The write stuff

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2008, 12:00am
 

Handwriting has been a way of revealing a person's personality for decades. Is the writing tall and spiky? Then she or he is bound to be confident and abrasive. Or something like that.

Traditionally when recruiting new staff members, the interviewer or human resources department at a company will rely on two main sources - the applicant's curriculum vitae and the interview.

While that has been standard practice for years, there are problems with it. While the candidate may have the academic or practical skills required for the job on paper, his or her resume gives little indication about personality traits - how that person works in a team, handles responsibility, whether they are outgoing or introverted.

And to a certain extent at the interview, applicants will prepare themselves and then say what the interviewer wants to hear, so again it is not a failsafe method.

Susanne Sahli, the Swiss managing director of True Colours, which works with companies and candidates to help match the right personality to the job, uses a psychometric assessment test and follow-up one-on-one debriefing sessions in her work and believes they are a fundamental key to getting the right person, and ensuring that a company is not looking for another recruit six months down the line.

There are other tests that companies use, she said, such as the 360 assessment test - where employer and employees get the opportunity to remark on one another, but for her work with companies and candidates, Ms Sahli uses the Master Person Analysis (MPA). When working with a company looking at three candidates for a job, for example, Ms Sahli will ask each to sit an assessment of about 40 questions in which the respondent is presented with a choice of four answers. They are asked to choose two - the one that best reflects them, and the one that they feel least reflects them.

For example, there will be questions on how confident you are, do you like working with details, or are you more of an overview person? How do you feel about talking to strangers? And from this, certain character traits, motivations and work behaviour are accurately revealed.

'I know the MPA from my previous jobs in Europe,' Ms Sahli said, 'And I have also experienced other tools. MPA is the most convenient one, very transparent and accurate. Besides it is feature rich, as it is a great tool for various activities, including recruitment (job and person profiling); coaching; succession planning; analysing team dynamics and it also supports implementing human resources strategies.'

Candidates have nothing to fear about the test, she said. It is an assessment not an examination, and there is no need to prepare. The best way to respond to it is to answer the questions spontaneously - so that the assessment is as accurate as possible.

And it is not an assessment in isolation, but an additional tool in tandem with the interview, CV and any mechanisms the prospective employer may want to use.

Ivo Hahn, the founder of Xecutive Group and the chief executive of executive search consultants Stanton Chase for the Greater China region, uses the MPA when working with major companies in the area to fill senior management positions.

The idea is not to catch the candidate out. 'But it's often not the person with the best IQ who is best for the job,' Mr Hahn said. 'If, for example, you have someone who is great at ideas, getting the bigger picture, works well with people but is not so good on the details, then at least you know that from the assessment and can make a contingency plan. The company can hire him or her, but you ensure that he or she has the necessary support from the administrative side so those details are covered.'

Mr Hahn insists on using the psychometric assessments with candidates and feels that Hong Kong has been slow to adopt them.

'The use of psychometric assessment tests has only been used by some firms for the past couple of years. There are still too many companies who simply rely on the interview. They are too hurried and are just concerned about filling a name in a box.'

Yet if decisions are made too hastily and backfire, it can be incredibly costly to the firm, he said.

Ms Sahli also emphasises the debriefing factor. 'You can take many tests on the internet, but what makes this one special is the one-on-one debriefing,' she said - an opportunity for herself or other executive coaches who work with her to talk through the assessment with the candidate, and then listen to what the candidate thinks about the results.

This assessment benefits both the candidate and the company, said Mike Hall, a new executive coach with True Colours, who has also worked with senior managers taking part in the global executive OneMBA at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

'It's about discovering who you are, your personality and how you will work with that company,' he said. 'It's about the real you.'

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