When Bigger is Sometimes Still Best

Mobile is as mobile does. Despite what they say, there is a vocal school of thought that says that not everything is best served hot on your tablet or smartphone. And maybe candidate assessment is just one example of where this is true in the recruitment field.

We live, without doubt, in the age of mobile.  So overwhelmingly has the smartphone re-ordered our lives that it can feel hard to remember the still-recent days when phones were phones, computers were computers and, presumably, real men didn’t eat quiche.

So, anyone opting for a large-screen-only assessment tool has lost the plot, right?  Well, maybe not.  And this is where it pays anyone with a stake in the recruitment world to know the new tools of the trade and which is right for them.  Zoom out from the specific to the general and a pattern emerges.  That pattern is set by the forces and needs that shape our choices.  Our place in it is set by the role we play for our customers.

From bafflement to romance to practicality

New technologies appear in their infancy to meet no obvious need, in their ascendancy to meet all needs and, in their maturity, to meet specific needs.  In short, we go from bafflement to romance to practicality.  As the small screen slowly – but inevitably – travels from the oh-my-god-it-does-everything ‘universalist’ romance phase to the practical horses-for-courses segmentation that awaits all mature products, it’s helpful to stand back and take stock. Where is mobile unbeatable and where is big screen merely unfashionable?

Mobile is as mobile does. Which is on-the-go. Using life’s temporal nooks and crannies.  Carrying on through its noise and disruption.  Thus, the nick-of time emailed save, the whim of curiosity satisfied, the bus-stop downtime’s sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.

Less so, of course, the larger view, the longer read, the bigger task.  Larger screens let you see more of what you’re working on.  Laid out on a larger canvas, the links between things are more easily kept in view and so in mind.  With less scrolling, less distracting fiddling, they invite a sense of the whole.  They’re easier on the eye for those longer tasks – and it’s the more serious tasks that take more serious time.  Large screens are the tool for the serious.

The medium is the message

In recruitment, we see an diverse field emerging as both large and small-screen products hit the market.  Want to quickly grab candidate interest or check just a few key parameters?  Mobile all the way.  Need to exploit the full power of games to really get under the skin of a candidate?  Big-screen tools are built to do exactly that.

In a modern twist on Marshall McLuhan’s observation that ‘the medium is the message’, this dichotomy is signaled in the very products themselves.  Mobile assessment tools are short (15-20 minutes), use a recognisably ‘game’ context and report on one or two key metrics.  Big-screen games have longer play times (45-50 minutes), provide a full work-like simulated environment and yield a report card across the full range of the personality.

If your customers are looking to rapidly fill roles and you want a way to attract candidates signaling to them that you and your client are modern, engaged, exciting businesses, then the new mobile products coming out could provide candidates with the reason to pick you out from your competitors and put you a step ahead of the field.

If, on the other hand, your key service is selection, it’s likely that you think most about how to best sift candidates in order to offer your clients a level of insight and assurance that they will come to rely on.  Large-screen products can give a deeper analysis and report on a broader set of measurements so they are the most likely to fit with, and reinforce, your sales offer.

In short, mobile tools lend themselves to the candidate attraction task, big-screen to the serious candidate measurement job.  In this rapidly maturing horses-for-courses market, mobile and big-screen take up complementary places.  In the age of mobile, phones are for attraction, computers are for assessment and anyone can eat quiche if its suits them.

Agile learning: The new frontier in candidate assessment

This article first appeared within Recruiter on 19 April 2017 – http://www.recruiter.co.uk/trends/2017/05/agile-learning-new-frontier-candidate-assessment

In today’s shifting world of candidate assessment, learning agility is one of the latest aspects to be assessed through gamification in the virtual world.

Frontiers are where the known ends and the unknown begins. The arrival of games – dynamic, interactive, multi-dimensional – in the assessment market is opening up a huge field, which designers of tests and their customers are only just beginning to explore. One of the first features of this new landscape to be mapped, however, is learning agility.

