How effective are psychometric tests in recruitment?

In finding the perfect candidate out of a roster of talents, the job of a hiring manager involves the tedious tasks of pooling, sifting through resumes and conducting interviews. And to make the process faster and more comprehensive, psychometric tests were developed recently and have been used to help recruiters gain an assessment of candidates.

Psychometric testing refers to the process of measuring a candidate’s relevant strengths and weaknesses. They usually come in the form of aptitude tests and personality tests, primarily employed to evaluate employment suitability, including company-candidate fit. They aim to gain an understanding of candidates’ cognitive abilities and general behavior. Its popularity among hiring managers as a recruitment tool lies in its ability to whittle down candidates, making the recruiter more confident about the hiring process. In fact, the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported that 92% of employers in UK surveyed considered psychometric testing an important tool for recruitment.

But do they really help determine top talent?

Organizations understand the importance of human behavior in their respective fields. But understanding the complexities of the human mind remains a difficult undertaking—a subject that is recurring in scientific communities. In the simplest terms, the use of psychometric tests in business is an attempt to extract and assess a particular set of skills. By trying to get a picture of an individual’s psychology, organizations are in a better vantage point to make decisions regarding selection and team development.

According to the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychologists, organizations choose to employ these exams because they are cost-effective methods to aid in decision-making since less time is spent on applicants who might not fit the criteria needed for the job, as well as the resources allotted on making bad hires. Employers also find it easier to extract hard-to-get information interviewees would not normally reveal during a face-to-face interview.  Lastly, candidates are also treated equally since standardized tests are used in these exams, thus, the results are likely to be more valid and objective than judgments rendered based on the recruiter’s biases and from possible disruptors that arise during a normal interview sessions (e.g., competence of the interviewer, general mood, and environment)

While they help making valuable insight, many critics make a case on why the use of psychometric tests is a flawed system—one that doesn’t guarantee the best hiring decision. For one, there is an inadequate definition of concept to be measured. Also, these tests are standardized, meaning they are given under exam conditions, strictly timed, and the questions start out relatively straightforward and get steadily harder. This provides a lot of room for panic upon realizing that the time is about to run out. The interpretation of the result may also be at risk of bias because they don’t provide enough background on the person to support the answers. Also, candidates are given leeway to cheat because they are more aware that they can tailor their answers according to what they think employers might want to hear.

Despite the many benefits of psychometric tests, these it should only form part of the recruitment process. These cannot replace the interview, but it is a useful way of streamlining applicants to ease the burden of interviewing hundreds or even thousands of candidates. If conducted the right way, this may increase the accuracy and of course, the validity of the results.