Another Half-Baked Hiring Idea

Sep 29, 2009
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

iStock_000007129991XSmallFor some strange reason, Todd Raphael, the ERE Editor, sent me an article on yet another wacko idea pretending to facilitate hiring. He must think I have an axe to grind against wrong-headed hiring ideas. Imagine that! Well done, Todd. This one ranks right down there with handwriting analysis.

The article cites a lady who specializes in what she calls energy profiling. She claims she or one of her licensees can examine your photograph to determine with perfect accuracy (her words) your personality type. Amazing! And to think all those psychologists who worked their way through graduate school, suffered peer-reviewed research, and spent tons of money pursuing advanced degrees for the last 100 years could have just looked at your photograph! Go figure.

I searched, but aside from watching an engaging streaming video taken in front of some very picturesque mountains, I found little proof that she was qualified to produce legitimate hiring tools. Her PR firm did claim she revolutionized the fashion and beauty industries by sharing her simple beauty/fashion assessments with women around the world; helped women align their physical features in perfect harmony with their clothing, jewelry, hair color and style; and provided pioneering insights on weight, sex & intimacy/relationships, depression, self-esteem, parenting, finances, physical health, and spiritual health. Wow. After all that, I guess hiring was the only field left to master.

I don’t know about you, but I like to see a writer have professional certifications or special education that would convince me they actually knew what they were talking about. You know, the same way we would expect a medical correspondent to actually have practiced medicine, a legal expert to graduate from an accredited law school, or an engineer to a have a legitimate engineering degree. But that’s just me.

She presents, as proof of her work, a collection of streaming video segments and personal testimonials from people claiming her system changed their lives for the better. Sorry, folks, this kind of “proof” is nothing more than personal opinion. If you want to know whether something is fact, you have to produce facts to support your opinion. Unbridled enthusiasm unsupported with expert knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’m sure she is sincere about what she does. No one would make such wild claims unless they were. Unfortunately, using a photograph system to type people and predict job skills is a shining example of pure nonsense.

Let’s list a few facts prepared by the DOL, published in 1978.

As I claimed before, if you want to see an example of a rare event when the government got it right, read through the 1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures.

Clearly Define What You Want to Measure

The Guidelines suggest it’s a good idea to conduct a professional job analysis before starting any hiring project. A professional job analysis includes talking with employees to learn what they do, talking with managers to learn what’s important, and talking with people who know if the job will change in the future. Since these folks cannot be expected to know about testing, the analyst converts their information into measurable competencies and verifies it with a wide range of job content experts.

You know this step has been missed when people in the hiring chain argue among themselves or complain the recruiter keeps sending them the wrong people. A good job analysis reduces job confusion. BTW… I’ve never yet seen a professional analyst break down a job into this lady’s purported energy types. We must have all missed that class.

Step Two

Now that we know what to measure, it’s time to hit the books to choose trustworthy measurement tools. In some cases, this will be structured interview questions, pencil and paper tests, job simulations, realistic job previews, case studies, planning exercises, technical knowledge tests, and so forth. The important thing to remember is that any process used to separate qualified from unqualified applicants, even if it is a yardstick, is a test. I cannot repeat this enough: interviews, resume screens, application blanks, and even specialized recruiting sources are tests!

It would be nice to know the tests you used were accurate.

The DOL says you cannot rely on validity claims made by vendors, marketing literature, third party statements, or any other source. These claims probably have nothing to do with your job. Can you use a test developed for bankers to hire your banker? Only if you can show the two jobs are highly similar. That’s a good thing. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars based on false assurances?


Read up on the Guidelines. I’m sure this won’t be the last time someone will naively try to expand market share. But making a hiring decision based on a person’s photograph is not only bad science; it is completely irresponsible behavior

I can just see the future. “Position open for individual with a well developed root chakra, median energy navel chakra, and a mature third-eye chakra. Candidates with an overactive sacral chakra or an undeveloped heart chakra need not apply. Mature crown chakra’s always welcome.”

Does HR need any more trouble with gaining credibility?

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
Get articles like this
in your inbox
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting articles about talent acquisition emailed weekly!