Like most things in the world, the recruitment industry has evolved considerably since its inception.
Starting out with face to face interviews, soon after came cover letters, before intelligence, skills and personality tests made their way onto the scene. And now, post COVID-19, video interviews have surged, proving that the industry is ever evolving.
You may be wondering why the recruitment process is seemingly becoming more and more complex with more and more steps, but we promise it’s for good reason.
As most business leaders will know, hiring a new employee is an expensive exercise. Whilst the long-term goal is for the employee to do their part to make the business profitable, recruiting someone doesn’t come without risk. Candidates can lie on their CV, falsify a reference, turn out to be a lone ranger rather than a team player… the list is endless.
Without experiencing someone’s work and personality, it is difficult to determine if they’ll actually be able to live up to the added value they boast from their CV. This is why probation periods exist and also why the recruitment process is made of several steps. Simply put, they help ease potential friction, ensure the expectations of both parties match reality and determine to the best of our ability if the investment is worth the risk.
In order to do so, the company needs to rest assured that their new employee has the skill set, or will and ability to learn, so as to effectively fulfill their responsibilities.
Then comes the need to determine cultural fit. This is crucial as it will either disrupt or enhance your existing team and operations. By the same token, ascertaining a new staff member has the appropriate natural abilities or personality traits to be successful in their chosen role within your business is not necessarily easy to assess just by looking at their resume.
This is where psychometric assessments come into play.
What is a psychometric test?
A psychometric assessment (also known as psychometric test) consists of a set of questions that measure the extent to which a candidate’s personality and ability match those required to perform a given position.
Based on our research, such tests were first used in the 19th century. Some believe it originated in a laboratory in England, whilst others state that it has roots in France, where it was used to separate patients with mental illnesses. Despite not being able to definitely pinpoint its origin, we know that these tests were and still are developed according to a scientific method, and are designed to be objective and unbiased.
There are two main types of psychometric tests:
This test enables employers to evaluate a candidate’s suitability based on their behaviour and the way in which they approach their work. Usually presented as a questionnaire, it explores behaviour, attitudes, preferences, motives and / or values.
Typically, such tests request the candidate rate statements from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Such statements may include:
– “Artistic expression influences everything I do.”
– “When in a group setting or meeting new people, I am comfortable starting up conversation.”
– “I tend to let my emotions get the better of me.”
On the other hand, the ability test aims to assess a specific or general set of skills required to perform the role. They usually involve numerical, verbal and abstract reasoning tests with visuals that need interpreting.
When to use psychometric assessments
Although there are no specific rules as to when to use psychometric tests, they tend to be used as part of the final hiring process. However this largely depends on the seniority of the position or the size of the company.
As mentioned above, psychometric tests oftentimes provide hidden insights about candidates that aren’t easy to determine during preliminary steps. Consequently, such tests are often used to validate a particular choice rather than during the selection process.
Nonetheless, it’s still worth mentioning that some companies prefer using psychometric tests early in the hiring process as a means to avoid wasting time going through further steps for the wrong candidate. In fact, companies receiving a large amount of applications often use psychometric assessments as a way of screening.
That being said, hiring managers shouldn’t base their final decision on psychometric tests only. These are best used in addition to other elements such as screening and face to face or online interviews.
Why use psychometric tests?
Making a hiring decision solely based on screening resumes and cover letters as well as doing reference checks is outdated. Why? Because most candidates have a lot more to offer than what’s written on paper and reference checks can easily be biased.
In today’s society, employers are looking beyond hard skills. They are turning towards a more holistic approach where they want to know more about the person, their soft skills, their interests, their personal story and most importantly, their ability to work well with others.
In this sense, psychometric assessments come as a bonus to complement traditional techniques and help hiring managers make a more informed decision when it comes to selecting the right candidate.
Finally, since face to face interviews have also become more and more difficult to undertake due to COVID-19, psychometric tests have surged to help determine cultural fit.
What are the pros?
They take away unconscious bias
As humans, we all have our own set of experiences, expectations, habits and beliefs. This is why in most cases, we make biased decisions without even realising it. Unlike us, psychometric tests are science based which means that they offer businesses an unbiased report which helps hiring managers objectively assess a candidate’s fit.
In doing so, psychometric tests make the recruitment process fair and can help businesses maintain standards when it comes to objectively measuring personality traits and aptitude.
All in all, the test score looks at various parameters and provides transparent results to weigh different people on the same scale so as to ease the recruitment process.
They provide key additional data
Psychometric assessments provide employers with more insights into potential hires that may not be able to easily be captured from other methods such as through an interview or their resume.
More specifically, psychometric tests are an efficient means to measure the strengths and weaknesses of a potential employee. For instance, if a candidate is shy or introverted but possesses the qualities required for a job opening, these tests can give a platform for them to be recognised.
Having additional data gives the recruiter the ability to ask more informed questions as well as explore other points of concern when conducting further interviews.
All in all, this additional data can act as a strong filter, especially for businesses that have high focus on cultural fit and vision alignment as a screening criteria.
They enhance employee engagement
It’s safe to say that the advantages of psychometric tests are not limited to recruitment, but span the entire career cycle of an employee.
