Feature: Psychometric testing

by 23 Jul 2010

Psychometrics is a well acknowledged and established tool when it comes to assessment and development of job candidates and employees. HR Leader looks at the latest trends and how HR can prepare.

It can cost a company between $7000 and $10,000 extra to hire an employee if no sufficient recruitment plan is in place. From recruitment to screening to induction – many HR departments still lack rigour around their recruitment processes, thus incurring costs in high turnover and unsuitable hires.

Furthermore, many companies hire employees on the fly with reactive rather than proactive recruitment processes. A study last year by Chandler Macleod, revealed that six out of ten companies have no documented recruitment strategy, leading to thousands in unnecessary hiring costs. The survey revealed that the average cost of hiring a new employee was $15,000, and drew a link between poorly defined recruitment strategies and increased costs

Despite ongoing emphasis on the need for detailed innovative recruitment strategies, it was revealed that most HR departments see recruitment as a “distress purchase” and not something that needs to be planned for or factored into wider business planning.

Because they were finding it difficult to move away from traditional recruitment methods, companies were spending more time “fighting fires” than planning well.

The crucial element

However, research has revealed that taking the time to analyse and hire the right recruit can eliminate the high initial turnover.

Psychometric testing has proved to be one of the valuable selection tools in the recruitment process. Research has shown that success in psychometric testing is not only dependent on applicants’ natural intelligence but also on their studies and their past experience.

More and more organisations are using psychometric testing to aid the selection process and help them hire the right person. It also allows companies to quickly screen large amounts of applicants. Psychometric testing has allowed KPMG for example to sift through the thousands of applicants every year and eliminate 30 per cent of applicants in one day and another 30 per cent in the following week.

Being creative and innovative in any one of the stages of recruitment will make a difference. But it’s only as you begin to link them all together and think about the value chain in it’s entirety that you can really make a big difference and stay ahead of the game.

Therefore, psychometric tests should not be the sole instrument used for selecting candidates. They should be used in conjunction with other procedures, as one element of the selection process. HR departments should always investigate the validity of the test being used and choose a reputable provider.

According to research by the University of Adelaide the better tests are supported by extensive research and data that allows comparison of results to relevant reference groups. HR should also define the critical characteristics needed for success in the position – to determine the match between the candidate's profiles and the "ideal" profile for the position.

How to …prepare for a psychometric test

What is it?

When used as part of the recruitment process, psychometric tests can objectively and accurately measure individual differences in the character, ability, style of working and strengths and weaknesses of job applicants. Used correctly, they can also help gain insight into future performance. The tests fall into two main categories: aptitude tests and personality questionnaires.

Why is it important?

HR professionals are often involved in choosing psychometric providers and products for their own recruitment programs, but may find themselves in the hot seat when moving to a new company or applying for a promotion. They may also have to give advice to other employees how they should prepare for the test.

However, research indicates that more than half of those who take the tests don't perform as well as they think they might.

Although there are no right and wrong answers - and it is not possible to revise for them in the same way as an exam - practising answers and building up your test experience will significantly improve your chances of obtaining an above-average score.

Where do I start?

Learn as much as you can about the test session beforehand: structure and content, how long it lasts, and whether you can use a calculator. Many organisations will provide sample questionnaires, so get hold of one for an idea of what to expect before sitting the real thing.

Work on improving your logic and reasoning skills by solving word games, brain teasers, crosswords and sudoku puzzles. Giving your mind regular mental workouts like this will also help you to think more quickly when you're up against the clock.

Gearing up

Tests usually demand high levels of concentration so prepare for the day ahead with a good night's rest. For the same reason, avoid alcohol the night before.

Ensure you know where you are going to sit the test and plan your route well - arriving with plenty of time to spare will prevent you getting in a flap, which could adversely impact your performance.

Present the real you

Always be honest in your responses and avoid trying to give the 'desirable' answer you think the recruiter is looking for. While psychometrics are not designed to catch you out, the tests have checks to spot people who try to portray themselves as something they're not.

Taking the test

Make sure you are clear about what you are expected to do.

Follow the instructions. Eliminate as many wrong answers as possible. With numerical tests, a quick estimate may help you discard several of the options without having to work out every alternative.

Work as quickly and accurately as you can. Avoid spending too long on any one question.

Don't worry if you do not finish all the questions in the time allowed. If you do, go over your answers again to check them.

Get feedback

Even if you have been screened out as an unsuitable candidate, don't be afraid to ask for feedback on your test performance.