psychometric and other tests

While interviews remain the most common method for selecting candidates, they can be subject to bias by the interviewer(s). To avoid inherent bias, organisations also use a range of tests, ranging from practical work tests, such as keyboard and telephone skills; to psychometric tests measuring intelligence, personality, aptitude, reasoning, decision making, and interpersonal skills.

Just as attainment tests (e.g. exams) are designed to show what a person knows or the technical skills they have, so the various forms of the psychometric test are designed to show what a person might be capable of and the type of behaviours they exhibit. Research by Personnel Today reveals that three-quarters of organisations use some form of psychometric testing – and eight in ten who use it find it a “powerful tool for hiring” and have faith in the results.

Today, most organisations make use of psychometric testing, particularly for more senior roles. Tools such as personality profiling, cognitive ability assessments and structure behavioural interviews give a greater predictive validity. However, tests should not be used as the sole method of recruitment. The Australian HR Institute suggests that psychometric assessments are used to assess the final two or three candidates before the final interview. Popular assessments include:

cognitive ability tests

These assess a person’s thinking and problem-solving ability and measure maximum performance under timed conditions. It’s important to match the test type to the requirement for the role. These tests often include a combination of tests such as verbal, numerical and abstract reasoning for managerial and professional occupations, or spatial and mechanical reasoning for more manual roles. Cognitive ability tests are used widely due to their high level of proven ability to predict future performance in a role.

aptitude tests

Designed to measure an individual’s potential to excel in certain skill areas requiring specific abilities, such as spatial, perceptual, verbal, numerical, and manual dexterity, and can, therefore, be related to the needs of the job.

trainability tests

Candidates for jobs needing certain skills are shown how to do a new task and then observed to see how well they have responded to the ‘training’ in picking up those new skills. These tests can be tailored to the type of job to be filled.

personality tests

There is a debate about the applicability and appropriateness of personality tests. It can be difficult to determine what is being measured, whether a personality remains constant or develops with time and circumstance, or even if a personality can be measured at all.

Other issues include candidates giving answers they think most suitable, and that personality tests run the risk of curtailing diversity. It is also worth remembering that training, attitude and experience may have a bigger impact on job performance than personality alone.

However, personality tests can provide employers with a categorisation of psychological character, which can determine the best way to develop a person when they are in the role. The psychological dimensions typically examined include:






openness to experience.

emotional intelligence tests

The concept behind emotional intelligence (or EQ for Emotional Quotient, to mirror IQ) is that to be successful requires the effective awareness, control and management of your own emotions, plus an awareness and understanding of other people’s feelings. As such, it argues that the traditional general intelligence test is too narrow because it does not measure social skills. EQ testing encompasses: knowing your emotions, managing your emotions, motivating yourself, recognising and understanding other people’s emotions, and managing relationships. However, some academics argue that its value is in performance management and EQ testing may not appropriate during recruitment.

team tests

These tests work on the principle that every team has specific roles and that a team made up of the right combination of personality types will be more successful than one with too many of the same personality types. While this may provide useful information about how a person’s skills are best used, it is questionable how far they should directly influence the recruitment process: teams frequently change, and someone’s preferred team role may not bear any relation to the skills and experience needed.

work tests

An employer will set a candidate a test to display their skills and achievement level in a given area (e.g. IT skills), which are necessary to the job – and so prove their qualification to do it. Normally a work test is done on the day the candidate attends the interview. Candidates will be made aware in advance that they will be expected to take such a test. The content will be relevant to the job – such as analysing performance data; drafting a letter to convey challenging news; computer tests; preparing for or giving presentations; role plays; and exercises that test for an applicant's speed, skill, accuracy and dexterity at manual tasks. The work test can also illustrate the applicant's ability to analyse statistical or budget information.

Work tests involve the practical application of skills, making them useful in providing objective information to balance the subjective experience of the interview.

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