More specifically, psychometric assessments are indicative of a candidate’s future potential, leadership orientation, and learning agility. Hence, test results can be a great tool to prepare for the candidate’s onboarding and career development, empowering HR professionals to make important decisions regarding workforce management.
They provide better return on investment
Investing in someone whom you may not hire may seem like a waste of money. Yet, since psychometric assessments help reduce or diminish your chances of bad hires, they actually reveal themselves to be quite cost-effective in the long run.
Simply put, while a good fit candidate is an asset for your business, a bad hire can prove to be extremely costly and impact the productivity and morale of other employees.
Since psychometric assessments provide broad insights into your future hire, this technique ensures that you match the right talent to the right position. This will lead to less turnover and more motivated and successful employees.
On another note, reliable psychometric tests can supply key information about potential hires in the matter of hours, in comparison to the several months it generally takes for a business to get to know their new hire. As such, psychometric assessments not only save you money, but they also save your business and managers a whole lot of time.
What are their cons?
They cost money
Reliable psychometric assessments aren’t free and as such, their cost must be included in your hiring budget. Although this may come as bad news, it’s worth noting that, as highlighted above, their many benefits usually make up for the cost.
It is difficult to give a bracket, specifically because there are so many aspects to take into consideration when choosing the right provider. However, based on our research, costs usually vary between AUD $85 to AUD $420 in Australia.
As with most things, psychometric tests are imperfect and cannot tick all boxes. They are science based and cannot, for instance, take into consideration cultural background or language barriers. As such, it’s worth remembering to take results with a grain of salt and look at ways to tailor the test for your audience so as not to deprive your business of great talent.
Furthermore, in a world where one can access information at the click of a button, candidates have the ability to better prepare for interviews and psychometric tests. Should this happen, you do run the risk that candidates “customise” their responses to match your expectations. Although this can occur, this is such a small occurrence that we wouldn’t take this into consideration. A great way to avoid this is by taking the time to explain to candidates that it’s in their interest to be as honest and transparent as possible.
They require expertise to read results
The absence of the right training can be a hindrance to making the most of psychometric tests, and in our experience, local HR teams are often not trained well to interpret and use them.
Since personality tests and instruments require adequate experience to be able to take full advantage of all of their benefits, the prospect of misjudgment of the test results is quite high.
This means that businesses need to take additional costs into consideration when first implementing psychometric testing.
As a business leader, you can either choose to train your in-house team or hire third-party professionals. Whilst keeping the knowledge in-house sounds like a great idea, you do run the risk of losing it should your HR advisors choose to depart. On the other hand, outsourcing your HR to a partner ascertains that you always have access to the knowledge, as it is their responsibility to keep their experts trained.
There are so many to choose from
Although this may sound more like a pro than a con, the fact that there are a myriad of tests available on the market can cause confusion more than anything else.
It also goes to show that there are many aspects to take into consideration when choosing the right psychometrics test for your business. This can make the selection process harder than it should be.
This is not an issue when you outsource your HR to a 3rd party, as they would have the experience to make tailored recommendations for your business.
What to consider when choosing a psychometric test?
Once you have clarified your objectives (which will define whether you go with a personality or aptitude test) and are ready to choose a test, there are 4 elements to consider:
1. Reliability & validity
Because psychometric tests are science-based, they should be backed-up by freely available statistical and empirical evidence.
This evidence should ascertain the test’s reliability by ensuring consistency in results, as well as it’s validity by guaranteeing the test actually measures what it is set to measure.
Keep in mind that asking for proof of their scientific validity and if they are up to date with their study is not only OK but also highly recommended.
2. Money & time invested
We mentioned price earlier, and this should definitely be a determining factor when choosing which provider to go for. Depending on the size of your business, there is no need to go for all the bells and whistles, so choosing the price brackets and functions that suit you is key.
Whilst you might be tempted by free online assessments, they’re mostly gimmicky and tend not to go into much detail, which only adds more work for the hiring manager. When hiring for your business, it’s definitely better to go with a professional as this should render you more efficient.
3. User friendliness of the platform
Although it may seem like common sense for many, it’s still worth noting that it is extremely important to consider the platform’s interface when making your choice.
More specifically, you’ll want to use a platform that is intuitive and easy to use, both for the hiring manager and for the candidate. If the interface or test layout isn’t easy to navigate, you run the risk of causing confusion for candidates, which may lead to inaccurate results.
On the other hand, if the interface is hard to use, you run the risk that hiring managers skip this step when hiring and miss out on crucial data. With that in mind, the tool you end up choosing should make it easy to administer the test and read results.
4. Result interpretation
Ah, the big one! Since the results are the most sought after aspect of a psychometric test, choosing the right approach for interpreting such results is crucial.
This is where you need to decide whether you or your team have the know-how and / or time to properly read and make use of the results, or if it’s worth getting a 3rd party HR partner to do it for you so you can concentrate on your core competencies. When you outsource your HR function, this is generally part of the package.
All in all, psychometric assessments are a great tool to add to your hiring arsenal. Full of insights for employers and hiring managers, these tests offer unique data to help you assess a candidate better and more easily.
That being said, psychometric tests alone are not sufficient and are best combined with traditional hiring methods. In doubt, best enquire with a local third party HR expert, as they can help answer any questions and rectify any uncertainties you might have.