Getting into a Job Applicant’s Head

As if the job application and interview process weren’t intense enough, some employers want to get into the applicant’s psyche to make sure he or she has the right psychological makeup for the job.

California employers generally cannot make job applicants take a psychological exam as part of the application process. Specifically, any employer subject to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Govt C §§12900-12996) (i.e., one employing five or more persons) may not require any psychological examination of a job applicant. Govt C §12940(e)(1).

But what about if the employer doesn’t actually order a psychological exam, but instead uses the job interview to stealthily get into the applicant’s head?

The Careerist blog reports on law firms deploying behavior interviews to assess job applicants. These firms “want assurance that [applicants] have the “right stuff”–the psychological makeup–for survival and success at the firm.” The goal of behavioral interviewing, as a Law.com article puts it, is to

see how new attorneys can handle the sometimes stressful law firm environment and, even more, whether they can provide real world value to clients beyond just handing in strong work product.

At least one law firm is going beyond behavioral interviews to require that recruits take a psychological test as part of their callbacks. Although this would be unlawful in California for those employers subject to the FEHA, it’s a safe bet that some employers will edge as close to the testing line as they can without stepping over in the always competitive effort to get the top talent in the applicant pool.

On hiring guidelines (and pitfalls), including those relating to psychological testing, check out CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, chap 1.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

2 Responses

  1. These tests can be extremely useful in matching people with the right job. And I mean for the job candidate as well as the employer. When a person and a job are mismatched, everybody suffers. I don’t see how this can be a bad thing.

  2. Rumor has it that part of astronaut selection involves calling the candidate at 3 am, and demand that they come to the office to help solve some routine problem.

    If i’m interviewing, i’m happy if i can figure out if the candidate knows what they’re doing, or could reasonably learn it. If i can’t figure it out, i don’t hire. Sometimes the language barrier is so steep that i can’t figure it out. I’ve worked with people that i didn’t hire with a language barrier that high, but were competent. For example, our common language turned out to be Java. It worked. And as a bonus, i’m not at all tempted to swear in Java.

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