Ask the Expert

Published: City Life. June, 2007

Have a question that needs an expert answer? In each new issue of City Life we will feature an expert who can solve your greatest dilemmas. In this issue, we focus on employment, as Sarah Canzano of IC Solutions helps us understand psychological worker assessments.

Q: Does it really have to be a leap of faith when you hire someone?

A: Bringing new employees on board is a timely and expensive business – a step back for several steps forward. First, there are the many processes involved with carefully sifting through candidates and then narrowing down the selection to just a few front-runners. Then the final candidates must continue through the gauntlet of screening and interviews. At the end, you come to a decision and an offer is made. What happens if the person you have selected turns out not to be the individual you thought they were?

That's why many professionals use personality profiles, or psychological assessments. There are numerous such products on the market. About half of business professionals seem to be interested in psychological assessment and curious to learn what they can find out about themselves. The other half finds them anxiety provoking or intimidating, and they are skeptical of their efficacy or see it as an invasion of privacy.

Q: What do psychological assessment methods actually measure?

A: They measure how well an individual is likely to perform in a given role. The best such predictors for key roles involving leadership, management, business development and specialization are attributes of personality, temperament and motivation, and less importantly what goes under the heading of ability ; general intelligence and critical thinking, specific aptitudes or skills.

Q: Is there much science behind this?

A: Yes, there's a great deal of science behind this. There has been much interest in studying how people's qualities are related to their behaviour and job performance, and how this can be effectively measured. If you ask, to what extent does psychological assessment work? the skeptics will say that it does not work. Keep in mind, however, that the science of psychology is very young and that this science involves difficulties that the hard sciences don't have, so much less is to be expected of it.

Q: Is there anything I ought to know or prepare for before taking a typical job-related assessment?

A: You do not have to study beforehand as you would before taking an academic test.The best approach, as is the case with so much in life, is to just be yourself. Trying to be this or that has all kinds of pitfalls in the same way it does in other contexts.

You can generally be confident that your good qualities will be accounted for, just as with a good interview, and that quite a number of variables will enter (more or less unpredictably) into the decision-making. At the same time, there are many misconceptions. The most common is that you have to be a great people person, meaning very outgoing, engaging, charming or likeable. The correlation between having a high degree of this attribute and being effective as a leader, manager or direct salesperson is very low. Many great salespeople, for example, are better listeners than talkers, many great leaders more idea-focused, principle-focused or achievement-focused than people-focused.

Q: Most current assessment methods were developed in the 70s and 80s. Is there any new technology today?

A: What is employed out there in the marketplace is very much based on 70s technology. There's been little advancement in understanding people in connection with roles and capacity to predict the fit. A very significant breakthrough, however, has been incorporated into a product called the PLM Advanced Analysis. This very much takes us to the next level, providing moredepth and efficacy in predicting how an individual will perform in an executive role.So whether you are hiring new people or creating succession planning for your existing team, a wise and modest investment in an online personality profile analysis will pay off immensely.


Sarah Canzano is a Vaughan-based recruiter with 25 years of experience working in the fields of sales, marketing, communications and media. Speaking French, Italian, Spanish and German, she has successfully promoted and worked with emerging technologies in Europe and North America . Locally, she has focused her expertise on recruiting talented individuals on behalf of IC Solutions in sales, marketing, communications and IT.