How effective are psychometric tests?

By Michael Allen of Brightred Resourcing Limited, March 2017 

Many of our clients favour psychometric tests in the selection of candidates. This type of questionnaire based testing can reveal traits, behaviours, attitudes and values in a person. Some tests may also require candidates to solve problems, to assess their performance abilities.

Using the results from psychometric tests enables us 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.

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, especially when driving organisational or cultural change.

By using psychometric tests to reveal if a person is the best fit for a role, it can save money further down the line by ensuring the right person is recruited. For a candidate, it can also help them decide what sort of role or functional area would suit their personality best.

Although psychometric tests can prove insightful, many experts argue that they are most effective when used in conjunction with other selection methods, such as interviews, rather than used alone. This is because you can’t always easily interpret the results from psychometric testing. Some candidates may be skilled at knowing which are the ‘right’ answers to pick, even if they don’t necessarily reflect who they are themselves. Alternatively, some candidates who may actually be a suitable fit for a role may be anxious about psychometric testing and not answer the tests as well as they could.

While psychometric testing can be effective, it does need to be delivered by people who are trained to administer and interpret the results accurately. It can be expensive to apply, so probably wouldn’t be cost-effective for use in every job role, especially those at a lower level.

The results alone from psychometric testing should not be used to decide if someone is the right fit for a role but should be considered together with other evidence gained at interviews, during role-play exercises, recruitment presentations or from reference checks.

The biggest challenge we at Brightred have found, is that candidates rarely receive the results of these tests. If a candidate is prepared to take the time to complete these assessments, it is only fair that clients share the results. Too often, clients will reject a candidate, influenced by the psychometrics, but do the candidates no favours by not sharing.

A candidate will be able to decide what roles are most suitable to their personality rather than applying for roles they think they will be good at. Sometimes we are blinkered as to our own capabilities.

Let’s help our candidates. If we are going to use psychometrics, let’s share feedback and provide a real service. We cannot rely solely on these selection methods, but they can be invaluable when used in the right way, and by qualified people/organisations.