Why XQ Is Not a Thing, Despite What Time Magazine Says


In the current issue of Time magazine, there's an article (online version here for subscribers) about companies' increasing dependence on personality traits to help crack the code of optimal hiring. From a timeline graphic in the article:

X.Q.: 2015 - In the new wave of employer assessments, no official name has emerged for the qualities employers are testing for. In fact, they can often seem mysterious--a kind of X quotient, or XQ. Generally speaking, it is the practice of testing for personality traits that will lead to success in a particular role.

Hold up, hold up, hold up.

Let me tell you what XQ is. XQ = personality. It says it right there in the title: "Personality Test/Traits"

Please, if you want to slap a hashtag-able buzzword on it, at the very least call it a PQ. Personality quotient. That makes a shred of sense.

The only reason there's an air of mystery at all in this story is because one of Time's main sources, a JetBlue exec, avoids revealing exactly what types of traits JetBlue is looking for when filling certain positions. He's coy about prospective employees who have "it" and what "it" is defined as. As they should be. That's just good business.

So apparently that means we need to arrive here, making this conclusion, later in the piece:

So let's call it the X quotient -- and get ready, because thriving in the new economy means acing your XQ test, an exam that no one has prepared you for.

Nope. False. You are to be the best version of your self. Period. You eff with your own personality test and you eff with your career, finding yourself in the wrong position at potentially the wrong company. In fact, the 23- and 24-year-old job applicants quoted in this story report feelings of stress and anxiety leading up to and during the test.

There's no need for Time to be creating yet another fear of inadequacy here.

There is no one "it" factor against which everyone should measure themselves. Different personalities are needed and will thrive in different roles and positions, and will be successful at different tasks using different strengths. JetBlue's example in the piece illustrates that.

And, btw, this is not a bad thing. Of COURSE there should be personality assessments.

Having gone through several hiring processes, on both ends, as the one being interviewed and the one doing the interviewing, I can say, and would argue many would agree, that a traditional bout of desk-side chats, phoners, and Skype calls don't really do the trick.

The thing is, most hiring personnel probably have little clue as to what they, the company, team or project really need in an employee. They most likely haven't gotten past the regular stuff like college degree, attention to detail, ability to be a client-facing entity, an impressive track record, nepotism, etc.

It's like dating. What you think you want, you really don't need, while you've been ignoring what you truly need in order to make a relationship work.

Today, you have to stop and think, will this person be fulfilled at this job? And will our company be fulfilled by this person? Because before Millennials came along, nobody freaking cared. Fulfillment wasn't on the career menu. These personality tests, I'd venture to say, help companies and employees find fulfilling job placements. Now that's a story I'd like to read.

But... we've been talking about Millennials in the workplace ad nauseaum. We get the basics, we get what Millennials are looking for in the workplace. I support it, with my two Millennial thumbs up.

This is not a new story, simply a rewritten version with a new case study attached. In fact, Tara Weiss at Forbes.com reported on this waaaaaaay back in 2007 (that's pre-Instagram; were any of you even alive then?) with a slideshow (!) and steps to ace the tests (!!). There are just more data and analytics to have fun with now.

That being said, the reporting on the way data and analytics are being used in this process is interesting.

But it's not an X factor reserved only for a chosen few. And it's certainly not mysterious.

I say all this to remind you that mainstream media has a way of packaging (and repackaging) things to make them look or sound better, newer, skinnier, flashier, tanner, crazier, cuter, more revolutionary, more astronomical, more significant than they really are.

Remember that when you pick up this month's Cosmopolitan and peep Nicki Minaj on that cover. Jussayin'.




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