What is the KFALP?
The Korn Ferry Assessment of Leadership Potential (KFALP) is an aptitude test that focuses on leadership and potential, and is used both in the recruitment process and for employees already in position.
The KFALP is not about the leadership ability of a candidate at the time; instead, it focuses on their potential to become an excellent leader in the future. Although it can be used as an aptitude test for assessing candidates during a recruitment process, it is most often used as part of the development plan for the existing workforce, helping businesses plan for succession and work on the growth and development of people who can demonstrate that they have high potential.
Korn Ferry is a well-respected creator of assessments that are regularly used in recruitment and development programs, and if you are applying to a Fortune 100 company, for example, you are almost guaranteed to take at least one Korn Ferry assessment as the publisher works with 98% of the top listed companies.
The KFALP provides employers with detailed information about potential leaders, how to develop staff, and offers a clear plan for succession when it comes to management.
Why is the Korn Ferry Assessment of Leadership Potential used?
Some of the best-known global conglomerates use the KFALP among other Korn Ferry products to recruit the best candidates for roles, but also to develop the workforce according to their talents and career plans. Companies that rely on Korn Ferry include:
- Exxon Mobil
You might be asked to take the KFALP in the recruitment process if you are applying for a low- or mid-level management position in a number of different industries, and the assessment is particularly useful because it offers a wide view of what you are capable of, even if you are not currently in a management position.
The assessment is based on the recognized dimensions of leadership - Drivers, Experiences, Traits, and Competencies. Competencies and experiences demonstrate what you can do, and traits and drivers describe the kind of person that you are at work.
Korn Ferry Assessment of Leadership Potential Format
Whether you are taking the KFALP as part of a recruitment process or during a development process, you will take it online. The test is not timed, but usually takes about 40 minutes, and there are between 240-280 answers in the completed assessment.
The KFALP is based on the Seven Signposts of Leadership Potential, which have been identified by the team of occupational psychologists at Korn Ferry as the facets of success for management. These are:
- Derailment Risks
- Leadership Traits
- Learning Agility
Most of the questions are structured as situational judgement questions. You will be provided with a written scenario based on a fictional yet realistic workplace problem, and you need to choose the best course of action from the multiple-choice options provided.
Some of the sections of the assessment are different, however. There is a problem solving subsection in the Capacity signpost, where logical thinking and reasoning is assessed using the Raven’s Progressive Matrices - a series of image-based, nonverbal questions that need you to find the missing item in a sequence. This is similar to abstract or diagrammatic reasoning assessments that you might have come across in other application processes.
As part of the Drivers signpost, there is a descriptive section where you will be asked to discuss your career plans. This is a free text entry, where your answers will be looked at in relation to how specific your career plan is.
Scoring of the KFALP
Almost all sections of the KFALP are scored against a norm. This might be a global, general norm, or a more specific and role-related norm. The subsections of each signpost are scored against the norms, and given a color based on the percentage achieved. The colors used are as follows:
- Red - less than 10%
- Yellow - 11%-50%
- Green - 51% or above
The only exception to this is in the Derailment Risks section, in which a lower score is better - in which case red is 91% or more, yellow is 85%-90%, and green is for the bottom 84%.
Each Signpost is scored based on the scores given in each sub-dimension, and to get a green in the Signpost you need to achieve the following number of dimensions in green:
- Drivers - 2 or more
- Awareness - both
- Learning Agility - 3 or more
- Capacity - only has one
- Experience - 2 or more
- Leadership Traits - 4 or more
- Derailment Risks - all three
The career planning sub-dimension is not marked against a norm, but you will be scored based on how focused and specific your career goals are, particularly with regards to leadership and management.
When you have completed the assessment, both you and the company will receive an individualized report that shows detailed results and also provides information about how you can improve as an employee based on your performance.
How the KFALP evaluates leadership potential
This Signpost is related to awareness of yourself, in particular your strengths and weaknesses. You will be expected to know where you need development, and where you need to rely on others to provide specialized knowledge or particular skills.
This Signpost is split into two subdimensions:
- Situational Self-Awareness
In this Signpost, your ability to use logical and reasoned thinking is being assessed. This is the section that relies on nonverbal questions in the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, and candidates are required to demonstrate that they can form logical conclusions, spot patterns and find missing information from unfamiliar sources.
The point of this Signpost is to demonstrate that you are able to move from individual problem-solving to involving a team, which is essential to good leadership.
The Derailment Risk Signpost focuses on the negative aspects of your work behavior and personality, particularly around traits that could prevent you from achieving your potential. This signpost is split into three subdimensions:
- Volatile: Are you unpredictable or erratic? Volatile people tend to overreact to situations and make it difficult to be trusted.
- Micromanagement: Being unable to delegate when needed means that you find it hard to trust people and want to stay in control.
- Closed: Are you dismissive of other people’s opinions if they differ from yours? Are you likely to reject new ideas or refuse to try new methods?
