In the world of recruitment, many of us will be working alongside our clients to work out an effective and safe way of interviewing for the foreseeable future and, with that, ignites conversations around  well loved, tried and tested methods of hiring, such as psychometric testing!

Psychometric testing was introduced to the UK by Peter Saville, who developed the first psychometric test for the workplace in the late 70’s. Today, globally recognised organisations and public bodies still use psychometric tests as a recruitment tool which serves to test two qualities of the applicant.  Firstly, their personality traits and, secondly, their work abilities. When used correctly, they can provide the recruiting panel with a fair and objective assessment of the candidates in the recruitment process. But how much research do we do before selecting a psychometric test to use? Do we evaluate what we are trying to achieve before we put them in front of our potential hires and how heavily should we be relying on the results?

 This blog provides a brief overview of the to and fro discussion around psychometric testing, largely influenced by the 2018 People Management article is “Psychometric Testing still fit for purpose”.

Former Co-Operative Bank Chairman, Paul Flowers, supposedly secured his role, ahead of several other potentially better qualified candidates, because he did well in the psychometric tests. Does this suggest some businesses have become too reliant on psychometric tests? Are people overseeing potentially more effective means of selecting the right candidate for the job? Richard MacKinnon (occupational psychologist) said ‘“Psychometrics are only as good as the tool – and the hands using it…. They should never be used to make a decision, only to inform decision- making. But in less skilled hands, that’s what happens.”

They should come as part of the interview process and never be used in isolation. Some companies have introduced them to their existing employees as a means of better understand their employees, and, in turn, for their employees to better understand themselves, which could positively impact the way a business moves forward. As Kathryn Austin, Chief Executive and Marketing Officer at Pizza Hut, explains “psychometrics should be less about a one-time assessment and more about driving better behaviour and productivity”.

Data suggests more than 75 per cent of The Times Best Companies to Work For and 80 per cent of Fortune 500 firms use them (2017). In an executive level hire, OD Director of Total Produce, David Frost, found the science behind psychometric tests at this level of particular use. Having said that, interview panels need to be adequately trained on the psychometric test their organisation is using, as well as ensuring it is fit for purpose. Psychometric tests enable the interviewing panel to see beyond the qualifications, career history and S.T.A.R. Method.  When used correctly, they enable hiring managers to see an individual’s basic instincts and attributes in black and white.

Used well, psychometric testing comes with numerous benefits including, but not limited to, maximising a company’s retention by better matching candidates to suitable jobs, avoiding the financial costs associated with poor recruitment decisions, better matching existing employees career aspirations with internal promotions/opportunities and enhancing the skill-set of your staff through psychometric development.

Volume recruitment can be a daunting and lengthy process.  You may feel like you are sifting through a large number of applicants, trying to find the needle in the haystack whilst still trying to provide a positive candidate experience. Covid-19 has slightly tipped the scales in terms of being a candidate -driven market and, with so many now unemployed due to the devastating economic effects of COVID-19, will we see a rise in the number of businesses using psychometric tests as a means of identifying the right person for the job? A 2020 survey by the society for Human Resource Management estimates that, at present, 18% of companies use psychometric testing in the hiring process. It was also found that this percentage of users is growing at a rate of 10-15% per year.

At Executive level, psychometric tests are likely to be used later in the recruitment process. For volume roles, assessment centres, graduate schemes and so on, a psychometric test might be the first stage of the process used as a filtering mechanism for the hiring company. At this level they should be used to gauge a candidate’s future potential.

The company issuing the psychometric test should consider the variety of psychometric test they’re using. For example, professional services firms such as KPMG and Deloitte are using gamified versions of psychometric testing at graduate and apprenticeship level. Psychologist, Thomas Chamorro Premuzic, said ‘gamification brings several advantages, including the ability to scale and open up the candidate pool, which could lead to increased diversity”.

On balance, psychometric testing is regarded as a successful tool to aid recruitment and employee development amongst several well-known brands and companies the world over. However, approach with caution and curiosity. Understand why your business is using them, do your research and ensure you are properly able to evaluate the results, ensuring a fair hire is made based on all the evidence at hand.