Psychometric Testing in Pharma and Biotech Hiring

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Pictured: A surreal landscape with human figures representing different personalities/Nicole Bean for BioSpace

Psychometric tests are designed to assess a candidate’s cognitive abilities, problem solving skills, personality traits and values. Some companies and recruiting firms administer such assessments in tandem with traditional interviews as part of the hiring process.

According to Patricia Thompson, a corporate psychologist and the president of Silver Lining Psychology, such assessments provide potential employers additional insight into a candidate’s skills and personality. “It can be challenging to get a full understanding of someone’s personality in an interview, and psychometric tests allow employers to dig further,” Thompson wrote in an email to BioSpace.

Organizational psychologist Miriam Groom founded career counseling and leadership development service Mindful Career, where she uses psychological profiling and personality assessments to help clients find the right career path and to excel in their fields. “Psychometric assessments are administered to gauge a potential employee’s skills, talents, and their personality to assess fit within the organization’s culture and success at the position,” she told BioSpace.

The tests can be administered at any stage in the recruiting process depending on the organization’s needs, including the initial screening process or once the pool of candidates has been narrowed down. There are different psychometric assessments to gauge various traits, and they usually require psychologists, consultants or other personnel specifically trained to analyze and interpret their results, Groom and Thompson told BioSpace.

Bob Broady, president and executive recruiter for BroadReach Search Partners, noted that “companies screening potential candidates for sales discovery roles look for specific traits such as comfort with ambiguity, flexibility and perseverance.”

Personality assessments are important for assessing leadership qualities such as emotional intelligence, diplomacy, pragmatism and decision-making abilities, the experts agreed. For example, Hogan’s Personality Inventory and Hogan Development Survey examine how people relate to others and perform under stress. Watson Glaser and Raven’s Matrices assess critical thinking and reasoning abilities.

“Typically for higher positions a combination of psychometric tests would be administered to get a comprehensive picture of the different traits needed to excel in the position,” Thompson explained. “Psychometric tests give employers an objective overall perspective of the potential hire and could help to reduce hiring bias.”

Both Groom and Broady said that around 15% to 20% of their biotech and pharma clients routinely use psychometric tests for hiring purposes.

Guardrails Around Psychometric Tests

“For companies that use such assessments, validity studies may include the test developers validating the test, or internal validity studies by the organization looking at the traits and the scores of the top performers in certain roles within the organization,” Thompson said.

Even when companies use validated tests, they must ensure that the tests are objective, standardized, reliable and used appropriately in the hiring process to avoid discriminatory practices. Companies need to respect confidentiality, and only those who are most involved in hiring should have access to the reports, Thompson noted.

Creating a Win-Win Situation

Companies are invested in finding candidates with specific traits that will help them succeed in the position and thrive within the organization. According to the three consultants who spoke with BioSpace for this piece, psychometric tests can help companies and recruiters find such candidates. On the other side of the coin, psychometric tests are also intended to help candidates discover their unique talents and strengths and apply them in positions and within organizations where they are most likely to succeed.

Beyond drawing on psychometric test results to make informed hires, companies may also use the data to ensure a candidate’s success at the company once they’re on board. The data can inform the company’s leadership and managers on how to coach their employees and develop an environment where they can thrive, Broady told BioSpace.

Preparing for Psychometric Assessments

The experts’ unanimous advice to candidates on how to approach a psychometric test during the hiring process was to be rested and authentic, and avoid overthinking it. The tests are meant to honestly assess their suitability for a specific role and determine their fit within an organization.

Sources who spoke with BioSpace also cautioned against trying to game the tests. “Some questions are designed to assess if you are managing impressions or trying to present yourself as something you are not,” Thompson said. “Self-awareness is important. Employers are more likely to be impressed by someone who recognizes that they have opportunities for development.”

Psychometric testing can help pharma and biotech companies to position themselves as workplaces that deeply care about their employees’ successes, Broady said. “Towards creating a good candidate experience during the hiring process, pharma and biotech companies should get the message out that the companies view their prospective candidates as an investment, and hope the candidates take the time to become self-aware, and together they can determine if the company is the place where the candidate can thrive,” he concluded.

Sunitha Chari is a freelance science writer and academic editor based in Toronto. See more of her work at sunithachari.contently.com and reach her at sunithachari.02@gmail.com.

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