  When I told them that our business was providing psychological testing to help companies hire, manage and develop high performers , the discussion turned to how the selection process differs from one country to the next.

Our French Canadians were quick to point out that the process has to be completed in French and that documentation needed to be placed in the personnel files in French.  Apparently psychological assessment has been used for quite some time in Canada and is not viewed as particularly earth shattering. Both of the individuals were government employees who resided in Quebec. 

Apparently, and this is certainly not documented from my own research, the problem in Canada is that while there is some rigor/regulation required during the hiring process, more significant issues are related to dismissal procedures, mostly related to the fact that a very liberal definition has been attached to stress leave.  Once an employee goes out on stress leave, the company is quite limited in its ability to dismiss the employee or to replace the position.

Our Spanish dinner partners discussed the issues around gathering personal information and avoiding the use of any tools that would disclose personal information about someone.   They were appalled that someone would suggest inserting a psychological profile within the selection process, since this seemed to violate personal space.

And our German dinner partners didn’t seem to be too concerned about hiring processes.  This could either have been because they didn’t know much about hiring people or because the system in Germany again is different from other locations.  They seemed to think that being able to gather personality traits and personal styles information would greatly enhance the ability to place the right person in the right job.  They were not, however, familiar with the use of testing in the selection process and wondered if we provided our tool in German.  We don’t as yet.

As the world gets smaller and we find ourselves in business interactions with companies in countries around the world, all of us will need to upgrade our knowledge in this area, particularly if we expect to remain competitive.  It never gets more simple, does it?

Great Behavioral Event Interview Questions

The most common search that leads to our website is for ECI Interview Questions.  Whether this is precipitated by prospective candidates whom employers have asked to complete the ECI Behavioral Insight or by employers themselves is more difficult to determine.  Behavioral event interview questions ask the candidate about prior successes or learning resulting from an experience in past jobs.  There are many sources for these types of questions.  There are many sources for Behavioral Event Interview Guides.  ECI offers such a system, including training for your staff in interview skills, called the Structured Selection Process.

My perspective is that if you only hire once or twice per year, it is difficult to retain your skills in behavioral event interviewing, without a bit more structure around the process.  Providing your hiring managers with a staged interview guide, including potential drill-down questions to ensure that interviewers fully explore responses, can ensure a bit more consistency within the process.  The issue here, however, is that you will need to provide sufficient questions from which the manager might choose to meet the particular requirements of an interview or the particular job opening.

The principle behind behavioral event interviewing is that past success is the best predictor of future success.  By exploring what an individual has accomplished in past roles, a better understanding of the individual’s full potentials can be confirmed.  Therefore, the format of a good behavioral event question is:

  • “Tell me about a time…..” “Describe a situation in which…” “Give an example of…” These are the beginning of the question or the conditions/situations about which you wish the candidate to describe his or her prior experiences.
  • The candidate will respond by describing the details around the situation or activity from their prior experience.  This example should be work-related and relevant to the particular situation asked about in the question.  As the interviewer, you need to ensure that the candidate covers all 3 aspects in his or her answer – the situation or circumstances, what the individual (I did… not we, or I should have, or I think), and the outcome or result that was achieved.

If the candidate omits part of the response, the job of the interviewer is to ask additional questions to ensure that all three parts of the answer have been given.

If you are the candidate, be sure that you fully describe all three parts (situation, action and results) within your response.  This is most assuredly not a place to make things up, candidate, since a savvy interviewer will return to any responses you give where your answers appeared to be disjointed, questionable or unrealistic.  You will hear the question again, phrased in a different way, regarding an additional situation, in which to confirm that you have actually accomplished something within your prior roles.

So, for the reason you are reading this discussion, here are some effective behavioral event interview questions you might like to use if you are an interviewer, or as a candidate, you might like to think about.

  1. Tell me about the best manager you ever had.  What specifically did this manager do to help you to maximize your full potentials?  What results were you able to achieve?   (This question is really about what type of supervision you need to do your best work and are we willing to give you that much support.)
  2. Tell me about a time when you were faced with a disagreement with a coworker.  How did you handle the situation?  What was the outcome?  What would you do differently if you were faced with this situation again?   (This question is really about whether you can manage your own conflicts with others or whether you will run to your manager every time some disagreement arises.)
  3. Give me an example of a time when you were unable to convince a prospect to buy your solution.  What objections did you uncover?  How did you handle these?  (This question is really about whether you can sell and whether you have the confidence to admit that sometimes we make mistakes.)
  4. Tell me about a time when you served in a leadership role.  What were some of the issues you faced in working with your team?  What results did you achieve?  (This question is really about your ability to organize a group and to drive the group’s action, even if you have never served in a manager or leader role.)
  5. Tell me about a time when you bent the rules to accomplish your goal.  What was the outcome?  Would you do the same thing again if faced with the situation?  (This question is really about whether you see rules as absolutes or as general guidelines and whether this style fits in with the organizational preference.)

These are just a few of the behavioral event interview questions included within the ECI Structured Interview Process.  If you are an employer, contact ECI and we will happy to discuss this process with you and to develop a customized interview guide for your company.  If you are a candidate, sorry, you’ll need to visit your local bookstore and purchase a good resource guide, like Competency-Based Interviews: Mastering the Tough New Interview Style and Give Them the Answers that will Win You the Job (Kessler).

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