Technology cycles are shortening – even as its capabilities are expanding exponentially. In response, job roles are shifting. More importantly, the speed and breadth of that shift is becoming a topic in its own right.

From rare storms to weather pattern

It’s one thing to see your job shift from typewriter to PC; earlier generations might see one such upheaval in a career. In such a world, the focus is on mastering the new – and then settling down to carry on much like before.

But in a world where the new is in turn uprooted for something else, not once in a career but continually, the perspective shifts. Upheavals become seen not as wild but rare storms in an otherwise calm sea, to be survived by each as best they may, but as a weather pattern the ship should be routinely rigged to sail in.

With this shift in mindset percolating through industry, employers are reasonably asking: how do we select for this? And this is where the field of games comes in. By using the additional dimensions offered by a game – time, space and environment, character interaction, choice and consequence – a much richer seam of data is opened up. But what can it tell us?

Learning on the virtual job

This multi-dimensionality is already well established in another quarter: that of training simulators. Pilots train on flight simulators because it provides effective learning. A work-environment simulation likewise creates learning; players are stretched and immersed and, as they get to grips with their virtual world, they learn.

As any pilot will tell you, a session in a simulator is as demanding as the real thing. It matters not that there’s no real aircraft, or 96 passengers sitting behind you. The concentration required is absolute; the immersion total. It’s this quality, the sense of immersion, where the ‘real’ world drops away as the player works at the given task, that makes simulators so powerful and the learning that results so enduring.

The environment that creates learning can also measure it – the data is already being collected. This data – the task performance, error rates, and the choices and trade-offs that a player makes – permits a picture of the player’s learning patterns to be developed.

A working example

For example, in the Ipsemet game each game-play gives the candidate a series of tasks to do which they must get done while events unfold around them. The game is set in a hotel and the role is framed as a summer job. Meanwhile, a boss, colleagues and guests add a human dimension to the day. The work unfolds in a sequence of four shifts with the essential outline of the shift repeating.

Each candidate deals with the simulation across a number of periods at work – the learning agility measure assesses whether the candidate improved their performance at completing tasks, being accurate, team-work, customer contact and managing resources as they experienced various situations and demands.

Essentially the game is a resource allocation puzzle in which the candidate has to apply organisation, planning and trade-offs to complete the game. Optimising within his or her time and resource constraints, the candidate can be seen learning as the game develops – their task performance rises and their mistake rate falls. Plotted for a cohort of applicants, this data allows us to see the spread of learning agility in a cohort and locate an individual on a percentile of their peer group.

Reaping the benefits

Just as psychometric games are at the frontier of candidate assessment, so many businesses – particularly those experiencing rapid growth – find themselves at a frontier where the known ends and the unknown needs new tools to measure. The additional capability that these new technologies bring can offer exactly the needed insights to enable them to build teams for a changeable future.

Selecting candidates who have a fundamental ability to adapt and learn rapidly is likely to be essential to any business that finds itself repeatedly on the frontier – be that technical, commercial or social. For organisations facing that reality, new thinking and new technologies have become the weather pattern. Those who have hired for learning agility will be the ones better equipped to weather the storms.

Don’t let candidates be put off by an outdated hiring experience

This article first appeared in Personnel Today on 11 April 2017 http://www.personneltoday.com/hr/dont-let-candidates-be-put-off-by-an-outdated-hiring-experience/

Finding the balance between effective candidate selection and a positive candidate experience is no mean feat. Charles Martin looks at the trade-off between subjecting job applicants to tests and positioning your brand as a forward-thinking place to work.

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.” So said Louis XIV’s finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

The art of recruitment follows a similar pattern, with candidate evaluation taking the role of the feathers and the level of applicant dropout the role of the hissing.

At each stage of the recruitment process, employers need to extract further information from the candidate in order to decide whether to advance them or drop them.

