Getting a Job in the Era of Optimized Hiring – What’s your XQ?

By Posted July 1st, 2015

Getting a Job in the Era of Optimized Hiring – What’s your XQ?

TestI remember the first formal test I had to take to apply for a job. In 2002, a potential employer had me come in for two days of “management” testing. Afterwards, I asked for a copy of my results and the analysis applied to them. It made for interesting reading. For example, it said I had a high deception rating. If you’ve ever met me you would know that I am honest to a fault, often placing my foot in my mouth to do so.

I also read how the rating was calculated. Turns out they measure deception by asking the same question in different sections of the test in various different ways to see how you would answer it. I always answered it the same way. The explanation from the test was not that it was an honest and consistent answer but rather an educated attempt to beat the test. I was pretty soured on the test, but it didn’t matter since I got the job anyway.

The purpose of any candidate screening examination is to see if a candidate would make a good match for the role and the organization. Many employers use tests like Cattel’s 16 personality factors, the Hogan Personality Inventory’s seven scales, the Caliper Profiles 22 traits, Prophecy Behavioral Personality Assessment or Gallup’s StrengthFinder to screen potential employees. What is new is that testing has gone in a whole new direction in the age of optimized hiring. Employers say that tests are a critical tool in fighting employee turnover, increasing productivity and raising customer satisfaction.

I recently read an article in Time magazine called “Questions to Answer in the Age of Optimized Hiring” about how employers are turning to personality testing to fine-tune hiring processes. They coined the term “XQ” as the ideal quality to measure personality traits for hiring success. The XQ is different from the IQ and the EQ (Emotional IQ) because it does not have a specific definition, but rather is based on a correlation between a candidate’s answers to questions (“True or False: I never get angry”) and responses given by their most successful coworkers to the same questions. Infor, a New York-based vendor that specializes in testing refers to it as the employee’s “Behavioral DNA”.

The article details how JetBlue can predict which employee will make a good impression on a customer by using a personality profile that consists of 12 traits. JetBlue needs to be choosy since they receive over 150,000 applicants for about 3,000 job openings each year.

The questions are not what you might think. Some questions asked within these tests are downright weird. Here are samples from some of the most popular tests:

“Do you often fantasize about being famous?

“Would you like to be an Art Collector?”

“Do people say you are eccentric?”

The article goes on to explain that the answers are not necessarily about the question but reflect more of a hidden agenda. One test asks candidates if they read 10 books a year. They explain that they are not really interested in the number of books read but rather if the test taker cares if you care about making people think you read 10 books.

It sounds like an imperfect science but one that is truly going to be the standard in the future for all levels of positions. What I found most interesting about the article was how the uptick in candidate behavioral testing is driven by a collision of two of the business world’s hottest trends of Big Data and Analytics. Essentially you have all of this intelligence, so let’s analyze it to make business assumptions.

Want to give it a try? I found a quick free 12-question exam offered by Hogan Assessments (who was mentioned in the article). It was 12 quick ‘True or False’ questions that took 2 minutes to complete. The test can be found here.

Although I was not fond of the questions (they buried too many concepts into a single statement (“I am confident in my work output even while I am being criticized”), my results seemed about right. My test measured a single trait: sensitivity and vulnerability. My results indicate that I am rather thick skinned and am not usually offended easily. That sounds true. But then again I could have been being deceptive.