Psychometric testing: why nobody has to miss out

Posted 05 February 2014 by
John Hackston, Head of R&D at OPP
The selection 'funnel'

There is a large and growing body of evidence that psychometric tests and questionnaires are among the best recruitment tools you can use. Incorporating psychometric tools on top of structured interviews and other objective assessments adds real value by increasing the quality of each hire – as well as helping you to avoid big recruitment mistakes. So it is good news that the most recent CIPD Resourcing and Talent Planning Report shows that over half of all the organisations surveyed do use ability tests or personality questionnaires in selection.

Of course, this hides some important differences. First, psychometric tools are used most extensively for middle ranking jobs – they are much less popular when it comes to recruiting top management or entry-level staff. Second, they are more widely used by larger organisations; many, possibly most, smaller companies don’t use tests at all (and may not be well represented in surveys).

This is particularly unfortunate, as smaller organisations actually have even more to gain from the use of tests than do big multinationals. In a small company, it is particularly important to get every individual recruitment decision right. If there are only 10 managers in your organisation, having one underperforming manager can have a huge negative impact; one or two such underperformers amongst 1,000 managers has, relatively speaking, much less impact. Smaller organisations are also less likely to have a dedicated recruitment team, or even any dedicated HR team at all, and so are less likely to have expertise in using tests, competency-based interviews or other objective selection tools. They are unlikely to know how to use psychometric tests in an ethical and cost-effective way, or to have the time or budget to be trained in psychometric test use.

So, a gloomy picture for smaller organisations? Not if you look at the problem in more detail. There are a number of systematic processes that a recruiter can apply to increase the quality of their selection decisions, including:

It is now possible to embed much of this expertise in computer-based systems, and in doing so we can give all recruiting managers, even those in smaller organisations, access to the benefits that the use of psychometric tests can bring. This was the inspiration for OPP’s development of online assessment system Sīriŭs. This online system takes any user – a line manager for example, or the owner of a small business, rather than an HR practitioner trained in psychometric instruments – through a structured process to establish the competencies relevant to the job, as well as any other essential or desirable criteria; the system then allows applicants to be given appropriate assessments online. Candidates can be objectively shortlisted for interview, and interviewed using standardised questions informed by their personality profile; finally, a developmental Onboarding Report can be produced to help ensure that the successful applicant actually makes a success of the job. The recruiting manager remains in control of the recruitment process, but the system helps them to make better, more objective selection decisions, even without them having to undergo any training in psychometrics or assessment processes.

Systems like Sīriŭs cannot of course do everything. The more traditional approach, where specialist, trained staff develop a bespoke selection process, allows greater flexibility and depth, and will be particularly appropriate for more senior and high stakes roles. But the Sīriŭs approach means that small businesses, which have not previously been able to afford the necessary investment that the traditional psychometric approach requires, don’t have to miss out on the extra validity that tests and personality questionnaires can bring to selecting the right person.

Larger organisations have their recruitment challenges too. Tests and questionnaires used in the traditional way may seem to be too expensive for entry-level roles, and cutbacks in HR teams may mean that a lot of recruitment has been devolved to line managers, with minimal HR involvement.  Systems like Sīriŭs can help here too.

And the recruitment of top management? Well, that’s another story again, and not always one with a happy ending. We’ll pick up on this in a future blog post.

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