And there’s the rub; information takes time and effort to acquire and, where the time and effort concerned belongs to the candidate, getting it depends on the balance between job attractiveness and process ugliness.

In the graduate recruitment process, for example, candidates know that the organisation they spend their early years with will leave an imprint on their careers that will last a working lifetime. Wherever they subsequently go, those first years will be seen as their apprenticeship. Think of an IBM graduate, Proctor & Gamble or EY, and a stereotype is conjured up even before you’ve reached for their CV.

Any job applicant knows that companies have culture, values and world views and that they themselves will, inevitably, be shaped by these once they join up. They consequently aim for a company whose name can provide a halo in years to come and whose culture and outlook fits readily with their own.

New graduates however, operate at a major disadvantage to those just a few years into their careers. They lack the daily contact and routine experience on the job, the war stories of colleagues that equip an insider with a nuanced understanding of their industry. So how are they to know who has a solid reputation and who does not?

First impressions

Possessing none of the knowledge of experienced hires, they emerge blinking into the daylight from their studies and fasten on to clues from the company’s annual report or Glassdoor, the sum of which is not much compared to what’s at stake. Furthermore, the authenticity of this evidence is hard to gauge.

The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing … the art of recruitment follows a similar pattern”

This paucity of real information means that candidates are acutely sensitive to clues – and the more unwitting a clue, the more revealing it will seem to be.

If a company scrimps and saves on your travel expenses, what will be its attitude to, for example, paying to train you? If it can’t provide feedback on your application, will it give you any more attention once you’re on the payroll?

And if it’s using outdated, clunky tools at the “dating” stage, how up-to-date will the thinking of your future manager be?

Modern applicant tracking systems have, mostly, smoothed the conventional admin of recruitment. But one area where contemporary expectations collide hard with traditional tools still stands out: the psychometric questionnaire.

What about psychometrics?

Though effective, it has settled into a niche as one of the least loved of tasks (it’s dull, candidates believe it can be manipulated and and it feels one-sided; your soul is prised open but usually only to your assessor’s eyes, not yours).

Psychometric questionnaires rest on the happy assumption that candidates either don’t mind or, if they do, they’re resigned to it as a necessity. But attitudes can change fast once it’s clear there’s a better way to get the job done.

So where is the better way emerging? It’s coming from outside, taking a staple of this generation’s everyday lives and re-purposing it with a twist.

Psychometric questionnaires are making way for games. While questionnaires bludgeon through your defences by asking you the same question in numerous different ways, games work with the grain of the human mind.

Games are based on the simple fact that when we are immersed, we are at our most natural. In a state of flow, we are ourselves, for better or for worse, but always truer.

Keep up with expectations

The workplace has been changing and it’s critical that employers signal to information-hungry candidates that they’re keeping up.

Whether it’s bring-your-own device or virtual teams, the workplace today’s candidates expect to enter is unrecognisable from that of their parents.

Savvy candidates know that not every business has moved with the times and few want to join a company and then realise it’s stuck in a time warp. So why let your candidate experience give them that impression?

For these young employees, pre-digital hangovers can stand out as warnings. Candidates can use their feet, just as geese can use their wings.

Assessing Progress

This article was first published in issue 175 of The Global Recruiter – https://main-theglobalrecruiter-eburygroupltd.content.pugpig.com/2017/03/24/gr-175-assessing-progress/pugpig_index.html

Charles Martin, CEO at Ipsemet says psychometric testing is evolving fast.

If you’ve ever sat across an interview desk from a candidate, you’ve probably asked yourself: ‘What will you really be like if we hire you?’ Until recently, psychometric questionnaires were your best answer to that question. These lists of self-report questions have become an institution – and they’ve acquitted themselves well over the years.

It’s axiomatic that you hire for attitude, train for skills. And it is so because mangers have long known that skills can be changed, temperament can’t. There are exceptions – the performing arts prima donna or cranky coding genius – but they’re rare and tolerated only as long as they’re indispensable. Frequently they work in solo fields.

