Psychometric testing was developed in the early 20th century, and since then has gathered credence as a valuable tool for enabling employers to select the best candidate for any given role.
Its popularity has grown extensively, with 80% of Fortune 500 companies in the USA and close to 75% of the Times Top 100 enterprises in the UK utilising the tests.
And the reason many companies are embracing psychometric testing is to ensure they get their hiring process right – the first time.
After all, there’s no doubt that poor recruiting choices have a significant impact on both employee and employer.
For the employee, it can lead to overwhelm in a job you are not suited to or a workplace where you don’t ‘belong’ due to different values and ethics.
For the employer, ultimately, the impact is financial — for example, the expense of additional training, rehiring and staff who are disengaged and therefore less productive.
However, the news that Co-op’s disgraced former chairman, Paul Flowers, landed his job as a result of doing ‘better’ in psychometric tests than other candidates has brought interview testing into the spotlight.
So, are these tests really of value in the hiring process?
In this article, I’ll take you through the pros and cons associated with psychometric testing as a method of selection in the interview process.
But first, let's start by looking at what psychometric testing is all about.
What are Psychometric Tests?
There are three types of psychometric testing – aptitude and ability, skill and attainment, and personality. The method predominantly associated with these tests is self-report questionnaires – including questions about behaviour, preference, attitude, values and motives.
In this article, I will be concentrating on personality testing.
Firstly, the use of the word ‘test’ is slightly misleading. There is no right or wrong answer here; psychometric tests are questionnaires that measure a response to determine a personality type.
Used in conjunction with other interview processes, the tests offer the employer a holistic overview of the candidate to help them determine if a candidate will fit in well with company culture and work collaboratively with the team you already have in place.
A good test should pick up on any inconsistencies, making it difficult to ‘cheat’ on responses.
Finally, remember that this form of testing works best when used as part of an interview process for candidate selection, not in isolation.
Pros of Psychometric Testing
Firstly, psychometric testing is a great encourager to get people who are the best fit into a role. And then for businesses utilising this methodology consistently as part of their hiring process, it helps maintain a consistent standard for new employee selection. For some roles, fit, motivation, engagement, values and attitude may be more important than technical skills especially if extensive technical training can be provided. This may work especially well for roles where there a talent pipeline shortage of experienced people.
Cost-effective and easy to utilise, the tests enable employers to gather information quickly. They help employers avoid costly recruiting errors, by improving retention and critically ensuring that the chosen candidate will perform well in their new role and that any areas of development can be supported.
Some tests will also generate interview questions to further explore different aspects of the results of the test with the candidate.
The results of the tests are reliable: the interviewer will know in advance if the candidate will work well in the job and as part of a larger team; something that face to face interviews alone cannot always guarantee.
For example, if you are looking for a Head of Transport Planning, self-motivation and strategic thinking will be qualities you require.
Alternatively, someone who scores higher on sensitivity may be a good fit for a role that requires empathetic traits.
It’s also worth remembering that when used as part of an interview process, they allow introverted candidates to demonstrate better their qualities for the vacancy that could be missed by face to face interview alone.
And finally, the tests allow managers to understand their team better – positioning them to tailor their management style to get the best out of each team member.
Cons of Psychometric Testing
There are many tests available on the internet – but not all are valid. Therefore, it’s wise to choose carefully. Recommendation from a business associate are always useful.
You should evaluate what you are testing for in the context of the role that the individual will be performing. This should be considered at the outset of the recruitment process and the outputs from the test should also be considered in any development plan. When it comes to psychometric testing one size definitely does not fit all! The test has to be fit for purpose just as the individual undertaking them has to be the right for the role.
It’s easy to misinterpret the results – especially if an individual is not knowledgeable about the test and what exactly it is assessing. I would always advise clients to utilise the expertise of a professional in evaluating and interpreting results. Most importantly, feedback should be provided to all candidates by someone qualified and accredited in the specific test, so that candidates can focus, if they wish to, on developing themselves in line with their career objectives.
Tests should never be used as the only method for hiring. Results should be validated at the interview and by assessing the CV and covering letter, and by taking up references. Only this will give you a rounded picture of the candidate.
The cost can be a decisive factor for some companies. Although many tests are web-based, their interpretation may need to be delivered by a professional, leading some businesses to avoid a lengthy report in favour of relying on gut instinct when hiring. However most test providers will provide a range of options when it comes to types of reports.
These tests only work effectively if the employer knows what they are looking for – and remember, they cannot fully measure some attributes such as creativity or leadership skills, although increasingly tests focused on predicting success in leadership or potential leadership derailers are also becoming available.
Although I am firmly in favour of psychometric testing as a means of gaining valuable insight and data when selecting new hires, these tests do not replace intuition. Therefore, they should be combined with other recruitment methods; not relied upon as the only decision-making factor.
I would advise employers also to remember that when hiring, it's wise to look for a blend of personalities rather than the same.
Diversity keeps your team motivated, allows fresh thinking and enables different skills to be utilised. For example, your project managers, customer services and trouble-shooters all bring different attributes and expertise to the table.
Finally, nothing replaces a conversation with a candidate to allow you to get to know them better; psychometric tests should be viewed as an additional tool to save time, reduce overall costs and improved the quality of your final hire choice.
If you are thinking of using psychometric testing as part of your interview process, Martin Veasey Talent Solutions can help.
Our BPS Certified specialists work closely and collaboratively with organisations and key stakeholders within the selection and development and ongoing talent management process to understand your culture, roles and competencies to advise on the most appropriate psychometric tool to utilise. Call us on +44 (0)1905 381320 or contact us today.
About Martin Veasey Talent Solutions
At Martin Veasey, we have been working with blue-chip and SME businesses for over 35 years, both in the UK and around the world.
We are an independent consultancy company with highly qualified staff, including many degree and Masters educated consultants, with memberships of professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the British Psychological Society.
We have unique expertise in hiring for senior roles in Board & Senior, Supply Chain & Logistics, Purchasing & Procurement, Manufacturing & Engineering, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences, Sales, Human Resources, plus many more.
If you are looking to work with a highly accomplished recruiting partner, you can call us on 01905 381320 or get in contact today.