The Snowflake Test explained

One US company has drawn considerable attention recently by implementing a controversial “test” to weed out what it calls entitled, whiny millennials. According to its name, the snowflake test consists of a series of questions that cherry-pick answers to determine if a candidate shares the same perspectives and beliefs as other employees. Questions such as these can be asked:

  • Is it necessary to set a national minimum wage?
  • What do you think about guns?
  • How would you describe your attitude towards the police?
  • Last time, how many times did you cry?
  • Do you have a personal definition of what faith means to you?
  • What significance does America have for you?

As many HR professionals ought to be aware, asking such questions is questionable on a legal and ethical level for many reasons.  The results of this test cannot be compared with actual results obtained on the job. The apparent problem, aside from the political implication, is this. Instead, it is a lame attempt to determine “culture fit,” which is a term that many mistakenly use -though rarely so blatantly – under the impression that it is a way to dismiss applicants who do not match the culture of the company.

Professionally developed assessments may be tarnished by tests such as the snowflake test. During pre-employment tests, the performance of an employee is predicted. The EEOC has established guidelines for companies using pre-employment tests to identify high-potential employees. Like all selection criteria, pre-employment tests are governed by guidelines.

A valid and legal pre-employment test must measure factors that are directly related to the job being performed. Recruiting organizations may assess applicant’s personalities in terms of motivation and self-confidence, for instance.

The snowflake test is described as a personality test by many companies, despite the fact that some companies rely on decades of psychological research to develop their pre-employment tests. Despite the absence of scientific data supporting the validity of the snowflake test, it is generally more reflective of its owner’s political views and attitudes. We have no reason to believe they will perform better at their job if we hire people based on hypothetical hiring questions, such as whether or not they love America and rarely cry.

This extreme example shows how some businesses fall into a trend for an array of understandable reasons. At a pre-employment testing agency, we help companies implement legally required testing procedures that are scientifically valid. Unless an employer can demonstrate a link between the values that your company professes to embody and employment success, it is not wise for employers to create personality tests merely to measure what they think defines their culture. Unless you can show that these qualities are directly linked to organizational success, assessments that measure “team players” and “intellectually curious” employees are rarely a good idea.

Therefore, selecting employees based on individual values of the CEO is bad science, and it won’t help your organization achieve its goals. This would lead to a very homogenous company, with people who share similar opinions. Why would you want diversity at work when studies after studies show it’s helpful for companies?

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