Psychometric testing attempts to assess mental abilities and qualities in a scientific manner. Psychological testing for recruitment brings objectivity and standardization to the recruitment process, but experts disagree on whether such tests show the complexities of human nature.
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Psychometric testing is a new method of psychological measurement, and its application in recruitment helps reveal the candidate's personality, aptitude, and orientation.
Psychological testing for recruitment attempts to measure different traits of candidates. The common types of psychometric tests used in recruitment include:
Tests of ability: Such tests judge the performance of a candidate based on the correct answers. Tests measuring ability are grouped into achievement tests that assess a person’s existing capability, and aptitude tests that assess the person’s potential. Both these tests probe the candidate’s general mental abilities and sometimes specific job-related abilities through verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, abstract reasoning, mechanical aptitude, clerical aptitude, and spatial reasoning.
Personality tests: These tests assess the candidate’s way of behaving, thinking, feeling or perceiving in particular situations, and aim to build the candidate’s personality profile to interpret how the person behaves in different circumstances. Such tests have no right or wrong answers. Common types of personality tests include tests of interests, motivation, attitudes and the like. Myers Briggs Personality Tests ranks among the most popular personality tests to identify personality type, and they are widely used by many organizations.
The use of psychometric tests in recruitment offers many advantages.
The results of psychometric tests are likely to be more valid than subjective judgments made based on how a candidate behaves during other conventional selection methods such as assessment centers, written tests, group discussions, interviews, and the like. The soundness of such subjective judgment depends on the presence or absence of distorters such as prejudices and bias of the interviewer, the extent to which the candidate puts up a true face, the range of situations or emotions covered in the interview, the general mood or environment of both the candidate and the interviewer, the competence of the interviewer and the like.
Psychometric tests adopt a standardized approach to obtain and judge the relevant information, and as such, largely eliminate such disorders and make possible for an objective judgment of the candidate. Since personality tests do not have a possible correct answer, it forces the candidate to reveal his or her true nature.
Psychometric tests are complex and costly to set up, and require trained and experienced assessors. The information that they provide regarding the nature of the candidate, opposed to the alternative of hiring wrong candidate, training them, and then repeating the recruitment process, added to the time lost make psychometric tests a comparative hassle free and low cost effective recruitment option.
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Most psychometric tests, particularly personality questionnaires, require considerable experience to administer and interpret, and the possibility of misinterpretation or inappropriate interpretation of results is commonplace.
The major challenge facing most organizations in using psychometric tests for recruitment is selecting a valid instrument from the various tests and questionnaires available in the market. It is very difficult for untrained people to distinguish good psychometric instruments from fakes.
Another danger associated with the use of psychometric tests in recruitment is inexperienced users trying to use personality questionnaires to assess a person's ability or skill in a particular area. For instance, a candidate scoring highly on the “leadership" personality dimension only means that the candidate has basic personality characteristics commonly found amongst effective leaders, and has the potential to become a good leader, with the right exposure and experience. It does not indicate that the person actually possesses a high level of leadership skill. People not conversant with how psychometric tests work might straightaway place such a candidate in a leadership role based on this finding.
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The biggest criticism against psychometric tests in recruitment is that the questions are behavioral in nature, and the answers do not reflect the motives or dynamics of the candidate’s personality, making such tests no different from ordinary tests. For instance, psychological tests might reveal that two candidates might each drink three glasses of alcohol a night, and proceed to make a judgment based on this information. One candidate might drink due to chronic alcoholism, while the other might drink due to depression or lack of sleep. Psychological tests do not make such distinction.
Finally, although psychometric testing claims objectivity and freedom from bias, it is still possible for a skilled candidate to fake the results, the validity scales to check for faking and malingering notwithstanding. The advantage is that while just about anyone can fake a behavior during a normal interview, it takes skill and a determined effort to fake behavior in a psychological test.