Here’s a theory for all the change that suddenly seems to be occurring at the top of Macquarie Bank – deputy chairman Mark Johnson yesterday joining Bill Moss on the retirement list while David Clarke drops the adjective in his “executive chairman” title: they’ve just found out the bank has been built on a false premise of “psychometric” profiling.

Maybe at a recent MacBank board meeting someone lobbed a report on the table about the work of Macquarie Graduate School of Management Professor Robert Spillane, showing that the personality testing that is part of the Millionaire Factory’s culture is rubbish. That’s it then, the whole empire has been built on a Myers Briggs illusion, it’s been a terrible mistake – quick, to the exits…

But probably not. The AFR’s Rachel Nickless has spoken to Prof Spillane though and uses his experience to start on a nice feature on the cult of personality testing:

Testing is becoming a standard tool in many workplaces – from law firm Freehills to some blue-collar employers. But an industry that teaches people how to cheat at the tests is also booming.

“Cheating on all personality tests is simple,” says MGSM Professor Robert Spillane. “When I teach my students how to fake personality tests, they tell me they do it anyway and they didn’t learn anything new.

“If you are applying for a job as a sales manager and you are asked whether you would rather stay in with a good book or go out, it’s obvious what the answer should be,” he says.

Spillane says that, in any case, personality testing is “psychological tyranny” that “cannot predict, and never has predicted, performance”.

He runs a personality profiling exercise for his students every year, then gives each one a reading of their personality. While more than 95% of students agree their profile is accurate, he then reveals that he has photocopied one profile and given it to everybody.

The astrology fraud works much the same way. Which reminds me of a former fashion magazine editor who refused to employ anyone of a particular star sign –Cancer, or Sagittarius, or something.

I wonder if she now works in psychometric profiling?

Peter Fray

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