As a student of psychology, I have been familiar with psychometric testing for some time. However, after having recently entered the world of employment, I was unaware of just how scarily accurate these tests can be in a practical sense! During an early stage in the interview process with DMJ Recruitment, I was offered a psychometric test from Kinetic Consulting and during my final interview, I felt as if my eventual employer was staring directly into my soul based on some answers I provided on a deceptively simple test. I come back to this feeling from time to time and have finally decided to explore the phenomenon further. What is a psychometric test? How are they used? What are the benefits and limitations? All will be revealed in my latest article with insights from Kingsley Johnson from Kinetic, an expert in the field.
What is psychometric testing?
There are multiple definitions and applications for psychometric testing depending on where you search, but a running theme is the use of psychometric testing to measure an individual’s mental aptitude and traits to determine their suitability for a job role. Different mental facets are studied during the test including verbal, logical, and numerical reasoning alongside one’s situational judgment.
Psychometric testing use has certainly picked-up within the hiring process in recent years with Cut-e identifying that 61% of businesses in mature markets use psychometric tests in some capacity while 81% of individuals expect psychometric tools to ensure organisations make more reliable decisions, thus decreasing risk.
Kingsley described psychometric tests as a tool to provide recruiting teams and employers with an insight into the behaviours, potential strengths, and communication styles of individuals with whom they are interviewing. Having worked with such tests for 7 years, Kingsley truly believes psychometric tools can be powerful indicator if the individual is truthful in their responses.
How is psychometric testing used?
A common misconception regarding psychometric testing relates to their application within recruitment. Individuals may believe that psychometric tools are used to determine whether an individual will be hired for a job, and if they ‘fail’ to match the organisation’s expectations in terms of suitable personality they will be removed from the process. However, the use of a psychometric tool in this way would constitute abuse of the tool. The accurate application of psychometric testing is to help determine an individual’s strengths and focus points to provide the organisation insight into the candidates’ preferred method of working. Once the candidate has joined the organisation, psychometric tests can be offered yearly to track their development within the company and any preference shifts relating to management or communication style in order to help tailor leaders’ approach to their employees.
What are the benefits and limitations of psychometric testing?
Psychometric tests, as with all psychological tools, have their benefits and limitations – Kinglsey has had a wealth of experience with both throughout his career. Below I have described a few examples that throughout our discussion we felt were the most notable.
In terms of benefits:
- Aligning your team - Clients are able to identify areas in a candidates’ skillset that can be aligned with the current team to support their strengths and improve areas that may be lacking in the team.
- Easy feedback - As it’s presented in report form, you are able to gain easy feedback through a simple model that is easy explainable. Through this, you’re able to add objectivity to results and your process.
- Improving team interactions - If you are aware of your results (which explain how you like to communicate and be managed) as well as your colleagues’ results (how they like to communicate), you are able to better understand why your colleagues act in the way that they do, react more empathetically, and adjust your communication styles to those around you – a key attribute for any leader or negotiator!
In terms of limitations:
- Choosing the ‘correct option’ - Candidates may end up choosing either answers they believe the client are looking for, or the most socially ‘correct’ answers. It is always important to remember that there is no correct answer for psychometric tools, they are used to provide self-awareness!
- Mistrust - Not every client applies psychometric tools in the correct manner, there are those unfortunate few who may exclude candidates based on their answers, causing the test to act as a barrier rather than an enabler. These clients spread mistrust of psychometric tools themselves and can cause candidates to question why they need to complete these tests.
- Clients failing to provide adequate feedback - Businesses may use these tests but then refuse to give practical feedback and apply the results in order to develop the team and candidates.
- Oversimplification of biases - We often hear companies claim they are ‘reducing bias’ in their hiring processes by adding objective indicators such as psychometric tests, however, just because you are using an ‘objective indicator’ does not mean you are removing all bias. Hiring managers are still required to subjectively interpret psychometric results, allowing for subjective bias to slip back in if we aren’t careful.
Advice for those looking to apply psychometric testing
As I wrapped up my conversation with Kingsley, we discussed a few simple bits of advice for organisations or teams that are looking to apply psychometric testing within their recruitment processes. Firstly, remember that psychometric tests are simply tools to measure communication styles and emotional intelligence, they should only be used to measure how a candidate may fit in to a team’s culture and how you can help them develop long-term. Secondly, but most importantly, psychometric tests are only indicators! They indicate an individual’s preferences at the time they answered, however, they may not be accurate on all aspects depending on how truthfully the individual has answered and the accuracy will change as the individual develops.
With these two key bits of information in mind, below are a few tips to follow when applying psychometric testing:
- Use psychometric tests once you reach the second stage of a hiring process or you are close to making an offer. This allows for a more cost effective and streamlined recruitment process.
- Provide feedback! Typically, Kingsley would recommend consulting a professional or taking the time to upskill an individual in your team with psychometric training to provide employees with feedback as this allows for richer conversations surrounding their results and how they can best apply them in future behaviour.
- Ensure you repeat tests 12 months after the individual has been hired to track a shift in employee development, satisfaction, and management styles which may influence the team’s success.
- Make sure to KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid! When it comes to choosing which psychometric test to use, it can feel overwhelming. Kingsley recommends speaking to suppliers, providers, and trainers, such as the team over at Kinetic, to get a feel as to whether the psychometric test you’re using aligns with what you need and how much information or depth you require from the results – simplicity is best, so if you don’t need an in-depth personality test for then role you’re hiring for, it’s best to avoid that psychometric!