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Why Use Psychometric Testing in Recruitment?

  • Amruta Bhaskar
  • Feb 12, 2021
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The word psychometric refers to the measurement of the mind. Unlike facets such as education, skills, experience, appearance and punctuality, the behavioural traits and personality of a candidate can be much more difficult to assess during an interview.

Some employers choose to use psychometric testing during their recruitment process to help give a better overall evaluation of a candidate and hopefully secure the best fit for the role. There’s some debate over the value of psychometric testing, but those who use it believe that it can give a more objective overview of a candidate’s character, strengths, weaknesses and working style. Typically, a psychometric test will never be used in isolation, but as one component of a wider, integrated evaluation strategy.

For employers, psychometric testing could help to gauge the future performance of a candidate and hopefully improve employee retention by making successful hiring decisions.

Businesses worldwide have long been reaping the benefits of psychometric tests. This invaluable candidate assessment method can help businesses save time and money. It can even help identify an individual’s long-term potential by exploring and measuring their personality, behaviours and cognitive ability.

Typically, candidates are assessed by reviewing their CV or resume, conducting an interview (or a series of interviews), and perhaps assigning them a task or project.

Psychometric tools in recruitment offer more detailed and insightful information than these traditional assessment methods. They can help to assess aptitude and personality, and exploring things like an individual’s communication style, emotional intelligence and behaviours as they relate directly to the workplace.

These insights allow employers to determine how well you might work within a team, your management style and your willingness to follow the rules or take risks, for example. These are all key indicators of whether someone is right for a job within a particular company.

In addition to this, psychometric testing insights provide value long after the initial recruitment process. Not only can they reaffirm the calibre of a recruit, but they also equip hiring managers with the information needed to inform future progression conversations and ensure high levels of job satisfaction and engagement.

Depending on the role, hiring managers will look for different things when conducting psychometric tests in recruitment. Take a high-pressured Head of Marketing position as an example. This post might require an individual that works well in stressful environments, communicates effectively with stakeholders at all levels, and someone who’s a natural-born leader.

On the other hand, a technical IT vacancy may call for an individual who is both methodical and disciplined and works well independently. In the same way, you’d want a team leader to possess high levels of emotional intelligence, while an editor will need to demonstrate a solid score for error checking. For each of the scenarios, there’s a specific psychometric test or series of tests, that will measure each of the individual traits explored.

People became highly invested in psychometric testing for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was vouched by people with considerable clout. Also, at the risk of sounding flippant, it has a science-y sounding name. Therefore, many people trusted psychometric testing as a surefire way of finding the best person for a job. The reality is that they were never really intended to be the sole means of evaluating a candidate. Rather than companies using these tests as an aid for decision making, they have instead trusted the tests to decide for them.

This is not to suggest that psychometric tests are completely devoid of merit. They can certainly yield some compelling insights (way more than a CV for instance). However, we must remember that when these tests were first developed, they were being used by doctors, researchers, and psychiatrists. Now it seems any Tom, Dick, and Harry can print out a Myer Briggs sheet and say that they’re administering a psychometric test. Richard MacKinnon, an occupational psychologist, puts it quite plainly when he says ‘psychometrics are only as good as the tool – and the hands using it.”

Suppose psychometric tests were carried out by vetted pros, and that they only formed part of an extended job application process. Can we be sure that they provide an objective - and more importantly fair - way of evaluating candidates? Multiple factors could potentially affect the fairness of psychometric testing:

  • There has been speculation recently as to whether psychometric testing is biased towards neurodiverse people. Using these tests in recruitment could exclude people with mental health issues or people on the autistic spectrum.
  • On a somewhat similar note, a person who is feeling nervous or anxious about a job interview could have the same skills as someone who is feeling confident. However, their psychometric tests could likely reveal different results.
  • Some people may be more familiar with psychometric testing, due to their educational background. Therefore, they could be more aware of what answers recruiters are likely to want to hear.

Psychometric assessments are said to help employers make more effective and informed decisions in the hiring process, generating more information about a candidate, showcasing strengths and weaknesses and identifying potential progression opportunities for later on.

Studies have shown that psychometric testing can, indeed, save time and money while recruiting, and employers have admitted to feeling more confident when choosing candidates. Experts in the field maintain the reliability and accuracy of these tests but also advise that these tools are best used alongside traditional methods such as face-to-face interviews. One study found that 75% of The Times’ Top 100 Companies were using psychometric testing alongside other tried and tested recruitment methods and tools.

Psychometric assessments in recruitment work to benchmark candidates in a way that is often difficult to do with other methods, such as interviews. By scoring candidates on set criteria, it becomes easier to distinguish standout candidates and shortlist the most promising ones more quickly.

With all that said, more traditional assessment methods do still have a place in recruitment. In other words, psychometric tests on their own are not enough to inform all hiring decisions. Companies can make the most out of their recruitment process when using psychometric testing alongside other traditional recruitment methods. And it’s crucial to ensure recruiting is performed optimally, given the costs of poor hiring. In fact, the cost of a poor hire doesn’t only relate to recruitment fees, training and loss of productivity - it can also have a severe impact on company morale and culture.

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