Behaviour is the decider

Not only are few of us indispensable, but most of us labour collectively, where individual cussedness can pull a team down much faster than lone stardom can push it up. That makes behaviour the decider. Elusive, complex, variable – but the decider.

As the world of work changes, it’s arguable that we’re seeing a bifurcation of the jobs market into two recognisable types. The first is knowledge work – skilled, creative roles that focus on complex problems, producing for example a marketing campaign or a business strategy. The second is less technically skilled, but is heavily weighted to behaviour. Care work, retail, hospitality – these are roles whose demands for politeness under duress, observance of procedures or simple patience might test many a CEO.

As the rising tide of automation covers jobs once thought too varied or complex to delegate to machines, the areas staying dry longest may be the extremes of these two types; those which rely most on judgment, or personal interaction.

Don’t tell me you’re funny – make me laugh

Thus, time-honoured wisdom and changes in modern work are converging to raise the stakes on that question – what will you really be like if we hire you?

The nub of this question is the qualifier – ‘really’. For all its importance, it’s historically been very hard to know for sure before you committed. Reflected in that ‘really’ is the recognition that people manage the impression they create. Whether it’s first dates or job interviews, the shop window is nicer than the store. Much of this is benign, or is simply about meeting social norms, but the potential for masking is real. No one wants to meet Peter Perfect at interview and Dick Dastardly on the job.

So employers need ways of disabling the impression management reflex, so they can see the store behind the shop window – the everyday, under pressure, managing-between-priorities person that you’re going to work with post-hire.

The tool first to hand is the psychometric questionnaire. This is a technology that has served us well and is only now – after a remarkably long run – beginning to show its age. Digital natives increasingly believe that questionnaires can be gamed, a belief which – even if mistaken – puts candidates in something of a Prisoner’s Dilemma. If others are likely to cheat, what should you do?

Equally long established, and right at the other end of the price scale, is the Assessment Centre. Putting candidates through a series of face-to-face exercises with managers and HR experts observing mimics, in hot-house conditions, the real job. They’re the best tool we have. The only snag is, they’re as expensive as they are good. Costs of £1,000 a head are common – and then you’ve got to herd time-poor senior managers together to oversee it. No wonder then, that assessment centres are top-tier only.

In between these extremes, a new format is emerging, that draws on both these forebears: the psychometric game. With the statistical rigour of questionnaires and the realness of assessment centres, psychometric games hold the promise of assessment centre outputs at questionnaire costs and convenience.

Learn more in one hour

So what’s the magic ingredient in games? “If you would read a man’s disposition, see him game,” wrote the author Richard Lindgard in 1907. “You will then learn more of him in one hour than in seven years’ conversation.” Lindgard offers this guidance in his book A Letter of Advice to a Young Gentleman Leaving the University Concerning His Behaviour and Conversation in the World. Why? The clue is in his revealing follow up remark: “little Wagers will try him as soon as great Stakes, for then he is off his Guard.” What Lindgard was pointing to was, in modern language, immersion. A state of ‘flow’, where the person is absorbed enough in what they are doing that their attention is switched from self-observation to performance. Here, then, is where the person is truly seen.

Psychometric games are built on this same insight. Human attention is singular and, like a torch beam, even as it illuminates the object of interest it throws the remainder into deeper shadow. Self-monitoring and task performance don’t combine (hence the clumsiness that descends when we have to do something difficult before an audience). As a game turns up the heat candidates become immersed and their behaviour is revealed.

Getting real

The shift of psychometric testing from self-reporting to real behaviour requires a fully immersive environment, and sophisticated data capture methods. The emergence of the gaming megatrend and of complex data analysis are the reasons this is happening now, and not before. These powerful shifts in capability make psychometric games possible, but they also mean there’s no going back. Games will have a long development journey ahead of them, as questionnaires did in their day, but the potential is clear. Once you can identify behaviour through software, you need never wonder what that interviewee would really be like again.

