The first time I came across psychometric tests was when a schoolfriend told me he’d just had to sit one as part of a recruitment selection procedure. He could only recall one of the questions; it was something along the lines of, “which do you prefer, a pair of shoes or a gun?” The recruiters apologised that the test had not been localised from US English to UK English to take account of British sensibilities and gun laws. Obviously my friend selected the latter option and naturally he did not get the job.
Happiness is a warm gun
Subsequently all of my friends and I managed to successfully secure a variety of work without the aid of psychometric testing.
My next encounter with psychometric testing was whilst contracting for a blue-blooded firm in the City just before the dot-com boom. This was a firm that was very stuck its ways but recognised the need to modernise. To this end it brought in a huge American consultancy firm to advise. Soon the offices were flooded with very young, very loud and very opinionated busy bodies who seemed determined to ruffle as many feathers as possible.
One of the first changes was the implementation of dress-down Friday; albeit with a caveat of proscribed articles that extended over a page of A4, effectively limiting the items to chinos with shirt, but no tie.
Workshops were set up and random individuals from different departments were thrown together. Sitting in a circle an overly happy boy bounced into the room and started the ball rolling, “who would you most like to have dinner with and why? I’ll go first: Cat Deeley, because she’s gorgeous”. So full marks for honesty if nothing else. As each attendee took turns to answer, some clearly rushed decisions manifested themselves, “Einstein” (yep, I’m sure if he came back from the dead that he’d be absolutely busting to have dinner with a City Fund Manager), “George Best” (the only thing in common that the late Georgie and the Trader whose answer it was would probably be the prodigious consumption of copious quantities of booze). My answer felt obvious, “my paternal grandfather because he died before I was born.” This was greeted by murmurs of acclaim, as though I’d hit the right answer. Which, as it turns out, I had. After many weeks of investigation the consultancy identified what needed doing in the company and that I was to be the main interface between the business and the consultancy.
The potential of psychometric testing seems to be misplaced. It doesn’t really provide much insight into the mind of the questioned but rather is a great source of amusement for the questioner.
Witness a friend who liked to round off every interview with a psychometric question, “who would you most like to meet, they can be alive or dead,” the answers to which would be used for cheap laughs down the pub. One befuddled responser could only gather his thoughts to answer, “I don’t want to answer that right now.” But the funniest exchange was probably:
“Because she’s got enormous breasts.”
Full marks for honesty yet zero marks for out-and-out sexism in a job interview.