Psychometric assessment for crew recruitment

Aug 06 2020

Psychometric assessment can be useful in crew recruitment in finding people with the right behaviour social skills and leadership abilities. A managing director of a crewing agent explains how it can work.

Everyone can agree that it is very important to have crew who have the right set of knowledge and skills to carry out their roles.


This is particularly paramount for tanker owners.


If the crew do not perform and act in a safe manner and do not follow correct procedures, then the vessel is unlikely to pass vettings, the consequences of which could be as serious as owner going out of business.


Even a wrong act by a single individual crew member can cause this.


For tanker owners it is crucial to have crew onboard with sufficient intelligence, talent and personal characteristics to enable them to perform these tasks in the challenging situations they meet onboard.


While possessing the right competencies is important, it is also crucial that those senior crew members have the ability to apply and share these skills with others.


In particular, top officers must be able to lead, to mentor and to be able to cope under pressure.


But how do you ensure that your vessels’ leaders are up to the job?


Danica places so much importance on leadership that it has factored these skills into its robust interview process.


Our interviewers are trained in interview techniques and we have a catalogue of questions which we ask to get clear indications on how a candidate behaves in the job.


Psychometric assessments

In addition, in Danica we have taken the process one step further by incorporating  psychometric assessments as a part of the assessment process for senior officers.


Danica uses a robust, proven system intended to be used for middle level managers.


The candidate completes a questionnaire online which generates an inventory report of the persons behaviour, social skills and leadership abilities –as a person, in their professional role, and under stress.


Trained and experienced members of the recruitment team interpret the results, giving a clear and rounded picture of the candidate.


We use the result of the assessments as a supporting tool to verify the information and the impression we got during the initial face-to-face interviews.


The assessment result is not a simple ‘go or no-go’ verdict. During the interview we compare the answers and behaviour of the candidate with the results and, combined with our own impression of the person, we get a much better understanding of the candidate’s ability to perform.


We then give guidance to the candidate on how they can improve their leadership  skills and professional social behaviour.


Some aspects are ingrained in their personality. But many skills and competencies can be changed just by the person being aware of that there is an area for improvement.


Interpreting results

The assessment has to be carried out with care, taking a number of factors into account. A sound knowledge of the maritime sector and the roles onboard vessels is essential when applying such assessments to crew members.


For example, a good characteristic for a Chief Engineer, for whom fault-finding is an essential part of the job, is that they think logically and carefully, checking things step-by-step, following procedures  and basing their decisions on facts.


Psychometric testing results often show Chief Engineers as systematic persons who want facts before making decisions – which means that such assessments can unfortunately identify them as slow decision makers.


Of course this is natural for them. Indeed, very few people have the ability to collect all the facts and process them accurately within a very short period of time – in fact, only fighter pilots function at that level!


Therefore, in a maritime setting, it is important to use such assessments to verify that the candidate is within the normal expected range for that role and rank. 


I see some employers making the mistake of hunting for Mr Perfect – who is impossible to find! Instead screening and assessment should be used to filter out persons who have a high risk of failing in the role.


The results have to be interpreted carefully. For many candidates the result reveals that they are insecure and frustrated. This is not necessarily a negative – in fact it shows a normal reaction.


If we have been working for the same employer for a period of time and suddenly are made redundant and need to search for a new job, then it is very natural to be frustrated.


If a person in such situation is not frustrated then it could mean that they actually don’t care who they work for.


When we evaluate the assessment we look for whether the candidate has a balanced set of social skills.


Are they able to behave in a way that encourages others onboard to accept them while still maintaining the necessary distance and authority needed by a senior officer in order to manage the human environment onboard?


We also look at how the candidate reacts under stress and how persistent they are.


For some candidates, stress improves their performance but for others the results show that they start to make short cuts. This is where have to be careful and we will drill into this during the follow-up interview to verify or clarify the results.


It is also important to share the result of such assessments with the candidate. We show the results to our candidates and in all cases they agree with us that the results, to a very large extent, show who they are.


In some cases, particularly for younger Chief Officers and Second Engineers, we also discuss how they can improve their behaviour to develop into being excellent Captains or Chief Engineers – so it is beneficial to their career path too.


We refer to our procedure as an ‘assessment’ and not a ‘test’.


That is because there are no right or wrong answers to the questions and it is not about fail or pass.


It is about putting the right people in the right job and giving them the right amount of training and support to enable them to carry out their role to the very best of their ability.


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