A deep dive into the buzzy - yet dangerous - viral recruiting test.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of pre-employment tests out there. Some have long-term professional and academic backing, like cognitive ability tests, which are the single-most accurate predictor of performance in a role. Others are newer and buzzier, like the BESSI, which offers a way to assess more subjective abilities, like soft skills, with hard, objective data. But there are also pre-employment tests out there that get a lot of buzz without a lot of (or any) scientific backing behind them. One such test is the controversial American “Snowflake Test”.
The term “snowflake” is a derogatory way to describe someone as overly sensitive, easily offended and entitled. The phrase originally comes from author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote in his novel Fight Club, “You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake.” But where Palahniuk meant to speak to the fact that no one person is more beautiful and unique than the next, people who use the term “snowflake” generally do so when their worldviews don’t align.
As you can imagine, this can be dangerous when it comes to recruiting. Yet the “Snowflake Test” has made the rounds in the hiring world, particularly in the US. In this article, we’ll break down exactly what the Snowflake Test is as well as why recruiters should never use it.
The Snowflake Test was developed by Kyle Reyes, CEO at The Silent Partner Marketing agency in 2017. It is essentially a personality and culture test which aims to determine whether each new candidate will be a good “fit” for the company’s existing culture, interrogating the candidate’s personal and political views and opinions.
Reyes has said that the test was to help him not only sort through CVs, but filter out “whiny, needy, entitled little brats.”
As such, the test covers a wide range of topics which are designed to draw out a candidate’s political, ethical and religious beliefs, along with opinions on hot button topics. Here’s a sample of some of the questions from the test:
As you can see from the questions, the Snowflake Test is designed to push people’s buttons. The concept is that by pushing these buttons you’ll get a true sense of what each candidate is like. But there’s no scientific backing behind this, and in fact, it can lead to creating a homogenous, uninspiring workplace… and you might even break some laws along the way! Let’s break down exactly why the Snowflake Test is such a bad idea in recruitment.
The Snowflake Test digs out a lot of political opinions from its respondents, and there’s an inherent bias within the test which demands a pro-American and conservative response.
But in general, it is advised against asking for (or giving) specific political opinions in a recruitment setting, because you may violate laws enforced in the US by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Outside of the US, there are many equivalent bodies around the world, ensuring that the recruitment world does not discriminate against people on the basis of “protected characteristics”; that is, their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
The same law also rules that job interview questions must measure qualities that are “job-related”. Arguably, how a person would respond in a gunfight has nothing to do with how they would do their job on your sales team! As a result, using the Snowflake Test is a shortcut to legal hot water.
Pre-employment tests are a crucial part of the recruitment process… but only when they have been academically and scientifically studied and proven to provide useful information and accurate data. Usually they require teams of scientists and lots of sample studies to draw concrete conclusions that means they provide reliable results with every candidate.
In contrast, the Snowflake Test was developed by just one person and appears to reflect only his personal beliefs. It has no scientific basis supporting the validity of its results. It would provide no scientific or objective insights into a candidate’s job-related abilities. It has no built-in techniques to stop a candidate from lying or telling you exactly what you want to hear. Any legitimate job testing organization or hiring company would steer clear as a result… because the information the Snowflake Test gives you is simply not usable!
Bias in recruitment is a real issue. But rather than working to avoid bias, the Snowflake Test proudly embraces biases including conservative political opinions, old-fashioned gender norms and a pro-American approach that ignores the rest of the world (let alone diversity within America itself). Using the Snowflake Test guarantees that your hiring process will be full of bias and reinforces the existing biases of people administering the test.
Bias is bad all on its own. But it’s also bad for your company’s financial health and for the efficiency of your workplace going forward. It leads to high employee turnover, which is expensive for companies in both time and money. And because the test is based more on political opinions and unproven personality traits, you’re more likely to hire the wrong candidate, someone who cannot perform the job well.
Many companies struggle to create a diverse and inclusive work culture. Bias is in human nature, and we often tend to hire people who are just like us in terms of their beliefs, personalities and working styles. But this leads to a homogenous workplace that doesn’t get the challenging ideas, different approaches and off-the-book thinking that so often leads to success!
Diverse workplaces have been proven to consistently show more innovation, improved workplace culture and greater profits. If you’re stuck in an organization that prioritizes groupthink, you’re never going to have those all-important moments when a left-field idea shapes your future in an unexpected and profitable way. Similarly, your company will find it harder to anticipate problems and challenges along the way, because you’ll all be convinced the idea is good.
The Snowflake Test ensures that you only hire people who think and behave in exactly the same way as you. It reinforces existing biases and ultimately leads to poor decision making not just in recruitment, but throughout your organization.
None of the questions on the Snowflake Test relate to skill or experience. As such, it gives you no insight into the most important question of all: will this candidate be able to do their job well?
As we’ve already discussed, there is nothing proven or scientifically valid about the Snowflake Test. It’s a culture test, but it doesn’t even really have accurate facts or data to give you a sense of how this person will fit into your workplace’s culture. Even verifiable and scientifically proven culture tests should always be used in combination with other tests, like those assessing hard skills or cognitive abilities. Culture tests should be used to better understand your candidate as a whole, rather than as the one test required to make a hiring decision.
The only thing the Snowflake Test does is show you how close a candidate’s opinion is to yours. And even this can’t be done with true scientific precision!
A pre-employment test is not the problem: the Snowflake Test is.
Don’t let this discourage you from implementing pre-employment tests in general as part of your recruitment process. There’s lots of pre-employment tests and even culture tests which will help you assess, compare and choose candidates. For example, you could include:
Need more help? Try our guide to the seven most important pre-employment tests.
Or, if you’re ready to start building pre-employment tests which are genuinely useful, accurate and scientifically proven (so not the Snowflake Test!), book a demo today and let HiPeople help you assess candidates.