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Economist

Personality testing at work: Emotional breakdown

April 4, 2013

SPOTTING a good manager is hard. Some firms think psychometric tests help. An industry has appeared to supply them. No one knows how big it is, but the vendors of such tests estimate it to be worth between $2 billion and $4 billion a year, says Nik Kinley, a co-author of ?Talent Intelligence?, a forthcoming book.Headhunters such as Heidrick & Struggles and Egon Zehnder are trying to get a foothold in the market. Another, Korn/Ferry, paid $80m for PDI Ninth House, a specialist vendor, in December. IBM and Oracle, two software giants, have bought firms with a talent-measurement arm. Consultancies such as Deloitte and Bain are rumoured to be eyeing similar acquisitions.Firms like psychometric tests because they are cheap (as little as $30 per candidate) and allow an employer to whittle a mountain of job applications down to a shortlist with minimal effort. But do they work? Many seek to measure touchy-feely traits such as personality, leadership potential and ?emotional intelligence?. These are hard to measure. Tests that purport to do so are as likely to mislead as to inform, says Mr Kinley.Unsurprisingly, the firms that attempt to measure personality disagree. Korn/Ferry says that its blue-chip clients are convinced of its test?s efficacy. It assesses candidates for four ?leadership styles?: task-focused, social, intellectual and participative. It then compares results...

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