Work psychometric tests from the point of view of a dyscalculic recruiter
Through last Sunday’s Recruiting Brainfood, I found out that the past week had been dyslexia and dyscalculia awareness week. I’m pretty sure that if I was to ask for a show of hands, I would get 95%+ people who would say that they have a medium to high understanding of dyslexia and how it affects someone at work.
Now, same question with dyscalculia?
Dyscalculia, Calculia… calculus, is that something to do with maths you ask me?
Yes, it does! Wikipedia defines dyscalculia as “a disability resulting in difficulty learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, performing mathematical calculations and learning facts in mathematics.”
Back in the days when I was in school, no-one knew about dyscalculia. If your maths skills weren’t up to scratch, you were either not working hard enough or you were “bad at maths”… or both.
I remember the hours spent trying to work out my maths and physics homework, the tears, my dad’s frustration and the crappy grades that ensued.
I have a very vivid memory of my physics teacher handing back our tests, with all the emotional intelligence you could expect from an educator in the 90s, calling out: “Morisson! She applies the right formula, and YET, she gets the results wrong!”.
Picture Harry Potter’s potion classes with Professor Snape - that was me in maths, physics and chemistry, from age 9 (hello, divisions with decimal numbers) to 18. When Harry took his OWL potions exams, he actually did ok without Snape bullying him.
Fast forward to 2020. Do I still “suck at maths”? Yes, I do. I have dyscalculia, I’m always going to be slower than anyone else for anything that’s got to do with numbers.
Does that prevent me from doing my job and even working with numbers, budget or reporting? Hell, no! I use all the tools the internet and computers have at my disposals, I plan my time accordingly, and I know that I will never be able to reverse engineer how much was a candidate’s actual billings based on their OTE and base salary. And you know what? It’s ok.
But what does living with dyscalculia mean when you’re in the process of looking for a job?
In my career, I had to take psychometric assessments for 2 of my jobs (I did take a good few more, but I didn’t get the job). If you’ve never had to take a psychometric assessment (lucky you), they usually have multiple parts: grammar, understanding, spatial reasoning, maths, and a personality vs. job component.
When I interviewed at Next Generation, I had actually warned my interviewer that I had dyscalculia, but weirdly enough, I actually did fairly well with 70% on spatial reasoning and 61% on math & logic. Must have been a good day.
However, last year, when I reviewed our psychometric assessment provider and tested other providers, I found out to my dismay, that with that test I was represented as being totally unable to do my job. That definitely was not a good day dyscalculia-wise.
“Analysing given data is an activity with which Chloe Morisson has difficulty. It is, indeed, complicated for them to bring together relevant information or carryout adequate calculations beyond simple equations.”
“Chloe Morisson has a relatively reliable capacity for conceptualization. They will have some difficulty with activities that require an understanding of new concepts or analysis of abstract information.”
If taken in a recruitment process context, based on these two statements I, as a candidate, would be unable to do the job and would be declined, regardless of my performance during the interview or my past performance in other jobs.
If my high-school numerical skills are not up to scratch, that MUST mean that I can’t analyse data, solve problems or apprehend theoretical concepts.
Dude! I’ve got a masters in law. Bringing together relevant information, understanding new concepts and analysing abstract information are my core skills and yet, you’re going to pass out on me as a candidate because of that psychometric assessment.
But, surely, since psychometric assessments are tools to help hiring, there must be a way to tailor them for people who have dyscalculia or dyslexia?
To date, I have used 3 different tools, with a widely different price-range, and none of them had a dyslexia-friendly or dyscalculia-friendly functionality. So, if you’re trying to be diverse in your hiring, or just not to discriminate, well, in my experience, psychometric assessments will not help with your recruitment process.
I firmly believe that we miss out on amazing employees by using psychometric assessments during the recruitment process.
I hear you: “but surely, these assessments don’t make or break the process for a candidate”.
While that should be true, if the hiring manager takes a chance on a candidate whose result were lower than expected on the assessment, and the candidate is not successful in their role, you can be sure that they will go back to the assessment and reject any candidate that doesn’t match the assessment’s standards from now on.
As a matter of fact, we ended up not renewing our psychometric assessments contract, because based on 3 years of data we could see that people who had the highest scores and were the best job fit during the assessment were actually the ones that were the least successful in the role.
We took our best performer and aligned the assessment baseline to their results, then got the whole business to take the assessment. Only one person was close to our baseline.
Two things were clear at that point:
- We don’t have any other top performer in the team (turned out to be wrong)
- We need to completely change the profiles that we’re looking for during the recruitment process (turned out to be quite untrue too).
So here are my two cents:
Unless you recruit for a huge company with big teams of people doing the same job, the data gathered from the psychometric assessment won’t be an accurate predictor of success in the job.
You are missing out on great candidates by relying too much on psychometric assessment – and I know it won’t be an easy task to convince your hiring managers of that.
If, like me, you have/are suffering from/living with dyscalculia, you’re going to miss out on some jobs when they have a psychometric test as a cut-off point in the recruitment process. Tough luck for us, psychometric assessments, like all standardised test do not cater for dyscalculia, dyslexia or any other dys. Tell the recruiter though. While they can’t change the results of the test, they can let the hiring manager know and show them which results could be challenged and assessed for during interview instead of relying exclusively on the psychometric test.