Is it game over for psychometric questionnaires

This article first appeared on HRZone on 3 March, 2017 – http://www.hrzone.com/lead/future/is-it-game-over-for-psychometric-questionnaires

It’s widely accepted that the value of the video games market overtook that of Hollywood more than a decade ago and more people now play games than don’t. Games immerse the player in a virtual world where they must make decisions and trade-offs and deal with other people to get the job done – and do it all under rising pressure. Games take a range of multi-dimensional inputs and assess the profile of the person playing.

Breakthroughs in virtual worlds, big data and universal connectivity are combining to change business irrevocably and one area seizing the opportunity is recruitment. There’s a complex process going on here – these changes are both caused by, and are themselves causes of, a megatrend that is washing over industry after industry.

There are good reasons they may mean it’s game over for traditional questionnaires.

Cumulatively, plummeting storage costs, multiplying processor capability and the rollout of high speed data networks are creating what amounts to an entirely new game being played on an entirely new playing field.

And that doesn’t just provide you with familiar things that work better; it creates a different way of looking at things, in which the old way can seem obsolete in its entirety – and to those born in later eras hopelessly, almost bafflingly, quaint.

Wilfully absurd

A different way of looking at things is based first of all on a different set of basic assumptions about what is possible – which quickly cements into a consensus about what is normal.

Once that happens, the underlying assumptions can fall out of conscious awareness; they become just how the world is. Anything else seems wilfully absurd.

And this is where questionnaires are beginning to stutter. Maturing as a technology in the 1960s, they fitted the world they were born into. They looked like the stuff around them. Neither so freakishly advanced as to raise doubts, nor so ploddingly steam-driven as to invite disdain, they were credible in part because they chimed with the world of their day.

And this is the problem now.

When we snigger at – for example – those brick-like mobile phones of the 1980s, we take it for granted that we are, must be, smarter than those clowns leaning on their BMWs. Now obviously, we aren’t so why do they – arguably the smarter, more forward-thinking people of their own era – seem absurd to us?

It’s because they violate our sense of ‘just how the world is’. Looking back at us from their posed photos they demand we take them seriously. And we can’t. Because they’ve got those – hand over mouth guffaw –those phones! Like, don’t they know?

The idea of ‘technology distance’

For psychometric questionnaires, this feeling, whose roots lie in a similar ‘technology distance’, is coming through in a widespread sense among millennials that the results must be manipulatable.

In a world whose baseline norms have been lifted to a new plane by iPhones, social media and games, questionnaires seem linear and flat.

They seem obvious, simple and therefore, to those born in a later era, they seem out-wittable.

Now there’s a good case to be made that they’re not. Those 80s phones worked just fine thank you very much, and traditional psychometric questionnaires deliver the goods too. Try to fake ‘em and you’re more likely to trip yourself up than the employer.

And yet. The problem with old tech is rarely that it didn’t work. It usually did. The problem was that the context changed around it. It came to be seen from a different standpoint and, from that standpoint, was found wanting.

So, what is that new standpoint? Are employers using questionnaires at risk of looking like the mobile phone yuppie?

Even if your business sells fountain pens, you had better be using email

Recruitment is a two-way courtship and if there’s one thing employers need, it’s to be taken seriously. Which means they need to be using today’s tech – you can’t simply automate something, stick an ‘e-label’ on it and say that it’s now fit for purpose.

Not faddish, obviously – the last thing you want is to look like a 40-year old teenager – but aware. This means they can’t afford not to adopt technologies that have arrived in the mainstream. Even if your business sells fountain pens, you had better be using email.

Taken together, this means that the creeping flood of interactive, participative, multidimensional tools into life and into business is creating the conditions for change. If you buy a car you expect to be able to configure it on the company’s website.

Spin it around, change the colour and trim – in effect, play. View a house, you expect to be able to walk through the rooms online. Explore, view, imagine. In effect, play.

