What is psychometric testing in recruitment?
Psychometric testing is a type of test used in recruitment to measure a candidate's mental capabilities and aptitude. An employer can use different tests to determine a candidate's job suitability including verbal reasoning, logical reasoning, situational judgement and numerical reasoning. Each test gives a unique perspective of how a person demonstrates a specific skill or ability.
Psychometric tests differ from traditional testing that measures education, knowledge or skill. Employers can see a person's educational background, achievements, and work experience during the application process and use them all to help identify suitable candidates for a job role.
However, candidates who appear to be perfect for the job on paper are not always successful when the workplace realities come into play. It is recognised that other factors, like personality traits, approach to work and communication skills are just as important at predicting how well-suited someone is to a job role and organisation.
Psychometric tests provide a rounded view of a candidate, revealing their logical processes, aptitude for problem-solving, and ability to interpret and analyse a range of data. Just as importantly, they also provide an insight into their personality traits, integrity and how they might fit into an existing team.
Why is psychometric testing important for recruiters in 2021?
The professional jobs market is highly competitive, which can render the recruitment process challenging for employers. Hiring someone who looks like a safe bet but struggles to settle in or, even worse, disrupts the team can be a costly and time-consuming mistake that employers need to avoid.
An experienced recruiter can feel confident in their ability to get a feel for whether a person is a good fit for their team, but a more objective and measurable process is needed to ensure that the recruitment process remains reliable and fair.
To take the selection process to the next level, recruiters can use psychometric testing to assess each candidate further and get a clear picture of how they might perform and behave in the workplace.
Psychometric testing allows recruiters to assess these additional traits and skills objectively, so each candidate has an equal chance of success. Formalising this assessment of aptitude and personality also removes the risk of unconscious bias from interviewers and levels the playing field for candidates.
There is a range of psychometric tests available, each designed to assess a different skill or trait. Employers can choose which of the tests are most suitable for their company and the relevant job vacancy, enabling them to create a recruitment process tailor-made for their needs.
Some job roles rely heavily on specific attributes or personality traits, and the recruitment process should carefully filter candidates to ensure they meet these criteria. For example, someone working in law enforcement is expected to be assertive yet also have high levels of honesty and integrity.
Employees in a caring profession, such as nursing, must be able to demonstrate empathy and patience as well as an aptitude for handling numerical data necessary for safe drug administration. When a combination of skills and abilities is required, psychometric testing provides a reliable and multi-dimensional method of thoroughly assessing each candidate.
Spending time on assessments at the recruitment stage can save costly hiring mistakes that occur when human judgement alone is used to gauge a candidate's suitability. It can also improve employee retention.
When the right people are hired, there is often a ripple effect as the energy of the new employee can drive up productivity within a team, resulting in better cohesion and performance and a happier workforce.
Is traditional recruitment obsolete?
The working world is changing, accelerated by the impact of the global pandemic. Job roles are becoming more fluid, remote working has become the norm, and employees have a new appetite for finding work that offers a healthy work-life balance.
As a result, companies and organisations must respond with agile and flexible recruitment processes to avoid missing out on a significant portion of the potential workforce.
As well as the more generalised overview that psychometric testing allows, some of the tests adopt a gamified approach to assessment. Situational judgement tests, for example, can involve the candidate entering a virtual reality workplace where they 'meet' colleagues and make decisions based on what they see and hear.
It is thought that recruitment practices will continue to develop over time to include more game and virtual reality psychometric assessment methods. Although traditional recruitment methods are still widely used, it is undoubtedly only a matter of time before more sophisticated techniques are considered standard.
Does psychometric testing work in recruitment?
Psychometric tests are used across multiple industries, including banking and finance, healthcare, civil service and the armed forces. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 18% of companies use them, a number that is growing by 10-15% per year.
When we look more closely, a significant number of these companies see high levels of success, with 75% of Fortune 500 companies recruiting using psychometric testing.
We only need to look at the big players to see that this type of assessment is considered an effective recruitment assessment tool.
American multinational bank, Citigroup, relies on numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests to assess potential employees. Other companies that opt for psychometric testing of potential employees include Ford Motor, Procter & Gamble and Deloitte.
Psychometric testing recruitment origins
Psychometric testing in recruitment has been around for a long time. The first tests of this kind were developed at the University of Cambridge in the 1880s, and in the years that have followed, psychometric testing has expanded to cover two broad areas: cognitive tests and personality tests.
Historically, many companies have relied on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test to find out more about the personality of each job applicant. However, it is accepted that there are some limitations to this test used on its own, and recruiters are now using a more comprehensive range of psychometric tests to create a detailed assessment of each potential employee.
How are psychometric tests used in the recruitment process?
Psychometric tests can complement other recruitment methods. Once the initial application stage has been completed, psychometric tests can be used to streamline a large number of potential candidates further before the interview stages begin.
Interviews are necessary but pose challenges to the employer. It costs time and money to take interviewers away from their usual workplace to hold interviews or to pay an external recruitment company to handle the process. So, it is in everyone's interest to ensure that the candidates have been thoroughly assessed before reaching this stage of the process and have real potential to move forward.
Armed with psychometric test reports, interviewers can intentionally observe particular behaviours and traits among candidates and tailor assessment activities to explore them in more depth. When deciding who to hire, recruiters can refer back to psychometric test reports to differentiate between candidates that seem to be equal in education, experience, and skills.