Hospitality.co.za

I was incensed!  Not just slightly miffed, but mad as a snake. A well-known company turned down my candidate following three in depth interviews because she “failed” a personality profile test. You would imagine that this well qualified lady must have a major personality disorder, or at least a large enough defect to warrant overriding the judgement of the General Manager, F&B Manager, HR manager and three previous employers.

The test took 30 minutes to fill in, the results punched quickly into an on line form and voila! The computer says No! A talented, qualified and hardworking hotelier’s career was defined by a microchip programed by some clever psychologist with a double barrelled name.

The conclusion of the test – she is “all talk and no action”. That was the reason not to employ?  I was floored at this diagnosis “all talk”. How many people attending interviews have tried really hard to impress the employer? I recon she was simply selling herself. I would have expected at least a “borderline personality disorder” as a justification but, no, she talks too much.

This brings up the debate as to whether personality profiles and other types of pre-employment psychometrics are relevant for the hospitality industry.

Personality tests are used widely in recruitment with over 50% of employers in the UK using some form of Psychometric test to aid them in identifying the suitable candidate. They are a useful tool in predicting how an employee might react in work situations and can indicate a person’s honesty, inventiveness, punctuality and interpersonal style, how they handle stress or work in a team. But one must be cautious, there are many bad tests on the market and they do not predict job performance.

We humans are a funny bunch. It’s in our DNA to shove people into convenient personality boxes. It’s only natural and makes it easier for us to define who is a friend or foe. Our culture in the age of social networks is like or dislike, follow or unfollow. We favour easy conclusions and would rather reject than accept a person if there is a modicum of doubt. We also rely on technology too much. Computers are logical, unemotional machines and we would rather trust their uncomplicated conclusions than our own rather befuddled instincts.  Hence the increasing use of personality profiles in employment decisions.

My beef with these tests is that they should be used in conjunction with a thorough interview and reference checking process and not as a replacement for this. The personality test should be a guideline to assist the interviewer when the conclusions of the test can form part of the questioning process that may assist in identifying weaknesses and strengths.

Stands to reason that an over reliance on these tests can lead to as many bad employment decisions as good ones if not used correctly.

The hospitality industry is home to many colourful personalities. It’s what makes each hotel or restaurant unique. It’s not just the beautiful surroundings and décor that guests come to experience it is the character of a venue which is defined by the people we employ. No one wants to be greeted at the door of his favourite restaurant by the bank manager or the accountant. They want a flamboyant personality who makes them feel entertained and welcome.

Really talented people are not easy to manage. A great chef can be a challenge, but, if his food is pulling in the great reviews and the cash, is it not worth tolerating a soupçon of madness? I would venture to suggest that Chefs in particular have a number of endemic personality defects. As a recruiter I want a chef to be antisocial enough to closet himself for hours in a hot kitchen. Narcissistic enough to crave the public adoration at the end of a successful service.  Masochist enough to work for 16 hours and come back to do the same the next day. Obsessive compulsive enough to produce the perfect dish one hundred times with the same delicious result.

In fact, are these very “disorders” not the perfect profile for a chef?  Yes, I want my Chefs to be served hot with talent, passionate with a reasonable dollop of madness!

To those clever psychologists who get rich on designing personality tests. Please design a unique one for the hospitality industry? You see we are different from the rest of society.  Truth is most of our great personalities in hotels would probably “fail” the existing tests. We don’t want to employ conventional personalities; we don’t mind our employees being a bit loco.  You see, you don’t have to be mad to work in hospitality but it sure helps.

 

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