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“Snowflake Test”: Absurdity in the extreme

Snow Flake Test

A prominent US company recently introduced a controversial new “test” designed to weed out whiney, entitled, millennial candidates. The Snowflake Test consists of a series of cherry-picked questions designed to determine if a candidate shares the same political and cultural viewpoints as everyone at the company. These questions include:

  • What should be the national minimum wage?
  • Are you pro-gun or anti-gun?
  • What is your opinion of the police?
  • How long has it been since you cried and why did you cry?
  • Faith: What does it mean to you?
  • Why do you love America?

HR professionals should understand that these invasive questions are questionable both ethically and legally due to several reasons.  This test seems to be devoid of any validity to predict performance on the job, in addition to the obvious political implications of asking such leading questions. This is an ill-conceived attempt to discern “culture fit,” a term that is sometimes misused-but not as blatantly as here-as a justification for not hiring people who do not interact with or think like the majority of employees.

A test such as the “snowflake test” could give a bad name to professionally developed assessments. An employee’s performance on the job is predicted by pre-employment tests. Almost all companies use pre-employment tests to identify high potential employees, and, like any other factor used in the selection process, the use of pre-employment tests is governed by a set of guidelines set by the EEOC.

As stated in these guidelines, to be legally compliant a pre-employment test must measure qualities that are “job-related.” Companies seeking to hire salespeople may administer a personality test that tests characteristics such as self-confidence and motivation known to lead to sales success.

Some companies use pre-employment tests that are based on decades of psychological research, but many companies claim the snowflake test is just another personality test. Despite the absence of scientific data to support its validity, the snowflake test is likely more reflective of the attitudes and political views of its owner than anything else. If people are hired based on answers to hypothetical hiring questions, such as whether they are pro-gun, love America, or rarely cry, we have no reason to believe they will do better on the job.

The snowflake test is an extreme example of a trend that some businesses fall into for a variety of understandable reasons. At a pre-employment testing agency, we help companies implement scientifically valid and legally compliant testing procedures. You are generally better off not building a personality test that simply measures values an employer claims to embody unless you prove they directly correlate with job performance. Unless you have evidence linking these particular qualities to company success, assessing them for qualities such as “team player” and “intellectually curious” is not a good idea.

As a result, picking employees based upon what the CEO personally values is bad science, and it won’t lead to the results you’re actually after. As a result, you will only end up with a highly homogeneous company. There is no reason why you would want diversity at the workplace when studies after studies demonstrate the benefits of diversity?

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