Psychometric Tests for Recruitment: Are They Worth It?

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>In This Guide You’ll Learn</h2><p><ul><li>The main types of psychometric tests and how they can be used in recruitment.</li><li>Why you should be cautious about using them.</li><li>The pros and cons of such tests.</li><li>Best practices for selecting a test and using it.</li></ul></p></div>

What are Psychometric Tests?

Psychometric tests measure cognitive and personality traits and are sometimes used in recruitment. They should be used with caution and never as a substitute for reviewing CVs, doing interviews and conducting Job Simulations. When used sensibly, psychometric tests can add useful information to complement that gained from standard methods of screening and selection. But there are lots of tests out there and it can take skill to interpret the results. As a SME you might be better off steering clear altogether, and focusing instead on making your CV filtering and interview procedures as robust as possible. (For more on screening, interviews and Job Simulations, see guides: How to Carry Out Telephone Interviews, How to Conduct an Interview, Interview Questions for Employers, Job Simulations and Work Culture Assessments.)

Of course, you may have valid reasons for wanting to use a psychometric test. In the rest of this guide I’ll go through a few pros and cons as well as some best practices.

Psychometric tests are of various types:

  • Intelligence tests are useful when you want to assess how quickly an employee will be able to learn new skills and knowledge.
  • Aptitude tests measure how well someone performs certain kinds of tasks.
  • Personality tests look at character and emotional make up in order to predict how someone will respond in particular situations and how they work with others.

Tests consist of a series of multiple choice questions and are done online or conducted by a trained tester. After the test, you’ll receive a report containing scores and explanations.

If you do decide that you want to use psychometric testing, then be aware of their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Psychometric Tests

  • Objectivity. The tests are designed to give objective measures and so can help to reduce the effect of biases.
  • Standardisation. Tests have usually been normalised on a large sample of people, allowing candidates’ results to be compared.
  • Prediction. When interpreted carefully, tests can give an indication of how well a candidate is likely to perform.
  • Self-awareness. The tests can help people better understand their own strengths and weaknesses in the workplace.

Disadvantages of Psychometric Tests

  • Lack of values. Tests don’t always capture people’s broader values, and values are a big influence on behaviour.
  • Mistrust by candidates. Candidates may be reluctant to sit tests because they take time and effort and have no guarantee of eventual success.
  • Relying too much on the results. Some hiring managers lean too heavily on tests when they should be using them in conjunction with other screening methods.
  • Limited accuracy. Not all tests have been rigorously evaluated and some may have little predictive power in your recruitment situation. Results may be over interpreted by hiring managers, leading them to unwarranted conclusions such as assuming that extroverts are better than introverts at working in teams. Even the creators of the well-known Myers-Briggs test have stated that their measure can’t predict job performance and isn’t meant to be used in recruitment!
  • Bias. Many psychometric tests were developed using particular groups of people such as Americans or white men and so may be biased against other groups.

Choose the Right Test

Having considered these pros and cons, if you decide to go ahead with testing, make sure that you carry out some due diligence on the available tests. Ensure that:

  • Your chosen test is easy to give and that the results can be interpreted without having to bring in outside expertise.
  • The test has been properly evaluated using a large representative sample rather than a narrow group
  • The test has a good reputation for objectivity and predictive power.

Conducting the Test

When it comes to using the test, follow these best practices:

  • Get your current employees to do the test before you give it to job candidates. The results will give you a sense of whether the test is useful and accurate. It should identify your Great Performers and allow you to use your existing employees as a control group with which to compare your candidates. If the test doesn’t pick out your best people, then it probably isn’t going to be a great predictor of which candidates have the potential to be Great Performers.
  • Use the test alongside other selection methods such as interviews, reference calls, job simulations and CVs. Don’t use the results to avoid making your own screening decisions on the basis of the standard methods.
  • The best time to employ a test is between the first and second interviews. The results might suggest areas to explore in the second interview and could help you see how self-aware your candidate is. It’s not a good idea to do the test at the Telephone Interview stage as applicants may be particularly reluctant to take a test early on in the recruitment process. It’s also a mistake to introduce a test late in the process when the results will often be ignored because a hiring decision is close to be being made anyway.

<div class="grey-callout"><h2>Key Takeaways</h2><p><ul><li>Employ psychometric tests with caution, if at all.</li><li>Always use them as an add-on to reviewing CVs, carrying out interviews and conducting job simulations – never on their own.</li><li>The main advantages of psychometric tests are: objectivity, standardisation, prediction and helping staff to be more self-aware.</li><li>The main disadvantages of psychometric tests are: lack of values, candidates’ reluctance to take them, over-reliance on results, limited accuracy and bias.</li><li>Carry out due diligence on any test you’re going to use.</li><li>Once you’ve chosen a test, give it to your existing employees first, use it alongside the standard recruitment methods and carry it out between first and second interviews.</li></ul></p></div>

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Geoff Newman has dedicated his entire career to recruitment. He has consulted for many well-known international brands, and worked with over 20,000 growing businesses. He has helped fill over 100,000 jobs.

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We literally wrote the book on...

The secrets of great recruitment

The Secrets of Great Recruitment is a top-seller. It is easy to read and wastes no time in giving powerful actionable strategies you can use straight away.

Book cover for The Secrets of Great Recruitment