Discovering the Value of psychometric testing


Sunday Business Post – Linday Daly (June 2011)

Psychometric testing can provide a more accurate prediction of a candidate’s suitability for a particular role.  That is according to Eleanor Murphy, managing director of Career Development Services.

“Research has shown this method is far more reliable than an interview, for example”, said Murphy.  In agreement, it would seem, is the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), which recently confirmed that it was using psychometric assessment to help fill 28 new positions.

Nama is not unique in this.  SHL Group specialises in aptitude and personality test for the workplace.  A report it released last month on global assessment trends found that, of the 463 HR professionals it surveyed worldwide, 85% used tests as part of the hiring process.

Such tests can assess cognitive ability and personality.  There are also job-specific tests, which can be used to appraise a candidate’s knowledge and their suitability for a particular job.  The most common ability tests rate numerical and verbal reasoning abilities.

Personality questionnaires are also popular as a means to determine a candidate’s preferred behavioural style and how suitable they are to a specific work culture.

What is it?

A psychometric test is an on-line or paper-based assessment, which is used to determine a person’s abilities in the  workplace.

These tests are usually presented in multiple-choice format.  The traits or aptitudes that are used include knowledge, abilities, skills and personality.

Common examples of psychometric tests would be emotional or personality profiles and intellectual assessments.

Ethical Standards.

Audrey Hughes, managing director of Principle HR, uses ability and personality tests to help her clients to hire new staff.  In all, she has access to 1,000 separate online assessments.

“We choose the most appropriate one for the client and the role, and often do it in conjunction with the hiring manager”, she said.

A member of the British Psychological Society, Hughes said it was important that psychometric tests were administered by qualified professionals, who could assess and interpret the results.

In April 2006, the Psychological Society of Ireland published its own policy on the use of psychometric tests in Ireland.  This called for tests to be used “appropriately, professionally and in an ethical manner”.

Michael McDonnell, director of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Developments Ireland, advised firms to use reputable tests and assessors.  The most reliable psychometric tests are typically designed by occupational psychologists. “It’s very easy now to download something from the web.  We would caution very much against that type of approach, because while anyone can administer these profiles, it really does take a skilled person to assess the results,” he said.

Preparing to test.

Before companies opt to use psychometric testing as part of the recruitment process, McDonnell advised them to carefully consider their reasons for doing so.  Ask yourself, ”will the use of psychometric tests add value to the recruitment process? Do you have the resources needed to carry out psychometric testing effectively?  Is the test relevant to the job specification?  Consider also the stage at which the tests will be incorporated into the recruitment process.”

It would be time-wasting and non-beneficial to carry out psychometric testing on all candidates.  The test shouldn’t be used on their own, but in conjunction with competency-based –based interviews, reference checks and on-the-job assessment”, says Hughes.   While psychometric testing can be used to help fill positions at all levels-and within all functions-of an organisation, Hughes said it was generally more beneficial at mid-to-senior level.

Cost and value

“The cost of psychometric testing varies widely.  A basic test can be had for as little as €100.  According to Murphy, however, you could expect to pay up to €500 for an all-in-one package, which could be used to test core behaviours and aptitudes, provide feedback to employers and candidates.  Companies can measure the return on their investment in psychometric testing by assessing the performance of the candidates they have recruited, along with their attrition rates. When psychometric tests are used properly, you should be able to predict job performance and working style”.