The ultimate character test
Some claim personality tests to be a fad, but others are adamant about their utility for recruitment purposes…
The use of personality tests for recruitment purposes is nothing new, they are used by 89 of the Fortune 100 companies and almost 2.5 million people complete the Myers-Briggs test every year. It's not just the business world that's making the most of this psychological tool either, personality tests are very much in vogue amongst the younger generation and have become a strange product of a new age of ‘pop-psychology’. Although they can act as a stepping stone towards increased self-awareness, they aren’t particularly well-received in the professional realm of social sciences. While some claim them to be a ‘fad’ and ‘gimmick’, others are adamant about their utility for recruitment purposes. But do they have a role in the superyacht industry?
Liam Dobbin, Managing Director at Wilsonhalligan recruitment, believes they are a valuable tool for his line of work. Speaking to SuperyachtNews, Dobbin explains, “We use the 16 personalities test for growth and development purposes more so than for direct recruitment. It can increase self-awareness and show candidates that perhaps they are lacking in certain aspects such as communication or organisation… what I will say is it’s important that people understand what they are being tested for and that the person giving the debrief has at the very least a basic understanding of psychology.”
Dobbin revealed that it is not uncommon for yachts to ask for specific personality types. For client-facing roles, it can certainly help to have someone with charisma and strong social skills. “Everyone always wants an extroverted deckhand who is going to be really active and have lots of energy. But actually, if you want someone who is really good at specific skills like carpentry or water sports then sometimes it's better when they are an introvert because they don’t get distracted as easily and they have really honed in on that skill set.”
One of the main problems with the Myers-Briggs test is that it claims to be able to categorise billions of people into just 16 categories. Trying to simplify the complexity of just one human being's personality spectrum is no easy feat, and it's hard to believe that this can be done with a 20-minute online quiz. A surface-level analysis might be handy for a typical 9-5 job, but the crew of a superyacht must live side by side for months and even years on end, and so a more comprehensive understanding of an individual's triggers and preferences is needed.
Malcolm Jacotine, Founder of OnlyCaptains.com, has worked as both a captain and a recruiter in the superyacht industry. Jacotine explains, “The challenge for professional recruiters is to be able to get in front of a captain or a decision-maker and prove that there is worth in what they can do in the process. That they offer something different.” This in turn has led to recruitment agencies providing personality tests, which Jacotine brushes aside,
“Recruitment companies who are using psychometric testing, are probably using personality tests which aren’t really fit for purpose in the process of recruitment.”
The most popular personality test of all, the Myers-Briggs Test, was recently criticised by top chartered occupational Psychologist, Dr Angelina Bennet. In an interview with Business Insider, Dr Bennet argued that the test should never be used for employment purposes. While Jacotine also views such tests as “mostly gimmicks”, though admits they can have value in team-building exercises, he does also believe that the superyacht industry can gain insight through adopting recruitment techniques used in commercial maritime industries.
“Safety-critical companies such as passenger ships, tankers and gas carriers are actually using a more robust type of psychometric testing to evaluate and assess candidates,” he says. “The commercial shipping industry is more risk-averse, especially when you're looking at passenger ships and the number of people being carried by such enormous vessels. The implications of having a safety issue are huge.” With the 80m plus market growing at an exponential rate, the commercial industry may already be able to provide some of the answers to the questions cropping up in the private sector.
Personality tests can help to ensure a harmonious working environment; something that is paramount for a private superyacht, but it can also be used as a loophole for avoiding inclusivity. By using personality tests employers are effectively choosing to hire people who reflect their own personality, either deliberately or subconsciously. This ultimately means stakeholders are less likely to hire people who are going to offer a fresh perspective or alternative methods of practice. The superyacht industry is already notorious for not being particularly diverse and inclusive. Could more personality testing be a reason for employers to avoid being more progressive and open-minded during the hiring process?
Personality testing is certainly useful to a degree. Organisations like the Royal Navy have their own highly bespoke psychometric test that they swear by. Respondents must answer thirty questions in nine minutes and reasoning, verbal ability, numerical reasoning and mechanical comprehension are all analysed in detail. Perhaps the superyacht industry would do well to develop a specific test for crewmembers, for now though, it appears it isn’t doing any harm for the development of candidates to become even slightly more self-aware before embarking on a career at sea.
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