Now apply for a job. Sit down and fill in a questionnaire. It’s different, right…?

When in your everyday life did you last do something that resembled this? Survey Monkey, probably. Which does the job but feels a bit, well, village hall. The fact is that the expectations of digital natives – Gen Y and millennials – have been formed by much richer experiences elsewhere.

Expectations have risen and how are you going to get them back onto the plonk if they have got used to Champagne?

When the conditions for change pile up in business, change happens.

Games offer new data. They’re multi-dimensional, they offer interaction and good ones can be genuinely immersive.

Yet those factors alone might not sway everyone – some businesses may get along just fine on a simpler data set.

What numbers the days for questionnaires is the changing context. The world is simply moving beyond them. And in the courtship-cum-arms race that is recruitment, everyone needs to be on top of their game.

Because, unlike Hollywood, you can’t get away with acting.

Actions speak louder than words. What are you doing about graduate recruitment?

Attracting, engaging with and on-boarding the best graduate applicants is competitive; companies looking for the best talent need to appeal to the most talented job seekers, connect with them throughout the application process and sign-them up before their competitors do! It’s about finding the best and standing out from the crowd – for the employer and the candidate.

We think that pretty soon those of us using online traditional tests will look outdated, and out of touch.

There are three things that we hear most graduate employers saying. Firstly, that they embrace advancements in recruitment and assessment technology. Secondly that they want to find out more about applicants’ actual behaviour and not just typical ability test scores, personality profiles and academic achievements. And thirdly they say that they want their applicants to get some value from the recruitment process regardless of whether or not they’re successful.

But does what is said, translate into reality?

How many of us are still using quite traditional online assessment rather than taking what we can from game-based technology?

How many actually look at behaviour in an immersive way where ‘faking’ it cannot happen?

And, in practice, what do we give in value and feedback to those we’ve decided not to take forward?

If we’re wanting to stand out from the crowd, we need to change our approach and turn the words into action.

Re-imagining Assessment Centres: moving them up the recruitment funnel.

Assessment centres, in which many candidates are brought together for one or two days late in the recruitment process, are one of the best predictors of job performance around. The often- quoted Hunter & Schmidt 1998 research continues to hold true with only work samples providing a better predictive validity.

In fact today, more than 9 out of 10 employers using assessment centres believe they are a very or fairly effective means of recruiting staff to fill vacancies.

So why don’t companies bring assessment centres higher up the recruitment funnel, making use of them earlier on to spot those most likely to succeed and focus effort on recruiting those?

The answer is likely to be cost. It often costs up to £500 per candidate to bring people together – including assessor time and expenses – to carry out an in-depth assessment. So it tends to sit towards the end of the selection process when a lot of other time and cost has already been expended.

An assessment centre is, by its nature, a combination of tasks, role-interactions, presentations, interviews and scenario-based exercises. Borrowing the latest advances from gaming technology, some of these aspects can now instead be performed in an online game, to provide automated profile reports that can be matched to job role profile.

These scenario-based games can provide behavioural profiles and also offer insights into work performance metrics such as learning agility and resilience under pressure. Moving these aspects to earlier in the recruitment process gives advantage to those companies wanting to get a competitive edge and spot the key competencies early on. Ideally, such a move should also provide an attractive ROI by improving the productivity of subsequent selection steps.

Of course, many companies are already using personality questionnaires and competency-based interviewing to give some insight but how do these play out for those applicants with limited experience to draw on?  What’s needed is an assessment which measures exactly how the applicant behaves, since current behaviour is the best predicator of future behaviour.

And this is what we have built; an assessment game with the psychometric rigour of reputable recruitment tests, and, crucially, an assessment that invites the applicant into a working world where actual behaviour is demonstrated, and then analysed and interpreted.  This gives a good indicator of how he or she will behave in the job role itself rather than a ‘what if’ or ‘how would you react?..’ scenario.

It’s moving key features of an assessment centre further up the funnel.  What do you think?