Drives are about what motivates you to try for success. This Signpost is divided into three subdimensions:
- Advancement Drive: Are you ambitious to get further in your career, particularly into a leadership role?
- Career Planning: This is the descriptive section, where you will write about your specific and personal career plans.
- Role Preferences: In this section, you will be assessed on the type of job that will work best for you. This is looking at whether you would prefer a specialized or more general role, and whether expertise or versatility is more important to you.
In this Signpost, you will be assessed on what you have experienced at work to date, specifically related to leadership. This is separated into three subdimensions:
- Core Experiences: In this sub-dimension, it is the leadership experience that is under assessment.
- Perspective: How much variation is there in roles, functions, cultures and industries in your work history that give a different perspective or view that you can use in the future?
- Key Challenges: In this sub-dimension, you will be assessed on your involvement with key things that you might be expected to deal with as a leader, from dealing with making difficult personnel decisions, to working on developing new products.
This is a Signpost that assesses candidates based on how well they align with the characteristics of successful leaders. It is split into five sub-dimensions:
- Focus: this looks at the range of actions between perfect details and the bigger picture, whether you can delegate or tend to micromanage.
- Tolerance of Ambiguity: If you can work without a defined plan and can cope in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions.
- Persistence: Are you able to concentrate on pursuing your goals despite difficult situations?
- Optimism: Are you able to move on from disappointments and regard the future as bright?
- Assertiveness: Being able to take charge and lead the way is an important trait of a leader.
Great leaders are enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn and put new knowledge into practice, so this Signpost refers to the way a potential leader is adaptable and good at navigating change. It contains the following sub dimensions:
- Mental Agility - spotting patterns and trends
- People Agility - working with others and influencing them positively
- Change Agility - being open to change and balancing risks and rewards
- Results Agility - demonstrating a keenness to go above and beyond, pushing through goals and moving further beyond.
It is after 5 pm and you are about to head home at the end of your workday when you notice that a member of your team is still busy working. You approach them to find out what is going on and they explain to you that they are struggling to complete the work that they have to do for a meeting tomorrow morning because another member of the team has not done the work they were meant to do for it. How do you deal with this situation?
a) Cancel the meeting in the morning
b) Stay behind with the staff member and help them get the project completed
c) Tell the staff member to go home and come in early tomorrow instead
d) Call the other staff member and tell them that they are in trouble
While you are at work, there has been an announcement of a change of ownership at the business. There is a lot of gossip among the staff about the possibility of redundancies, although you have been personally told that this is not going to happen. Some of the staff members are really worried about the possibility of losing their job, and it is causing their work to suffer. Do you:
a) Pull the worried staff members aside and reassure them
b) Issue an invitation to a team meeting for everyone to let them know they don't need to worry
c) Ignore the gossip and leave it up to the C-suite to make announcements
d) Discipline the staff members who are not working to the required standards
How to pass the KFALP
1. Know what you want from your career
One of the important considerations for the company implementing the KFALP is how well you are suited to leadership in the future, which means you need to have clear aspirations toward a leadership position.
If you do not already have a firm career plan in place, covering short-, medium- and long-term, then get something specific together and come back to it often to update it. Think about where you want to be next year and in five years, and whether there are any specific goals or milestones that you want to achieve in that.
The more specific you are in your career plan, the better it will be perceived in the assessment.
2. Be aware
Knowing yourself well is an important part of any development plan; you need to know what your strengths are, but you equally need to know where you need to learn more or work on yourself. Part of the assessment is seeing how self-aware you are.
You also need to be aware of the different types of leader, leadership style, and what specific skills might be needed for the different levels of leaders, too.
3. Practice papers
Familiarity with the structure and layout of any assessment will help you feel more confident, and it will also help you to get an idea of the content of the questions that you are going to face. There are several different KFALP practice papers available, so start with one and see how you do.
Although this test is not timed, you want to try and answer the questions at a reasonable pace - don't spend too long on them or else you might talk yourself out of giving the right answer.
With the results of the practice paper, you will be able to see if you need to work on any extra skills - for example, if you need to improve your abstract reasoning for the Raven’s Progressive Matrix questions.
4. Prepare yourself properly
When facing any type of aptitude test, you want to give yourself the best chance for success, and one of the ways you can do this is to focus on being healthy in the days leading up to the assessment. You need to work on getting a full night’s sleep, especially the day before - aim for 6-8 hours for the best results. Sleep deprivation has been linked to a decline in mental acuity.
You also need to make sure that you have eaten well, too. A healthy breakfast before you sit down to take the test will not only help you concentrate more, but it will also get your brain the nutrients that it needs to perform at its best.
Water intake is always important, and your gray matter relies on water just as much as your other cells do. Have some water to hand in the assessment, too.
5. Read the question
While you might want to get the assessment over and done with, it is not a good idea to rush through because you could miss some easy marks if you do. Take an extra few seconds to read and reread the question, so that you are confident you know what you need to do to answer, and that you fully understand the content.