What is Psychometric Testing?

Psychometric testing is a way of objectively measuring skills and knowledge, abilities and attitudes, personality and motivations and also educational achievement.

In recruitment, tests fall normally into two areas:

One measures aptitude (can you do the job that is required of you) so as an example numeracy tests are used for finance related roles and intelligence tests, problem-solving and creativity tests are used, often in combination depending on what an employer is looking for.

The second measures Personality, (does the person have the personality to do the job well) often looking at the ‘big five’ traits:

  • Openness – the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety a person has.
  • Conscientiousness– the degree a person is careful and diligent in their work. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well, and to take obligations seriously.
  • Extroversion – the degree a person is  energetic, assertive, social and has a tendency to seek stimulation by being in the company of others.
  • Agreeableness – the degree a person makes themselves available to others, is compassionate and cooperative and has a trusting and helpful nature
  • Neuroticism – the degree a person is subject to stress and experience difficult emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression

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What does Psychometric Testing show?

Psychometric tests are used to identify individuals against one another so that in recruitment decisions can be taken when weighing up the pros and cons of one candidate to another. No one is perfect for a role so it is a matter of identifying first whether a person can do the job in terms of skills and aptitude, and then whether they will fit with the team, clients and suppliers.

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Are Psychometric Tests reliable?

Psychometric testing is a very broad brush approach to understanding the specific traits and skills of very complex human beings. No test is 100% accurate either. There are always minor conflicts in test reliability because different people taking the same psychometric test may have different thoughts, feelings, or ideas at various times, thus leading to a variance in scores. A lot of factors, like stable traits and momentary issues, can both lead to a difference in test scores. Some factors influence test reliability.

Psychometricians, however, spend most of their time making sure their tests are as reliable as possible, and when you look at Human Resource departments, more than 50% use psychometrics as an important part of their recruitment process.


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What types of questions are asked in Psychometric Tests?

Questions vary depending on what it is the test is trying to identify. If you think a critical reasoning test is there to identify a person’s ability to analyse rationally. Often here a person is faced with a number of questions to answer under a strict amount of time which is organised so that you will find it difficult to complete all the questions. Numerical tests on the other hand, are designed to ask questions that show an ability to understand and manipulate numerical data.

An example of a typical verbal reasoning question is different again:.

‘You will be presented with a passage to read and a statement about that passage. You must select one of the following answers:

TRUE: The statement follows logically from the information contained in the passage

FALSE: The statement is logically false from the information contained in the passage

CANNOT SAY: It is not possible to determine whether the statement is true or false without further information”

When we get to personality tests there are no right or wrong answers, the most common type of personality test questions are statement-based ones. In this type of question, you receive a list of statements and are asked to state the extent to which you agree or disagree with each statement often on a 5 point scale.

How to use Psychometric Tests when hiring new recruits?

The Harvard Business review answer to these states:

When used correctly, cognitive and personality tests can increase the chances that new employees will succeed. Since the cost of a bad hire is widely estimated to be at least one year’s pay, there are huge incentives for organizations to get hiring right. Unfortunately, too many organizations use the wrong psychometric assessments in the wrong way. Here’s what organizations need to know in order to minimize potential risks and maximize the predictive accuracy of these tests.

  • Know the law in relation to the appropriate use of tests that do not discriminate unfairly
  • Know the business needs.Psychometric tests will not help you if you don’t have well-established measures of job performance.
  • Reduce the risk of cheating.In order to safeguard against the possibility that candidates will ask others to take tests, especially cognitive ability tests, on their behalf, make sure you are in control of the environment in which the test is taken.
  • Share test results with candidates. While in most psychological research, “informed consent” gives candidates the right to see their results, few organisations provide proper access to the reports based on the psychometric tests that applicants take
  • Test the tests. A well-developed performance appraisal system should evaluate job performance quantitatively (not just qualitatively). This gives the company “criteria for correctness” that it can use to measure how well its pre-employment screening tests actually predict success on the job 

How long does a Psychometric Test take?

Apparently, on average a test takes 20 minutes, but different tests take different amounts of time as stated before. Some tests have a strict length of time, e.g. numeracy, and other aptitude tests. Personality tests are often up to you. However from my perspective the shorter the test takes to complete the more worried I am that the results will be good… and on the other hand, if you take hours to take a test and do not respond with your initial thought there is often a problem with you giving the wrong impression, particularly in personality tests where there is also a ‘faking’ element embedded into the test.

How important are Psychometric Tests in the hiring process?

Tests are as important as the organisation using them wants them to be. Some companies hold very strong views in terms of only taking on people who achieve a certain result from the tests, others use tests more as a guide and take other factors into consideration when hiring…and of course there are some that don’t like using them at all!

Is Psychometric Testing effective?

Using the results from psychometric tests enables an organisation to get a more rounded picture of the suitability of a person for a role, but just how effective are these tests and how much emphasis is placed upon them when making a hiring decision is down to the test used, the appropriateness of it, and quite importantly, also the interpretation in relation to the job the individual is being assessed for.

As psychometric tests have become more sophisticated, they can provide an accurate, wider picture of a candidate, gleaning more information than may be obtained during an interview alone. They are especially invaluable for weeding out unsuitable candidates when hiring for a high level or complex job role, where character traits and tendencies are essential. But at the same time, they are often quite expensive and need expert analysis which can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds per person.

Alternatives to Psychometric Testing

We believe that Future Resume can support the hiring process without the use of Psychometric tests. By giving individuals our questionnaire to complete what the hiring manager gets is a rounded picture of the individual that is often achieved by the first interview.

We see our approach as cutting out this expensive element of the process while at the same time ensuring that the process of recruiting gives everyone a fair chance. Particularly if our offer of ‘unbiasing’ the reports we send is taken up!

I would recommend speaking to us and giving our approach a trial run so hiring managers can see how useful it can be and how it achieves quite a lot for a minimal cost.

Find out more about David Royston-Lee and Tim Richards.

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