5 January 2020 posted by Jade Deininger

Psychological pre-employment testing – as explained with a Game of Thrones twist!

Selecting the right candidate for your organisation, or your medieval fantasy realm, is so important. The cost of a bad hire can upset culture, reduce productivity, see heads literally and figuratively chopped (later Ned Stark), and can cost a heap of gold bullions in training, induction, and recruitment (around $250,000 according to a well-known and cited recruiter on the peer-reviewed journal ‘Google’). And even more importantly, you don’t want to end up with a Joffrey among the ranks.

Joffrey Lannister: An entitled individual who is energised by external stimulus and comforts (think fine wine, food, and high thread count sheets). He is extroverted and comfortable in leadership positions, but also lacks empathy. He needs immediate satisfaction and will struggle to regulate his emotions and remain composed if things don’t go his way, resulting in angry or violent outbursts.

 Download a Free Emotional Intelligence Matrix here

Such a set of characteristics may be appropriate in some circles of celebrity and royalty, but maybe not for your business. Understanding a candidates’ psychological traits can assist to ensure you don’t make poor recruitment decisions such as placing a Joffery as the head of your Human Resources department.

How to choose the right candidate:

So, how do we go about choosing the right person? We have reviewed resumes and screened out the obvious. We can then invite the seemingly experienced, well-adjusted, knowledgeable candidates for your regular old standard interview. Is this really the best we can do? Especially when we hold the fate of Westeros in our hands.

A standard interview is ok if you know the interviewer has perfect insight and judgement without any preconceptions or biases (I know a few people who think this highly of themselves). However, for us mere mortals, there are a lot of limitations to this approach. For example;

  • Personal biases – interviewer’s likes and dislikes affect judgement
  • Halo effect – interviewer is affected by a single characteristic of a candidate
  • Constant error – interviewer is influenced by the previous candidate
  • Leniency – tendency of interviewer to assign high scores
  • Projection – interviewer expects own skills/attributes in the candidate
  • Stereotyping – interviewer believes of an association between traits

Psychometric assessments:

Psychometric assessments are standardised and objective processes to measure a persons traits, capabilities, and mental capacity. These measures are then interpreted in relation to a specific role (i.e. the job description for ruling the Iron Throne). Psychologists can utilise a variety of methods (black magic) to increase the reliability and validity of predicting a successful hire. Some common examples of what can be assessed using psychometrics include;

  • Verbal, numerical, and mechanical aptitude
  • Abstract reasoning and intelligence
  • Personality and job fit
  • Leadership skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Orientation to team work
  • Ability to follow instructions and work independently
  • Ability to manage stress, pressure, and work demands
  • Safety behaviours

The most current research has indicated that general mental ability (i.e your Smarts) is the best predictor of job performance in terms of dollars and cents productivity (Schmidt, Oh and Shaffer, 2016). This was followed by integrity testing (hello there John Snow), and some personality traits. Furthermore, utilising a combination of the above along with an interview will combine to increase predictive validity of your hiring process – this means the successful candidate is statistically more likely to be a better performer in your role.

Personality and behavioural traits:

So you have now decided to use a multi-method approach and you are down to a few candidates… What you will likely receive is a bunch of nice sounding psychological jargon similar to below. Choose you own adventure here people…

Tyrion Lannister; This guy is highly adaptable, intelligent, and articulate. He is extroverted but un-agreeable. He is willing to speak his mind and provide his opinion to anyone. At times he may seem arrogant, but he also has a kind and empathetic nature with strong values. His quick wit and sarcasm will split the room and his peers’ opinions of him.

Danerese Targarian; This person scores high in abstract reasoning, she is determined and strategic. She can think logically and coordinate complex systems, remaining patient and planning for longer-term goals. She has a warm and empathetic nature, and is open and understanding of various ideas, values and cultures. She is quiet and independent, and may not communicate her plans with others.

Cersei Lannister; Someone who is cunning and socially manipulative. She is highly perceptive and influential due to her emotional intelligence. Although her interpersonal skills are well defined, she is less adaptable than some of her peers. At time she may lack longer-term foresight and her manipulation can get her in trouble.

What’s important to note:

What’s important to remember in the race for the Iron Throne is that each candidate has specific strengths and weaknesses, based on their own complex interplay of personality characteristics and how they are behaviourally expressed. Each personality trait operates on a continuum from low to high, and where you land on that continuum is 1 small factor that contributes to how you would tend to operate in a particular environment or situation. For example, I wouldn’t be recruiting Cersei in my team of psychologists (what’s empathy?), but she might turn out to be a gun sales rep? Don’t fall in to the trap of labelling any particular trait as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and ensure you have a solid understanding of the role you want to place your candidates to reap the benefits of psychometric testing.

So who would fit best on your #IronThrone?

Consult with Recovery Partners for more information on choosing the right candidate for you.


At Recovery Partners, our team is dedicated to providing accurate pre-employment assessments for a range of industries.You can find out more about our psychological pre-employment assessments here, where you can make an online enquiry.

Alternatively, our consultants love to have a chat, so give us a call on 1300 OHS RTW (647 789).

Find out more on Psychological Pre-Employment Assessments

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au