The snowflake test refers to a series of thirty questions asked by an HR personnel or team in the screening process to determine if a prospective employee of an organisation possess similar ideology, views and values with the hiring company. In the understanding of these firms, a snowflake will not fit into the principles and ideology of the company.
By definition, a snowflake is someone very sensitive, one that is easily offended or hurt by the decisions and actions of others. A prickly person.
In the colloquial sense of the word, it can be used to address a person with unique qualities. Someone that deserves special treatment.
Origin of the Snowflake Test
The Snowflake test was the idea of Kyle S. Reyes, the CEO of a company known as, The Silent Partner Marketing. The test was designed to determine to have an impression about an applicant based on a series of questions.
The topic of such questions bothers on issues such as morality, nationalism, gun control and many more. The motivation of Reyes was to fish out prickly prospective employees that do not align with his business philosophy.
Just like most psychometric tests, the snowflake test does not have right or wrong answers. It is an expression of perception which company X may be fine with while company Y may not be.
Prior to the invention of the Snowflake test by Kyle S. Reyes, “Snowflake” had gained prominence as a fallout of political conflict between the liberal and the conservative. This was after the liberalist had labelled the conservatives millennials snowflakes, implying they were too fragile.
The Status Quo
In the past few months, a US company gained considerable publicity for its controversial new approach to filtering out whiny, entitled millennial applicants. Snowflake tests are designed to determine whether a candidate has the same political and cultural views as everyone at the company. Examples include:
- How much should the national minimum wage be?
- What are your thoughts on guns?
- What are your feelings about the police?
- How long has it been since you cried and why did you cry?
- How does faith affect your life?
- How do you define America?
A Weakness of the Snowflake Test?
There are several reasons why asking such questions is questionable on a legal and ethical level-as many HR professionals ought to be aware of. The key problem with this test, aside from its obvious political implications, is that it does not appear to be validated in any way to predict actual job performance. A concept sometimes misused-though seldom as blatantly as in this case-for avoiding hiring individuals who do not look, act, or think like most of the majority of the incumbent staff at the organization is instead being attempted.
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.
A pre-employment test must measure qualities that are “job-related” in order to be valid and legally compliant. For instance, employers looking for salespeople may administer a personality test that measures traits like self-confidence and motivation because these qualities have been linked to success in the field.
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.
Unless this understanding exists, you cannot select for traits or attitudes the CEO deems desirable, and you will not achieve the business results you expect. If that is the case, the company would become very homogeneous with people who have similar views. Considering the abundance of studies supporting the benefits of diversity in the workplace, why would you want to do that?