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Improve Your Odds of Healthcare Hiring Success with Psychometric Testing

A seasoned healthcare executive passed on a career opportunity because he objected to the hiring organization’s use of psychometric testing. Believing he was being psychologically evaluated for his mental health status, he was insulted and walked away. After all, wasn’t his successful career proof enough of his mental stability? Had the organization taken the time to explain they were simply assessing his behavioral traits as a leader, his career might have taken an entirely different path, and the organization might have hired an exceptional leader.

What do the science and literature say about the power and effectiveness of psychometric testing in employment? Psychometric testing has been a widely-used strategy in many industries for a long time, but it’s relatively new in healthcare. The military and professional sports have used behavioral assessments for decades. The U.S. Olympic Training Center measures the physical attributes of athletes, but they also want to understand their personalities. They need to know how an athlete will respond to training and how they will respond to stress.

Get Specific in Terms of Desired Behavioral Attributes

Bryan Warren, director of healthcare solutions at Select International, recommends building a behavioral assessment by asking questions to identify needed behavioral attributes. “We don’t recommend using broad personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, DISC, or Predictive Index. Those are good tools, which have their purpose, but identifying a candidate as an introvert or an extravert doesn’t necessarily predict success on the job,” Bryan explains. While there are good introverted leaders and good extroverted leaders, it’s more important to know a candidate’s comfort with delegation, collaboration, and working autonomously.

Assessments should be built specifically to measure relevant attributes in the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations need to define the behavioral traits required by each specific role. “The science around psychometric testing is sound,” Bryan states.

Remain Skeptical

“Healthcare professionals are naturally skeptical for all the right reasons,” Bryan confirms. Many of them are clinicians who think very logically. They want to see the data and are suspicious of something that looks fancy and may have been hyped as a magical solution.”

Those who are reticent toward psychometric testing would be well-served by thinking about building the entire selection system without focusing on the assessment alone. By educating hiring managers about the concept of evidence-based hiring in general, this approach can minimize gut instinct and intuition and build a hiring process based on hard data. Hiring managers will likely value improving their odds of making a slightly better hiring decision every time and avoiding bad hires entirely.

Assessments Are Only Part of the Hiring Puzzle

Bryan says, “Although we know these tools are highly predictive, we perform around three dozen validation studies a year where we take assessment scores and compare them to actual on-the-job performance. Then we make changes as needed to make them more predictive for every job category: senior leaders, physicians, nurses, frontline staff.

By measuring the important and predictive attributes for a job, the assessment can predict with a good degree of certainty whether a person will be successful in the role. While no single item in an assessment is predictive, six to twelve questions may, in combination, predict whether an individual is likely to be collaborative, manage stress well, adapt to change, and attend to detail. This is incredibly important information when a hiring manager is trained to know what to do with it. Using a three-step process, healthcare organizations can hire and select employees based upon the attributes necessary to perform a job successfully.

Three Steps for Successful Recruiting and Hiring

  1. First, define the necessary behavioral competencies. These may include, for example, collaboration, attention to detail, and a willingness to take direction.
  2. Second, decide which assessment tools to plug into the system. When hiring nurses, use a nursing-specific behavioral assessment configured to those behavioral competencies important to the organization. Define the appropriate tool and develop a complementary interview guide with coordinated interview training.
  3. Third, develop the process. When searching for an executive, the selection process for candidates will be quite different from nurse selection. The interview process is different; the type of selection is different. The same thing is true with managers and directors— each process is different.

There are a few pitfalls. It’s important not to draw too many conclusions from an assessment or use the wrong instrument. The tests are not magic or 100% accurate. Assessments should be built to measure traits predictive of success or performance in a specific role. How and where to use the data and the policies built around the data are what make the tool successful.

Consider the candidate pool, consider the tools, and build a positive candidate experience. This last is a very important part of developing the process. A great deal of work must be done on the process before choosing or creating the right psychometric assessment.  

This blog post is taken from a HealthStream Second Opinions Podcast that was recorded recently. To hear Bryan Warren's full discussion, link to his podcast here.

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