HR · 22 March 2016

Should you be using psychometric testing?

psychometric testing

Psychometric testing has become a multi-million pound business, but it isn’t right for every small firm. We looked at some of the pros and cons of the recruitment tool.

Around 70 per of large companies in the UK use psychometric tests as part of their recruitment process, with many micro firms starting to consider them too. There are two main types of test – aptitude or ability tests and personality tests. Employers use them to help build a full and complete picture of potential employees.

However, psychometric tests do not provide a definitive answer to all recruitment decisions. There are both positive and negative sides to using them, and these need to be weighed when assessing whether they are right for your needs. In this article, we are going to provide a brief overview of the pros and cons to help you decide whether you should consider using them.

Pros

At their best, psychometric tests can give you a relatively accurate and insightful picture of a candidate’s suitability for a role. For example, if you’re looking for a quality salesperson, then someone who is an extrovert with high verbal reasoning skills and high achievement motivation is a better bet than the introvert who specialises in abstract thinking.

Well-validated tests generally return reliable results and can help you avoid the situation in which a person is an interview star, but unable to back it up with performance in the job role. And given how costly recruitment mistakes are, tests are a good insurance against them. They can weed out the bad choices and reveal the exceptional performers, as well as helping you assess how good a ‘fit’ someone is to a team or a role based on personality and ability.

Additionally, using psychometric testing helps to give companies a benchmark to work to in terms of objectively measured abilities that are displayed by candidates. Tests are standardised so every candidate gets the same questions and has the same opportunity in the interview process.

They can also identify areas of concern and provide the recruiter with an opportunity to explore these with a candidate before employing them. This can be done by arranging further interviews where they take a more in-depth look at certain areas, or by focusing on specific areas when doing reference checks, based on the test results and findings. Testing can also provide the recruiter with upfront information on the candidate’s strengths and limitations prior to recruiting, which can be used to help identify the best way manage the new recruit once he or she joins the company.

Finally, they can give applicants with weaker interview skills or candidates who are shy a chance to prove they can be valuable to the company by showing their real value.

Cons

Psychometric tests are developed and validated using sample populations that have no reason to be dishonest and hence respond from this standpoint. However, job applicants are motivated to tell you what you want to hear, which can skew the responses so they are not necessarily accurate. Standard tests are widely used and therefore a candidate who really does their homework can study these tests and work out the most appropriate answers for the type of person the company is looking to recruit. Some candidates will even pay for coaching in this.

On top of this, test anxiety, nervousness, time pressures and unfamiliarity can sometimes create a false negative, so that a person’s results do not reflect what they are capable of and what their true potential would be in the role.

Most psychometric tests must be delivered by people trained in administering and interpreting them. This can cost significant money in either training in-house personnel or hiring third-party professionals. Therefore, the cost of psychometric testing should be weighed against the level of the individual in the organisation. For lower level positions, an interview and simple online test may be enough, but for more specialist skills and high-responsibility positions, the extra money may be a worthwhile investment.

The value and outcome of the tests can also be dependent upon the skills of this administrator. If they explain or presents the test poorly, it can cause the results to be inaccurate.

You should also be aware that psychometric tests often contain biases that disadvantage people who have different cultural backgrounds, language barriers, psychological dispositions and even anxiety around testing. If candidates excel in all of the other parts of the recruitment process, but do not do well in their psychometric test, they can be rejected and potential valuable talent lost from the business.

If online psychometric tests are employed, some jobseekers may be at a disadvantage as they may never have had exposure to the testing process, or may not be very computer literate. Some may also have not been in a position where they can practise online, and familiarise themselves with the process. This can affect their outcome and their ability to meet the deadline set.

The factors above mean that the best candidate for the job may be eliminated by the recruitment process rather than shortlisted with the top performers. This is important to consider, especially given the importance of diversity, non-discrimination and ethical business practices in today’s world.

Conclusions

If you are going to use psychometrics as part of your recruitment process, it’s best not to rely on one test or to put too much weight on a single result. Use various tests if possible and then combine the results of these with interviews, role-playing exercises, on-job tests and reference checks. Psychometric test will provide you with a basis for having the right conversation and asking the correct questions to enable you to assess the candidate more thoroughly. But they work best when they are used as supplementary information and are not used as the sole means of arriving at a decision.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.


 
TAGS:

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Margaret Keane is the managing director of Outsourcing HR, an HR consultancy that helps businesses succeed by providing practical, cost-effective human resources management and recruitment services. In addition to being an experienced HR professional, Margaret has a successful track record in general management roles. As a result, Margaret is focused on ensuring that HR contributes to the bottom line.

Franchising