With the incessant evolution of technology I often catch myself dreaming about what pre-employment testing will look like in the not so distant future. While psychometric tests have changed over time, the evolution of psychometric testing has been measured. By no means is this slow metamorphosis a bad thing.

Psychometric tests are highly important scientific tools and care must be taken to preserve the integrity of these tools, especially when they contribute so strongly to high-stake decisions.

In the last decade we have seen a migration from ‘paper and pencil’ tests to online assessment; and now the shift seems to be towards mobile technologies. Although the medium for testing has changed, the content of assessment has remained largely unaltered. This is where I see the largest potential for change.

To explore this potential I would like to draw inspiration from an industry that has been testing the patience, problem solving ability, and endurance of a large chunk of the western world for the last four decades: the gaming industry.

The gaming industry? WHAT!? The industry that turns hordes of children into zombie drones, uttering the phrase “I’ll be down in a minute”? Sure, the gaming industry receives a lot of bad press, and there are numerous studies out there that prove that playing Super Mario will turn you into a pudgy, aggressive, moustache-sporting, dragon slayer.

However, the often uncelebrated fact about the gaming industry is that it is a 10.5 billion dollar industry that is underpinned by innovation and change. To thrive in the gaming industry, one needs to be cutting edge and fresh. Old-hat technology, design, and game mechanics are often poorly scored and games released with these characteristics are quickly banished to the bargain bin of your local electronics store.

Embracing the positive aspects of the gaming industry would enable psychometricians to explore more creative, valid and predictive solutions to pre-employment testing. With the gaming generation entering into leadership roles, the pressure to shift to more engaging mediums such as mobile, video, gaming and simulation technologies is inevitable. Organisations such as the U.S. Military (America’s Army), L’Oreal (Reveal) and Marriott (My Marriott Hotel) have already adopted online gaming in recruitment.  Multi-tasking type Facebook games (ala Farmville) or combat simulators have proved to be a highly engaging and valid attraction channel for the next generation of candidates. Marriott’s Facebook hotel simulator was utilised as a recruiting tool to help fill around 50,000 hotel positions mid last year.

So games are being used for recruitment purposes, what about the actual mechanics of gaming though - can they be used for testing purposes?

If you like, video games are akin to cognitive ability tests. The player is often set a challenging problem or task with an underlying set of rules in which they have to achieve an outcome or objective. Often there is a story or plot, with a number of puzzles, levels to progress through or mysteries to solve.

However, unlike video games, psychometric assessments do not reward the applicant with regular feedback to help them self correct their behaviour. Most importantly there are real consequences to psychometric assessment failure: you can lose a life... I mean job.

One such example is a game called L.A. Noire. Without going into too much detail, you are playing a detective by the name of Phelps during the 1940s. Phelps must “unravel the truth behind a string of arson attacks, racketeering conspiracies and brutal murders, battling the L.A. underworld and even members of his own department to uncover a secret that could shake the city to its rotten core”. Plot aside, the game uses groundbreaking facial animation technology that captures every nuance of an actor's performance (see video here http://youtu.be/ZY7RYCsE9KQ)

The focus of the game is the player’s ability to read a suspect's face and determine if he or she is telling the truth, holding something back, or flat out lying. Based on the player’s appraisal of whether the in-game character is presenting the truth, being dishonest, or acting ‘shady’ they are tasked with choosing from a branching list of different responses or actions.

The player may choose to have Phelps apply more pressure to a suspect in order to elicit a response. Depending on the action chosen the game environment changes, relationship with the suspect are impacted, and other broader consequences occur. This is an example of emotional intelligence being applied to solve a problem albeit in a virtual setting.

I know that this is a detective murder-mystery thriller, but why couldn’t the same technology and concept be utilised for other purposes, such as psychometric testing? Surely we could apply this technology to test and develop emotional intelligence and leadership skills?

Say your organisation wanted to assess how a managerial candidate would respond to a scenario when approached by a staff member with a particular type of issue. Is that individual able to not only interpret the dialogue between two characters, but also pick up on non-verbal cues such as facial expression?  What are they focussing on, do they notice changes in mood, and are they oblivious to key information? Depending on the set of actions taken by the virtual manager, the situation could be resolved in the best possible manner, or take a turn for the worse. This technology could facilitate this revolutionary type of testing.

The above is not the only gaming technology that could be used to assess individual competence in problem solving. The gaming industry is rich with such examples. But one step at a time! To recap, I think the rapid change of technology is really enabling us to develop some novel and engaging ways of testing.  The content of these types of futuristic tests would be markedly different to the current offering in the market. It’s certainly an exciting era to be a part of.

Just forget for the moment that we are shackled by the current limitations: Where do you see psychometric testing in the near future? Are you aware of current innovations that resemble some of the things mentioned here?

About this Post

This post was originally published by Onetest on our HR and psychometric testing blog.

Onetest Australia - www.onetest.com.au

Onetest UK - www.onetestexpress.co.uk

Views: 644

Comment by Anuradha Prabhudesai on December 28, 2015 at 3:56am

Nice post. Thanks for sharing and explaining is really good. Our company also provides psychometric testing.


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