The ABCs of Psychometric Tools for Selection, Recruitment and Development

22 November, 2019

By Tarja Kohtamäki, HRS Advisors Oy (Finland)

What is psychometric testing in recruitment?

Jobs require a certain set of personality characteristics and aptitude (or cognitive) abilities. Psychometric tests are able to measure a candidate’s suitability or the extent to which their personality and cognitive abilities match, providing insight into the probability of success.

Psychometric tests are able to explore many different attributes:

  • Personality profile
  • Motivation
  • Logical reasoning
  • Language skills
  • Task organization

Since psychometric tests offer an unbiased point of view on matters that are difficult to identify in an interview, when combined with a structured interview and other sources of information, one has all of the information necessary to make an objective conclusion.

Psychometrics provide measurable data about a person and create an all-around view of the candidate’s situation and suitability, greatly diminishing the effect of subjective or subconscious observations in the decision-making process. In this sense, one could argue that using psychometric tools makes the assessment process more ‘scientifically’ valid and therefore more credible and objective.

Why use psychometric tools in selection, recruitment and organizational development?

Successfully identifying and selecting strong candidates is crucial for expanding business and improves company performance, but the recruitment process can be time-consuming and costly. Mismatches between the role’s requirements and the hired person are extremely expensive.

There are several reasons to use psychometric tools during the selection process:

  • Help to improve objectivity and minimize discrimination in selection
  • Provide reliable data, not intuition or subjective opinions, for decision-making
  • Improve the quality of interviews (when tests are given pre-interview)
  • Give a more thorough overview
  • Facilitate data- and evidence-based recruiting and eliminate biases
  • Contribute to a multi-method assessment and lower the risk of failed recruitments
  • Allow to better understand the candidate’s work personality, operating style, motivation and cognitive abilities
  • Identify potential risks before hiring a candidate
  • Provide an objective measurement when many interesting candidates apply for the same position
  • Give insight into a person’s future job performance, developmental opportunities and potential to perform successfully under changing circumstances
  • Create a professional candidate experience and support your company´s brand

It remains important to understand the overall picture when recruiting a person instead of only looking for measurable data and test results.

There are other aspects to take into consideration to ensure that a candidate succeeds in a position:

  • A comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s professional know-how
  • Verification of the required skills
  • Education
  • Life situation
  • Personal values and ambitions.

Candidate fit for the specific company is very important, and can be difficult if the company’s success criteria are not well defined in terms of culture and way of working, or if the company’s culture and values lack transparency.

Finally, to guarantee that the job description meets reality, it is also essential to discuss the specific search conditions, and understand the company’s leadership type and overall social environment.

Organizational Development

Tests can be useful for organizational development purposes as well (e.g. team development, leadership development, organisational development, and coaching).

A psychometric test can offer a quick way to discuss relevant issues within a team and/or better understand different styles of communication or behaviour. Since tests allow a better understanding of oneself and the behaviour of others, using them can open conversations among team members making these exchanges more effective.

A team leader is also able to manage the team more effectively with this information in hand. Overall, tests can increase productivity, teamwork, and communication, leading to a happier and more profitable business.

Some international guidelines on testing

The International Test Commission (2001) gives some guidelines on testing that should be considered when using psychometric tests as part of a recruitment process.

A competent test user should use tests appropriately, professionally, and in an ethical manner, paying due regard to the needs and rights of those involved in the testing process, the reasons for testing, and the broader context in which the testing takes place.

To achieve this, the test user must have the necessary competencies to carry out the testing process, and the knowledge and understanding of tests and test use that inform and underpin this process.

The following guidelines relate to the need for organizations to consider their policy on testing in a systematic manner and to ensure that everyone involved is clear as to what the policy is. The need for an explicit policy on testing is not confined to large organisations. Small and medium-sized enterprises that use testing, must also pay regard to testing policy in the same way that they do to health and safety, equal opportunities, disability and other areas relating to good practices in the management, treatment and care of personnel.

A policy on testing serves to:

  • Ensure personal and organisational aims are met
  • Ensure that potential misuse is avoided
  • Demonstrate commitment to good practice
  • Ensure test use is appropriate for its purpose
  • Ensure tests do not discriminate unfairly
  • Ensure evaluations are based on comprehensive, relevant information
  • Ensure tests are only used by qualified staff 

A policy on testing will need to cover most, if not all, of the following issues:

  • Proper test use
  • Security of materials and scores
  • Who can administer tests, score and interpret tests
  • Qualification requirements for those who will use the tests
  • Test user training
  • Test taker preparation
  • Access to materials and security
  • Access to test results and test score confidentiality issues
  • Feedback of results to test takers
  • Responsibility to test takers before, during and after test session
  • Responsibilities & accountability of each individual user

Reference: International Test Commission (2001). International Guidelines for Test Use, International Journal of Testing, 1(2)

When Assessment Tools are reliable, valid, and used in a proper way, the company will have valuable information about people. In addition, the tested candidate/colleague receives valuable feedback about his or her strengths and possible development areas.

It´s a win-win situation!

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