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A leadership capability assessment can markedly increase your chances of hiring or promoting executives who will be successful and a good fit for the role.

There are 3 levels of such assessments that offer increasing depths of insight.

1. Psychometric questionnaire only: widely available online and can be administered by trained HR personnel. This option is low cost but the least reliable, either because candidates may be excessively motivated to put forward a favourable impression or because they lack self-insight.

2. Psychometric questionnaire plus in depth interview with an experienced professional: here the aim is to identify those aspects of the candidate’s profile that most accurately match how he or she is likely to behave on the job.

3. Behavioural simulations such as case studies and role-plays, as a supplement to psychometrics, require candidates to demonstrate what they can do.

The Psychometric questionnaire only approach is most appropriate as an initial screening stage, and more so for junior and mid level roles, but it should be used at the final decision making stage only with caution unless there is a way of independently verifying the accuracy of their psychometric profile.

The Psychometric questionnaire plus in depth interview adds significant value if the assessment professional is skilled at teasing out which aspects of the candidate’s profile are most likely to be an accurate reflection of the person’s behaviour on the job.

The Behavioural Simulation approach takes the assessment to a deeper level because it requires candidates to demonstrate how they handle difficult leadership challenges, how they make decisions, their style in leading people and how they communicate.

Problems with Psychometric Questionnaires alone

In addition to the risk that candidates may not be totally honest in their responses, the output of these questionnaires is expressed in terms of personality characteristics. Thus the organization is left to make inferences regarding how these characteristics map onto their leadership competency profiles. For example, these questionnaires rarely measure such competencies as customer focus, strategic capability, political savvy or commercial astuteness, each of which requires a combination of personality traits. In addition, the reports you will receive from most consulting firms will be based on the questionnaire’s personality traits rather than on the client organization’s competency profile.

Whether you use the term “competency” or not, the vacant position may require some leadership behaviours that do not directly correlate with the candidate’s personality traits. An experienced assessment professional can bridge this gap for you by using the interview to determine how the candidate’s profile matches, or fails to match, the behavioural leadership requirements.

High quality assessments are essential for effective succession planning, leadership development and external recruitment. Investing in getting the right person can pay huge dividends.

Why should you use an experienced external consultant for such assessments when front-line HR people can obtain access to popular online assessment questionnaires?

Benefits of using an experienced assessment professional

  • High quality assessment reports
  • Greater perceived objectivity in the eyes of candidates when an outsider is used
  • More accurate benchmarking due to the consultant’s wider industry exposure
  • Credibility in the eyes of senior candidates when a senior consultant is used rather than a junior HR officer
  • The experience necessary to determine what profile factors to emphasize and what they imply for subsequent employee performance
  • The skill to detect a candidate’s efforts to present an overly strong impression
  • In depth insight into development issues and how to address them
  • Highly experienced developmental coaching where required

Interpreting the results of an assessment questionnaire isn't as easy as it seems. Many profile factors have technical definitions that are very different from ordinary language meanings. Moreover, candidates who are motivated to put forward a good impression of themselves can distort the results. An experienced professional is more likely to detect such distortions than inexperienced or occasional questionnaire users. Finally, many inexperienced users focus on each factor in isolation without understanding fully how several of them can interact, what it means to obtain a low score on one factor and a high score on another for instance.

Maximizing Cost Effectiveness

High quality assessments using a skilled professional can be most cost effectively achieved when candidates do questionnaires and other exercises online and the interview is conducted using Skype to avoid travel time and costs.

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