Psychometric testing over kill?


Psychometric assessments are common tools that help with the selection of candidates. Psychometric assessments are said to be used by up to 70% of employers. Psychometrics are said to help select the best candidates for roles and find individuals to fit into those organisations with greater ease and accuracy.  However, is there ever a time to reduce the use of psychometric assessments altogether?

The word psychometric is derived from the Greek word for mind (psycho) and the Latin for measure (metric). Combined, the term conjures up images of a world of numerical tests and pages full of symbols. Personality assessments and ability tests make up the most common forms of assessment in for recruitment and development used by organisations. Over the last twenty years there has been a large increase in the use of these work tests, but are they being overused?

Organisations use psychometrics as they are reported to have good levels of predictive validity (choosing the individual who will perform the best in the job). If an individual scores highly on a test, it is argued that they will perform the best out of all candidates if given the role.  With high levels of scientific validity and reliability, psychometrics tend to add a more objective element to the selection and development process.  With an increased amount of individuals applying to roles, assessments can whittle down large numbers of applicants to a more manageable number to shortlist from.

The use of psychometrics in organisations is not wrong; however, their overuse can be damaging.  I once went to an assessment day and it was an assessment day in every sense of the word. After emerging a few minutes late (an interview no-no) and getting lost in Watford relying on my google maps, I burst into a room of very unimpressed group of HR professionals. Six or seven candidates were then read the riot act, a role play and no less than four separate psychometric tests! FOUR- for what was an essentially an entry level consultant role. I sat through a general personality assessment, a numerical test and some sort of test which measures your attention to detail.
This was an example of psychometric test overkill. Not only did I as a candidate feel exhausted, fed up and BORED, I left feeling confused at the sheer volume of testing that I had to endure. This feeling was not made any better by the fact that I have a qualification and training in psychometric testing.
To alleviate candidate stress, confusion and disaffection selection phases need to be transparent. HR professionals and hiring managers should communicate the reasons behind the use of tests and not just throw them in as a “nice to have”.  To evaluate their use organisations should:
  • Read the job description carefully, or if you are writing the description, make sure you have what you want in a candidate there on the paper. Highlight the aspects of the job where the candidates need to be tested and consult with psychometrically trained individuals and a layman to see if it passes the common sense test.
  • Will the use of psychometric assessments enhance the selection process? Will it allow you to hire the best candidate?
  •  Make sure the tests complement other selection techniques, e.g. if you are using a competency based interview in a technical role, complimenting this with a non-verbal reasoning test or any other technical test may be a good pairing.
  • Relying too much on these methods can reduce candidate experience turn it into a long-winded rigmarole. To reduce the anxiety faced by candidates communicate the purpose of the use of the assessments; give them feedback regardless of whether it is requested in a non-judgemental environment. Encourage them to apply to other roles; you never know when they can be useful.
In summary psychometric tests should assist the selection process, not overshadow or complicate it. Using these powerful tools in combination with other selection methods is best practice as they should never be used alone. As the HR professional or hiring manager, try and manage the candidate experience and work out if you are getting the best out of the individual in order to find the best individual for the job.
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