Psychometric tests - Do They Work? | Eden Scott | Eden Scott

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Psychometric tests - Do They Work?

Psychometric tests

Psychometric testing, which has been around in some form or another since the late 1800s, is becoming a vital tool for HR professionals across industry, from start-up to multinational.

Recent data indicates 75% of ‘The Times Best Companies to Work’ for and 80% of ‘Fortune 500’ firms use them. And the reliance on them is growing. 81% of those using the tests expected to make more reliable decisions.

Recruiting a candidate that turns out to be unfit for the job role is both costly and time-consuming for all involved, so getting that initial hire right is imperative.

It’s not just for recruitment either. The results are now being used to support retention and productivity too. 57% of those using these tests believed they would help predict future performance allowing them to mitigate or train staff to support growth.

Psychometric testing is said to give employers a better understanding of the skills, motivations and work behaviours candidates have to strengthen the recruitment process.

However, there are others that think it is a system that is easily played by those with experience and that it only provides part of the picture so doesn’t work in isolation.

So we thought we would investigate the arguments on both sides.

Why Use Psychometric Testing?

The first thing to realise is that we are not all the great judges of character that we think we are. Human emotion and personal bias all impact our decision making, especially when other people are involved. As little as 14% of unstructured job interviews actually predict the best talent.

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as ‘halo and horns’ bias where an overreliance on first impressions can impact the result. Recent research reveals that 99% of candidates are hired based on first impressions.

So, the right psychometric tests can have a positive result.

Another concept to think about is the fact that your business is unique. The values and vision you have are totally different to those of your competitors. So, while there may be a number of candidates with the right skills, you can use the right psychometric tests to identify the right person to fit your business.

Psychometric tests can actually save you time too. That might seem a little counter-intuitive as there is a reasonable amount of work required in the set up but they help you or your hiring manager spending a lot of time interviewing people that will either not make the grade or are not the right fit.

This approach to recruitment will also provide a reasonably accurate prediction of future job performance. If you use these tests to identify the traits of particularly high performers, you can set your assessment mix to reflect these, helping you identify your potential employees quicker. You will see a heightened level of performance from those new hires if you stick to your tried and tested performance measures.

It also provides a good way for candidates who don’t necessarily interview well to further showcase their skills and personality. Many people get nervous in an interview and don’t usually come across as their best self due to this, so psychometric tests can help recruiters find their perfect candidate even if they don’t necessarily ace the interview stage.

What's the argument against Psychometric Testing? 

The biggest issue, which seems to be an increasing problem as our lives become ever more digitised, is the over-reliance on data. Psychometric testing is indeed a valuable tool and will make a huge difference to the success of the hiring process, but it is reliant on the quality of the tool and the hiring manager using the data.

The data derived from a psychometric test should be used to inform a hiring decision, not to make the decision in isolation.

Added to this is the fact that the quality of data is dependent on the scale of the data. Psychometric testing should become a regular occurrence in your organisation if you want to use the data to continue to build your recruitment around this level of information.

Another of the main issues is a poor outcome as a result of a poor objective setting. If you are going to embark on this type of people analytics you need to understand why you want to assess your workforce and how it is going to improve your recruitment.

If you are experiencing a higher than average attrition rate you need to assess your recruitment and find out why you are bringing in the wrong people. Perhaps there is an increased number of experienced team members leaving – is your organisation changing, and will you need to adapt your business model to suit?

You need to understand what you want to achieve before you embark on this approach.

Finally, there is a general feeling that the growing online hacks for these and many other tests are making them obsolete. There is definitely a growing issue with any number of YouTube clips on how to beat the system – but this goes back to the previous point. What is the objective? It is about identifying exactly the results you want from the test based on the characteristics that are right for your business. While there may be a hack for acing a psychometric test, if the candidate doesn't know the answers you are looking for that specifically relate to your organisation then there is no value in being able to beat the system.

If you invest the time with a recruitment partner or HR provider to perfect your objectives, you will generate the right outcomes.

The Verdict

As with anything, there are pros and cons to every approach. There is significant research now to highlight that one face to face interview just won’t cut it. The whole process is open to unavoidable human bias and the success rate is very low.

There are a growing number of options across a suite of assessment centre tools linked to people analytics and growing scientific research that is backing up this approach.

However, it would seem that a good understanding of your objectives, significant research into the right tool and a firm grasp on your vision and values will help you get the right employee and build a solid, effective business.

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