Psychometric testing is a long-debated recruitment tool that has proven only effective when used appropriately.
The effectiveness of psychometric testing is a hotly debated issue. This is especially after news that the former chair of Co-op Bank, Paul Flower, deemed responsible for the bank’s failure last year, had risen to the top of the candidate list during the interviewing process for the position because of his performance on a psychometric test, according to The Guardian.
While these tests make cheating extremely difficult, the margin for human errors are large, and an in-person interview is nearly always required to verify results. According to a poll by The Society for Human Resource Management in Virginia, USA, only about 18% of companies use personality tests at some point in the hiring process.
The main purpose of psychometric testing is to screen applicants who are definitely not suitable. According to Training Zone, Royal Mail used tests to screen only the 30-40% worst-performing candidates, which Chief Executive of Psychometric Services Ltd Richard Alberg says are “conservative cut-off scores.”
Why Psychometric Testing Is Useful
Test parameters are constantly monitored and updated to reflect the current needs of the company. Psychometric test scores are given as a percentage fit with the company based on personality and comfort with certain skills and tasks. With over 330 questions spread across six parts, it is virtually impossible to cheat without exposing inconsistencies in the test-taker’s fake “personality.”
Tailored percentages and further breakdowns of the score can be strong indicators of how a candidate does not fit with a given company. For example, if a team of six currently has five introverts, they may want to hire an extrovert to create balance. This kind of screening streamlines the recruitment process.
Where Psychometric Testing Falls Short
All that being said, the test returns many statistics that are all up to human interpretation – and to human error. Kevin Kerrigan, Managing Director of SHL Talent Management Solutions, even recommends that the interviewer seek to authenticate the results as the candidate’s own. Given this kind of skepticism, it’s safe to assume that many recruiters question the efficacy of these tests.
The Guardian’s assessment of the psychometric test concludes that Co-op could have included questions to determine what candidates would do when things went wrong. As it was, Paul Flowers aced the test. But when things got rough, he resorted to heavy drug use.
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How to Use Psychometric Testing
Psychometric testing only works if the employer knows what they are looking for, or definitely not looking for. Most psychometric test results must be authenticated in the interview, and screening is only effective with strict, conservative, pre-set guidelines. While psychometric tests will never replace the interview, interviewers can use them as a guide for their questions.
The Harvard Business Review cautions that organisations often focus too heavily on “predictors” rather than on what is predicted. In this respect, psychometric tests are generally poor predictors of success, but can clue a hiring manager in on applicable personal qualities.