A growing number of tech companies are using behavioral tests as part of their hiring process, hoping they’ll help them identify the “right” workers for each position. And while candidates aren’t going to be thrilled by having to navigate an additional layer along their way to a new job, it looks like these tests are here to stay. That’s because tech companies are particularly attuned to taking a data-driven approach, says Matt Poepsel, vice president of product management for PI Worldwide, a Wellesley Hills, Mass., workforce analytics provider. However, he notes, behavioral tests aren’t just for hiring. Employers are also using them to tweak their management practices and align them to the behaviors of their current staffs. Behavioral tests differ from company to company, but generally speaking they’re a simple 10- to 30-minute quiz during which candidates might, say, select from a list of adjectives—behavioral traits—that describe how they feel about themselves, how they’re perceived by others, and how they think they should be seen. Are you helpful, conscientious, careful, convincing or audacious? The idea might seem simplistic, but the analytics behind it aren’t, says Poepsel. So if you’re thinking of approaching such tests in a way you think the employer’s looking for, don’t bother. The test’s design incorporates the fact that some people might try that. Besides, observes Poepsel, behavioral assessments are really about matching the right individual to the right job. Game the system and you could end up in a job that’s a bad fit. Poepsel suggests candidates be as honest as possible and try not to second-guess their answers.
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Bear in mind that behavioral tests aren’t IQ tests. While an IQ test can be important to test coding skills, says Hugh Massie, president of Atlanta-based DNA Behavior, a personality test shows the level of motivation and likely behaviors of a worker once they get on the job. For developers
, for instance, employers look for results that indicate patience, a sense of structure and innovation, and the ability to follow instructions. For sales people, they’d look for a much different set of behaviors. Given the time and cost involved in recruiting and training the right people, many companies look on behavioral tests as another way to protect their investment, says David W. Hand, founder of Possibility Partners, an analytics company in Atlanta. If the candidate pool is large, testing will usually take place early in the hiring process to shrink down the group. “Employers want know if you’re going to be a good fit, and behavioral testing is one way to help figure that out,” he says. “Behaviors are deep inside of us, and they are the key to our passion and engagement.”