with greg layton

The Inner Chief is for leaders, professionals and small business owners who want to accelerate their career and growth. Our guest chiefs and gurus share powerful stories and strategies so you can have more purpose, influence and impact in your career.

Listen on

In this episode, we meet Justin McNamara, Psychometrics Guru and founder of People Excellence.

Justin trained as an Occupational Psychologist and has worked with a variety of businesses in most industries to improve the performance of their people in Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

He has a side-business, Advantage Punter, which focuses on helping punters beat the bookies through the use of advanced machine learning and data analysis. Their product correctly predicted the 2018 Melbourne Cup winner and has a strong track record in Super Rugby and NRL.

In this episode we talk about: 

  • What Psychometrics is (and isn’t) and which tests are useful in the recruitment process;
  • Knowing the markers for success for predicting both performance and leadership;
  • The future of Psychometrics and big data; and
  • The key factors in ensuring you can ace a psychometric test.

Connecting with Justin McNamara

You can reach Justin on LinkedIn. You can also view the People Excellence Ltd website to see what his business is all about. 

On what Psychometrics is

  • They are essentially “measures of the mind”; the most common measures that people will know would be ability or aptitude tests.
  • When people are applying for jobs, they might do a verbal reasoning or numerical reasoning test. These are actually solving problems to do with words or numbers.
  • Then there are personality measures, which look at people's preferred way to think, feel and behave at work, and also culture or engagement surveys in a workplace.

On what Psychometrics isn’t about

  • There are all sorts of dodgy tests out there, where people think they can create them themselves. There are also very popular tests that are still used today that haven't adapted as the science has changed.
  • Some tests are good for a developmental, coaching or team session, but are being used in high-stakes situations such as recruitment or promotions decisions.
  • These are just not good practice and doesn't reflect how the tests are to be used, especially with ones where there’s a time constraint. It’s also a poor candidate experience as they often don’t get feedback or any insight into their personality or their response to these particular assessments.

On what tests should be a part of the recruitment process

  • The questions to ask before using any tests are, “What does good look like in this job? What does great performance look like in this job? What's going to be expected of people in this type of role in the foreseeable future?” So you have to work out what the markers are first and then what are the best ways to get evidence of those markers.
  • One good predictor is a work sample, which is basically when a candidate does a one or two-hour shift as a sample of the job. They are fantastic and low-cost.

On the markers for success for predicting both performance and leadership

  • These are the key measurables when trying to separate higher from lower performers.
  • As an example, one of the markers for a more senior role might be around the ability to flex their influencing style between a push and a pull. So that's having more of an assertive style of influencing where they can push for a good commercial outcome. But there might be a time where they need a pull style of influencing. Seeing evidence of both of those complementary styles would be a marker of high potential for leadership success.
  • Resumés don't actually have that much useful information. For example, how many years of experience someone has in doing a similar type of job is thought to be useful. But the research shows that the relationship between the number of years of experience and job performance is actually weak. The reason is that experience can actually be quite varied based on and the role and environment that you're in and your motivations to perform.

On a perfect recruitment process

  • Start off with some sort of screening criteria. We sometimes call these killer questions as these are your non-negotiables. These might be certain qualifications, a driver's licence, a willingness to relocate or work in a specific location, a right to work or have certain clearances.
  • Then I’d use the relevant psychometrics, as we’ve spoken about, followed by a structured interview.
  • And then a work sample, perhaps only for your final three candidates.

On four tactics to know which tests to use

  • Reliability: how accurate that particular test is. If we've got people that do the same test, would they get a very similar result?
  • Validity: does the assessment measure what it claims to measure? You should look for evidence that the test can actually do that. You could also try a local validation study, which is where you can run the test in your business and link the results to outcomes that matter to the business in this role. This will allow you to separate your better performers from your lower performers.
  • Standardised: who is being compared to who on the test? You might even have a benchmark for each type of marker and so you want to know what that comparison group is and that it is relevant for the role and level.
  • Fairness: are two people from different groups able to perform equally well on the assessment? For example, gender groups – we do expect generally that males and females might show some differences in different aspects of tests.

On key factors for acing a psychometric test

  • It all starts with a good night's sleep. There is very clear research that cognitive performance declines when we're sleep-deprived.
  • Pick the window in which you're going to do the test. Some self-awareness will help you here around knowing what time of the day you perform really well.
  • There's some research around caffeine that found that introverts are a little bit more sensitive to stimuli, so they do worse in tests. So make sure you understand how caffeine impacts your performance.
  • Make sure that you're in a quiet environment. Whether it's doing it at home, or when the kids are in bed, or booking a meeting room at the office, you've got to be in a distraction-free environment.
  • Practise questions that are most similar to the test you will need to complete. Try and practise them with some time pressure as that's an added factor that can throw you off your game.
  • Be open and honest, and trust your first response – these tests can be faked, but you might not fit the job that you're actually going for and you could find yourself three to six months down the track looking for another job. Or you might actually be an over-fit for a particular job; for example, you might actually come out as being too assertive for a specific role.

Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders 

  • We're all the same but slightly different. We forget the fact that we're all just humans and that we've had the same evolutionary history. So leaders need to flex their style and actually appreciate that we are not identical. Acknowledge the fact that people have slight differences in how they might solve problems, what motivates them, what they really strive towards, and what they want to achieve in their world, in their lives.

Books and resources mentioned in the episode

Stay epic,