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Applying psychology to hiring

Published on Friday, 03 Dec 2010
Tricor Human Capital director John Ng (left) and Cubiks CEO Barry Spence are partners in an initiative to introduce online psychometric assessments that could help employers measure the suitability of candidates.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

Sifting through thousands of job applications to identify suitable candidates is becoming a time-consuming challenge for companies searching for talent on the mainland, where demand for human resources is booming.

Executives behind soon-to-be-launched online screening tools say many organisations struggle with finding and retaining suitable employees. They believe online psychometric assessments, popular in Europe and the United States, could provide employers with an alternative way to measure the suitability of candidates. The initiative is a partnership between British assessment consultancy firm Cubiks and Hong Kong-based Tricor Human Capital.

Barry Spence, Cubiks chairman and CEO, says psychometric assessments can be used to measure a candidate's level of knowledge and ability to fulfil a particular job requirement. Different functions of the system could also be used to assess a candidate's personality to see if he or she works well with others. The gauge could also help to determine how they could cope with different workplace situations.

"Our assessment systems can be tailor-made to provide objective data for otherwise subjective measurements that is not easily obtained using other methods, such as interviews," Spence says.

"While psychometric assessments will never take the place of one-on-one interviews, these tests can filter out inappropriate candidates before they advance too far through the application process. Individuals can also measure themselves against the expectations and culture of a company to decide if they wish to join an organisation.

"If a candidate doesn't measure up, they can withdraw from the process without having to waste time on application forms or travelling long distances for an interview."

Psychometric tools developed for the mainland are offered in Chinese characters, which can be translated into 25 different languages at the touch of a button. This allows managers and recruitment specialists of different nationalities to review job applications in their own language.

According to the Gartner CEO and business executive survey, attracting and retaining skilled workers is one of the top five priorities for companies operating on the mainland.

John Ng, Tricor director, says as the region's economy expands, businesses need to select talented people to maintain strong performance. He says companies using psychometric assessment can slash costs by reducing the number of poor hiring decisions.

"In recent years, the development of strategies to deal with talent shortage has become a major theme of recruiting in China. By narrowing down candidates who have the necessary characteristics to be successful, companies can increase performance, while decreasing training costs and employee turnover," Ng says.

He adds that online assessment tools can also be used to develop internal human resources strategies, which can help boost morale and loyalty within the business. He believes psychometric assessments will prove popular with the finance, pharmaceutical, luxury goods and manufacturing sectors on the mainland.

Ng says assessment tools have been developed for mainland firms and multinational companies operating there, both of which are increasingly competing for the same talent.

"As these companies grow, they are seeking to roll out uniform global recruitment initiatives. Psychometric assessments are one way to achieve this," he says.

Digging deeper

  • Online tools can help save time on reviewing application forms, arranging interviews and carrying out reference checks.
  • Psychometric tests include questionnaires, personality profiles, reasoning tests, motivation and ability assessments.
  • These assessment tools are designed to provide an objective method of selecting and developing employees' skill levels.
  • Hiring the wrong candidate can prove costly in terms of training, errors due to poor performance and attrition.
  • Assessments can be used to get information not easily obtained using other methods, such as interviews.

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