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With the technology to conduct more nuanced tests, some companies say they can provide more useful detail about how people think in dynamic situations.
The job interview hasn’t changed much over the years. There are the resumes, the face-to-face meetings, the callbacks — and the agonizing wait, as employers decide based on a hunch about who’s best suited for the job.
Some companies are selling the idea that new behavioral science techniques can give employers more insight into hiring.
For most of her life, Frida Polli assumed she’d be an academic. She got her Ph.D, toiled in a research lab and started a post-doctorate program before she realized she’d been wrong.
Polli didn’t want to study neuropsychology — she wanted to use it in business.
“People have always wanted to find a way to assess someone’s cognitive and emotional traits in an objective way that might give them a sense of: What is this person really ideally suited for?” she says.
So Polli co-founded Pymetrics, which uses brain games to measure things like attention to detail and risk tolerance — factors that she says can help determine a good job fit. Polli says her own results were accurate.
“It told me that I was a little bit impulsive — which I’m definitely impulsive. And entrepreneurship was my top match, so I was pretty happy about that. It was a relief because, you know, otherwise I’d have to consider a different job,” she says.
Tests for intelligence and personality traits have been around for a century. But with big data and the technology to conduct more nuanced tests, some firms say they can provide more useful detail about people’s innate abilities. They say a better gauge of personality traits can help increase productivity and reduce turnover.
The science of these claims isn’t yet clear.
Frederick Morgeson, an organizational psychology expert at Michigan State University, says some tests do predict job performance.
But, he says, “whether the claims that these companies are making are in fact true and they’re measuring what they say they’re measuring — that is a question that can really only be answered by research.”
And very little independent research exists.
Still, I wondered what these tests might say about my fit with the one and only career I’ve ever had. So I tried RoundPegg, which asks its users to select values that are most and least important to them — qualities like “decisiveness” or “being supportive.”
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Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Business Desk based out of NPR’s headquarters in Washington D.C. Since joining NPR in 2008, she’s covered business and economic news, and has a special interest in workplace issues — everything from abusive working environments, to the idiosyncratic cubicle culture. In recent years she has covered the housing market meltdown, unemployment during the Great Recession, and covered the aftermath of the tsunami in Japan in 2011. As in her personal life, however, her coverage interests are wide-ranging, and have included things like entomophagy and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Prior to joining NPR, Yuki started her career as a reporter for The Washington Post. She reported on stories mostly about business and technology, and later became an editor. Yuki grew up with a younger brother speaking her parents’ native Japanese at home. She has a degree in history from Yale.
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