Take the assessment – it might answer questions you never knew you had

pinpoint one human resources CEO and director Lucia Mabasa. Picture: Supplied

pinpoint one human resources CEO and director Lucia Mabasa. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2024


By Lucia Mabasa

If you have not been confronted by them yet on your journey to the C-Suite, you will be very soon.

Psychometric assessments are almost inevitable at this level. It’s not enough to have the right qualifications and the right track record, you have to be right for the job – and that’s something that some people find difficulty with.

There is a lot of fear about psychometric assessments. Some of it is based in truth, but it is mostly based on the fear of the unknown – yourself.

The one thing you don’t have to worry about is ethnic prejudice. There were concerns years ago that psychometric assessments favoured western, white, candidates, but these days the assessments approved by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa are totally culturally neutral, so make sure any assessment you take has that stamp of approval.

But there is one thing you do have to fear: being caught cheating on the psychometric assessment, making up answers that you think are the right ones or lying.

If that happens, you will have done more than shot yourself in the foot and taken yourself out of contention, you will have told the assessors – and the panel – everything about your integrity – or lack of it.

Psychometric assessments set out to test your cognitive ability, they’ll check how you manage complexity and how you consume and synthesise a mass of information.

They are designed to see how you cope under pressure – and if, or when, you get overwhelmed and what happens then. They’ll check your learning ability. You’ll normally be asked to take these assessments after you have made it past the initial panel assessment and been shortlisted for the final panel.

Many panels also set case study assignments so that you can be judged on your core competencies as you present; are you a person who thrives in an unstructured environment, do you have a plan or are you a trial and error person?

Are you rule bound or do you throw the book out of the window?

People who have come out of highly regulated environments with procedures, like the medical profession, often find it difficult to transition from their area of speciality to running the entire company, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make excellent CEOs, it’s for the panel to see beyond that and understand their background.

Psychometric assessments are important for panels because they check three key things: whether you are strategic or operational by nature, whether you have the capacity to learn to transition from one to the other and what kind of person you are.

If the company is looking for a CEO to arrive, take charge, share their vision with the team and start implementing it, then if you are found to be more operational you might not get the job.

However if you are shown to be capable of being able to learn and to adapt – and the company has both the time and the faith in you, you might still get the job, but be placed on a strategy course or be given a coach or a mentor to help you, while you bridge the gap.

Some companies need agile risk takers to disrupt the team and the market, others need calm heads and sure hands to lead the firm, reassure the shareholders, motivate the staff and maintain market share.

Companies, especially legacy ones, often oscillate between these two poles. Start-ups are edgy risk takers, but as they develop and settle into the market, they become more corporate in nature.

CEOs need to reflect these needs too. Some teams need their leaders to be extroverts who love people, who communicate and who consult, others require introverts who just need to get the job done.

This is why psychometric tests are so vital. You might have everything in your favour, you might well have been a fantastic CEO or deputy CEO in your last post, but you don’t fit this particular company at this time – and it’s far better to have that recognised and understood before ending up in a job that you hate and one in which ultimately your board ends up hating you too.

It’s important to ask for feedback from the psychometric assessments, especially the first time you do them.

It’s often a shock to find out that your strong points aren’t the ones that you imagined them to be and, in fact, you aren’t as good a negotiator as you thought you were, but that your financial analysis skills, which you always believed were a weak point, are way above average.

Knowing this about yourself, helps you improve by showing what you need to work on, whether by enrolling on a course or getting a life coach, depending on where the need is.

But equally, people change and subsequent psychometric assessments offer a valuable opportunity to take stock about your own progress on this journey.

In the end though it will all come down to the right fit – and that is ultimately beyond your control.

If this job isn’t for you, perhaps the next one will be.

The key in all of this is not to fear the psychometric assessments but rather lean into them and use the feedback to master yourself and recalibrate your career path towards the company where you can shoot the lights out and leave a legacy.

* Lucia Mabasa is Chief Executive Officer of pinpoint one human resources, a proudly South African black women owned executive search firm. pinpoint one human resources provides executive search solutions in the demand for C suite, specialist and critical skills across industries and functional disciplines, in South Africa and across Africa. Visit www.pinpointone.co.za to find out more or read her previous columns on leadership; avoiding the pitfalls of the boardroom and becoming the best C-suite executive you can be.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.