I used to have an imaginary twin.
It seems that Britain’s biggest companies and government departments are now using deep psychological profiling, to sift through applicants and weed out risky or unsuitable candidates.
A team of graduates from Cambridge University has developed an in-depth psychometric screening test which uncovers the ‘subconscious latent potential’ of employees while getting rid of job-seekers who look good on paper, but could prove a liability in the workplace.
The developers claim the 30 minute online assessment – dubbed a ‘corporate x-ray’ – can reveal people’s underlying motivations and metal health problems. Usually it would take six hours on a psychologist’s couch to make a similar analysis.
Instead of quizzing applicants about their strengths and weakness, or asking them to demonstrate leadership qualities, the test asks 55 questions such as ‘have you ever had an imaginary twin?’ and probes how people handle conflicts with their partners or parents.
The team say talking about an imaginary twin allows people to offer up information that they may have chosen to keep hidden when talking about themselves, such as feeling ashamed, competitive or jealous.
“It is really a snapshot of someone’s mental state, so we can see what is going on beneath the surface,” said Dr Curly Moloney, joint founder of The Cambridge Code assessment. “In essence we are short cutting hours spent with a psychologist.
“This is then run through our algorithms. Each question tells us a small thing but when put with other answers it becomes a small jigsaw piece in a big picture.”
The test has already been used by Network Rail and Whitehall departments including the Treasury, as well as FTSE 100 companies who claim today’s candidates have such similar CVs, they are often forced to discriminate on tiny punctuation errors.
Prospective employees are given a read-out using a traffic-light style system which marks them as ‘balanced’ or ‘risky’ in areas such as drive, dealing with authority, and integrity.
Dr Moloney believes the assessment could eventually replace an interview completely. She recently hired two candidates based on The Cambridge Code results alone, even though she had never met them.
“These days every graduate has at least a 2:1 from Durham and everyone’s CV looks amazing, so companies need new ways to find the best candidates, to find out who has got real drive and potential,” sad Dr Moloney.
“It might tell you that a person is a bit needy, or not very resilient, or that they take too many risks. It would tell you if someone would sail a bit too close to the wind, or lacks integrity, or cuts corners.
“We had a FTSE 250 clinet who was seeking a new chief financial officer and you might think it would pay to have someone meticulous, but that character trait also means they are likely to cover things up if something goes wrong.
“Government departments on the other hand want people who are adaptable, while a hedge fund might be looking for someone who is prepared to take risks, and is individually competitive rather than a team player.”
Dr Moloney said the test can pick up traits such as inner drive, which does not become apparent until someone has typically worked at an organisation for between six months and a year.
It will also help women, and candidates who can struggle with stressful social interactions, such as those with aspergers and autism.
“I’ve come across many female CEOs who are great at running a company, but don’t interview well,” she said.
“I think this is why a lot of women don’t end up on boards, even though they would be very good at it.”
The team are also hoping the test will be used by doctors surgeries to quickly assess mental conditions in patients.
Dr Helen Emmott, Director of The Cambridge Code, said: “This would be a really useful diagnostic for GPs, and much cheaper and quicker than sending someone to a psychologist.
“We hope it will become available to the public as well, so that they can get a better understanding of what is driving them at a subconscious level.
“There are underlying reasons we act like we do, and knowing them can help us understand ourselves more.”
Personally, I don’t have too much belief in the existence of AI, other than as stuff that has been put in that can later be regurgitated by a computer and also believe we will soon see a raft of companies who claim their operations can run on AI, have actually just been using low-paid data-inputters, but that aside, the future is looking fairly spooky, with companies using AI to weed out anyone who doesn’t fit their template.