Michael Mercer, Ph.D.

Article Summary:

Before hiring creative employees, conduct benchmark testing to determine if it is even a desireable trait for the position you’re looking to fill.

Hiring Creative Employees: Using Benchmark Testing

Creativity in companies has resulted in innovative breakthroughs that vastly improve people’s lives while growing business profits.

1st Example: Airports became a lot busier after someone created airplanes. Before that, people just sat around airports reading newspapers while drinking coffee and wondering how they could travel to another city.
2nd Example: Bowling became much more popular after some creative soul came up with the idea of putting pins at the end of the alley. Previously, bowlers became bored just rolling the ball down the bowling alley.

But, seriously, some jobs require creative or innovative employees – and some jobs simply do not.

Widespread Hallucination of Managers
Many managers tell me they want creative employees. When I ask for reasons, they give a subjective opinion, typically hallucinating that creativity is inherently good, they want creative employees.

While that sounds nice, it simply is not based in reality. Just because managers desire creative employees in a specific job does not mean success in that job requires being creative!

Best Way to Tell If a Job Requires Creative Employees
Objective measures usually help managers more than subjective opinions. So, the best way to tell if a specific job requires creative employees is to have successful employees take a test that measures creativity. This “benchmarking study” objectively shows you test scores of successful employees in a specific job.

Test Scores Gotten by Highly Creative People
Let me summarize all the research ever conducted on creativity! Being a creative person boils down to possessing two key factors:

  1. Motivation to do creative work.
  2. Flexibility in following rules and procedures.

For instance, the “Abilities & Behavior Forecaster™ Test” evaluates job applicants on 19 work-related factors. Combining two of these 19 factors reveals if a person is creative:

  1. High test score on the test’s Creativity Motivation scale, e.g., score 8 – 11 points
  2. Low score on the test’s Following Rules & Procedures scale, e.g., score 3 – 6 points

This makes a ton of sense: If you think about it, being creative boils down to
(a) feeling motivated to do creative work while
(b) not always following rules!

So, if the “benchmarking study” of successful employees in a particular job show superstars’ test scores are high on Creativity Motivation scale and low on Following Rules scale, then this is clear: Success in that job requires a creative employee. On the other hand, the opposite – (a) low score on the test’s Creativity Motivation scale and (b) high test score on Following Rules scale – indicates that job does not require creativity.

Methods to Predict If Job Applicant Is Creative?
Managers have two main ways to predict if an applicant is creative.

1st Method = Pre-employment Test
You can use a test created for pre-employment testing, and make objective, customized predictions based on your company’s “benchmarking study” results. For instance, an applicant who scores high on the test’s Creativity Motivation scale plus low on Following Rules scale has scored (a) similar to “superstars” in the job and (b) like creative employees.

2nd Method = Certain Interview Questions
Many managers ignorantly try to assess creativity in the job interview by asking ridiculous closed-ended questions like this: “Have you done creative work?” or “Are you creative?” Of course, any applicant who has an IQ above room temperature knows the answer the manager wants to hear – even if the applicant does not have a shred of creativity!

A better interview question is a vague, open-ended question, such as “Tell me about a problem you helped your previous employer overcome. What specifically did you do?” This question does not reveal to the applicant that the interviewer is evaluating creativity. Plus, you hear if the applicant describes creative – or non-creative – methods to solve problems. Note: Unfortunately, evaluating interview answers is much more subjective and difficult than evaluating pre-employment test scores.

Examples of Jobs Requiring Creative Employees
Based on many pre-employment test “benchmarking studies” of successful employees I conducted, here are examples of jobs requiring creativity (high score on Creativity Motivation plus low score on Following Rules):

  • Artists (at design company)
  • Supply-chain managers (at healthcare company)
  • Directors (at retirement-communities company)
  • Administrative Assistants (at headquarters of a company)

Fact: Most jobs require low levels of creativity. Here are jobs the pre-employment test “benchmarking studies” found did not require creativity:

  • Accounting employees
  • Customer Service Reps (at building supply company)
  • Regional Managers (at big restaurant chain)
  • Sales Reps (at distribution company)
  • Store Managers (at convenience store chain)

Of course, never rely on other companies’ benchmarking studies when you hire employees. Instead, arrange to have benchmarking studies conducted on your company’s employees. Then, you confidently can focus on hiring applicants for each job who score as creative (or uncreative) as your company’s “superstar” employees.

Warning about Hiring Creative Employees
What happens if you hire creative people for a job in which “superstars” are uncreative? Creative employees will feel appalled at how little they can use their creativity! Result: They will feel dissatisfied and frustrated, which is the dangerous recipe for low productivity and turnover.

Point = Only hire creative people for jobs that truly require creative employees, as revealed in your benchmarking study using a test that accurately measures creativity plus other “make-or-break” work behaviors and mental abilities.

Michael Mercer, Ph.D., is America’s Hire the Best Expert™. Dr. Mercer authored 5 books, including “Hire the Best – & Avoid the Rest™” and also “Turning Your Human Resources Department into a Profit Center™”. Many companies rely on his pre-employment test, “Abilities & Behavior Forecaster™ Test,” to help hire the best. You can subscribe to his free Management e-Newsletter at www.DrMercer.com or call him at (847)382-0690.

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