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Laying Psyches Bare

Shamni Pande        Print Edition: Feb 3, 2013

Only 24, Delhi student Prashant Navin Gupta has already had a taste of what many senior managers did not experience in their entire careers: a psychometric test. But the student at Delhi's Indian Institute of Foreign Trade did not know that when he took part in an online competition by infotech firm Cognizant Technology Solutions.

Gupta had to solve a business case study and answer some unusual questions such as: how many traffic signals would be red in Mumbai at a particular point of time?

"Cognizant selectively threw open an online competition called 'The Strategist' to some business schools, and I stood second among 1,500 participants," says Gupta. "One can only provide the logic and thinking behind such queries; you are judged for your reasoning alone."

The exercise was part of Cognizant's engagement activity with some campuses, but an increasing number of infotech and consulting firms are also using psychometric tests to map the minds of job applicants.

Some firms use the tests to identify potential business leaders. "Often, they fight shy of using the test during selection at senior levels due to time constraints, but this is changing fast as they now realise that a wrong hire proves more expensive," says Chaitali Mukherjee, Country Manager, Right Management, one of the largest resellers of such tools.

There are a host of psychometric test packages in the market. Several companies use the Hogan Personality Inventory, which seeks to measure preferences of individuals and how these impact decision-making.

"There is no right or wrong answer in these tests. It is social science and seeks to map people's personalities and their aptitude for certain roles," says Devashis Rath, Senior Consultant, DDI India, which has developed a range of patented tests.

How to Handle the Tests
  • Be your normal self
  • Do not take time to analyse questions, give the response that comes naturally
  • Do not take the test in a rush
  • There is nothing to prepare for before taking these tests
  • Do not give socially desirable responses
  • There is no right or wrong answer; this is a social science that maps behaviour
A Cognizant spokesperson says the company does not use these exercises for hiring, employing instead psychometric tests certified by the American Psychology Association and British Psychology Society for self-development of individuals.

Such tools are also used for succession planning and career development. "Some of the common competencies evaluated include leadership, communication, innovation, interpersonal effectiveness, problem-solving and decision-making and conflict resolution," says Hariraj Vijayakumar, Global Head, Cognizant Academy, an in-house development and training centre for employees.

Looking at the opportunity, Mettl, a start-up co-founded by Ketan Kapoor and Tanmoy Shingal, started focusing on developing psychometric tests in 2010. "We are coming up with our own version of psychometric tests which are used to assess business skills," says Kapoor.

Boutique management consultancy Virtus HR Strategic Business Partner Anil Raghavan says the firm is bringing Profile XT, a popular psychometric tool used by Fortune 500 companies, to India. Clearly, they have all understood the mind of the market.

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