There are four ‘instruments’ (comprising tests and interviews) that together optimally predict who will excel in a role. One of the four is the work sample test.
Now, while work sample tests for a software engineer will involve coding and for a veterinary nurse might involve demonstrating various care procedures, the tests for senior managers are not so clear.
Those selecting managers often seek to assess concepts like managerial judgement.
They’ll have an interest in how well a management candidate identifies what’s needed to tackle emerging problems and issues and how well they will muster and lead internal and external resources. They will want to know how effective management candidates will be at communicating with and motivating their teams. And they’ll want to know if the candidate takes a corporate view, doing what’s right for the whole organisation rather than just for their own success.
Selecting managers is complex and, more often than not, done by gut feel rather than by invoking any science.
And if gut feel is applied to manager selection, the ability to predict who will do best is much reduced. Somehow recruiting managers must retain the principle of the four assessment instruments and include something special to assess management ability.
Some years ago this very problem vexed researchers and one, Richard Boyatzis, quantified the specific qualities needed by senior managers. Boyatzis analysed a population of 2,000 managers. The result was a clear statement of competencies needed spanning goals, actions, leadership and the management of people.
This early work has been significantly enhanced over the years and psychometric tests developed. When administered and analysed, these replace work sample tests for managers. They determine clearly which candidate will be most effective at weighing up managerial situations and making executive-level management decisions.
Management selection is indeed a science and there are appropriate tests for this most important but rather difficult-to-test job.