How to use psychometrics

By Pelican director Cheryl Bennett

People present a very specific version of themselves in CVs and job interviews. Seeing through this to discover who they really are – and if they’re right for the job – takes more than just good judgement. The good news is there’s a science to choosing the right candidate for the job.

What is a psychometric test?

The term ‘psychometrics’ covers any activity or assessment which evaluates a candidate’s performance. It includes, but is not limited to, skills, knowledge, abilities, personality traits, attitudes and job/academic potential.

Psychometric tests are predominantly used when recruiting, to help employers get a more in-depth understanding of applicants when information is limited. They can be used before interviews as pre-screening against a set of competencies required for the job, or to support the interview to provide areas for discussion.

But psychometrics can also be used in staff development as a tool when discussing career development for a new role or succession planning. It’s a great way to help identify possible issues or barriers to success as it provides a more objective view and one that has been created by the participant, so is not influenced by the ‘interviewers preconceptions’.

There are many psychometric test styles and formats, but they all fall into two main areas:

  1. Aptitude tests to assess various cognitive abilities from numeracy and literacy skills to spatial awareness.
  2. Behavioural tests, which assess personality traits. This helps indicate suitability for specific roles and can come in the form of personality questionnaires, leadership tests, motivation tests and situational judgement tests.

Sometimes these two types are combined with other techniques, such as interviews or presentations, as an ‘assessment centre’ which facilitates a fuller picture of a candidate.

Shouldn’t I just trust my instincts?

Whether we realise it or not, bias gets in the way when we interview people. Research has shown just how biased we can be. The Department for Work and Pensions commissioned a report: ‘A qualitative study exploring employers’ recruitment behaviour and decisions: small and medium enterprises’, it states:

“Employers looking for care assistants often perceived that someone who could not look after their own personal hygiene would not be able to do it for residents in a care home. Conversely, some employers questioned whether someone who they perceived as ‘overdressed’ would be willing to get ‘their hands dirty’.”

Such bias clouds our judgement and is just one of the reasons interviews fail. Other common mistakes are:

  • Choosing candidates in our own image
  • Asking the wrong questions
  • Making up your mind too quickly. If the first impression is a ‘no’ you will unconsciously look for ammunition to prove that line of thinking

When recruiting for a job (either internal or external) I always ask three questions:

  • Can they do the job?
  • Will they do the job?
  • Will they fit in?

The first question can be answered by the CV and/or skills tests/qualification, but here psychometric aptitude tests are very useful. For example, verbal or numerical reasoning tests show accuracy and speed of thinking.

What about the other two questions? The big mistake is to let the interview situation be the mechanism to answer these. Interviews are the weakest way of choosing an applicant for a role unless you are a skilled interviewer and know the techniques to use.

You can of course become a skilled interviewer by undertaking interview training, which will help you design the interview process and use techniques such as behavioural and competency-based interviewing. But even a skilled interviewer needs some help to get it right.

A psychometric test can help you find out what will motivate a candidate to do a job and therefore tell you if they are going to ‘want to do the job’.

A psychometric ‘behavioural test’ such as a personality questionnaire can also tell you about how they are likely to behave, which will demonstrate how they will fit in with the company culture and values. The outputs of this type of questionnaire will tell you about the candidates’ traits, including how they relate to other people, how they tackle problems, their emotions and responsiveness to stress.

Top tips for getting the most from psychometric testing.

  1. Be sure you know what you are looking for in the role so you can be objective about the type of skills and traits you need in the successful candidate.
  2. Make sure you have a qualified professional to administer and interpret the results.
  3. Consider how you will use the results – will they be the deciding factor or just a piece of information?
  4. Identify any equal opportunities issues to make sure you don’t disadvantage any groups.
  5. Develop a process for giving feedback from the test. Will you share the content with the candidate during the process?
  6. Consider how you will store the results and who will have access to them. Bear in mind the restrictions around GDPR which the test administrator will be able to advise on.

If you’re recruiting and want to ensure you find the right person for the job, or would like to support someone internally with their career progression, call today on 01457 820807 to find out more about how psychometric testing can help.

Pelican Communications is a specialist in the environment & CSR, food, packaging & logistics and trade association sectors and offers a range of services such as strategy, design, content creation, public relations and people development. Contact us for marketing and communications expertise.

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