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How to get the most out of psychometric testing

Written by: Claire Brandon
Published on: 7 Nov 2016

In today’s highly competitive recruitment world, the fight for top talent is harder than ever. Employers are turning to increasingly sophisticated assessment methods to ensure they secure the best candidates – not just to secure high performers for the longer-term, but also to cut the costs associated with high candidate turnover.

The varied means of candidate assessment
In earlier days, a candidate was often hired on the strength of a single, unstructured interview and a ‘gut feel’ from the hiring manager. Today, the array of tools available is quite staggering. Typical corporate recruitment tools and techniques include assessment centres, telephone, video and Skype interviews, plus core face to face interviews, gamification methodologies and psychometric testing.

Of course, like all corporate tools, the success of using even the most advanced recruitment tools lies in the recruitment strategy underpinning the process and the correct interpretation of the results, without which, you are simply left with a set of numbers and indicators in useless isolation!

A closer look at psychometric testing
Psychometric testing is a structured, scientific psychological test which looks at behavioural styles, personality traits and competencies. Typically, the cost and resource involved to successfully use this type of test meant that it was typically reserved for senior hires, but we are increasingly seeing it used for more junior appointments across the board – particularly for specialist roles and graduate recruitment.

Tests will measure everything from intrinsic attitudes through to perceptions and decision-making preferences – often based on the highly popular Myers-Briggs model of personality type. Other test types will include individual responses to varied stimuli based on response theories, such as the Rasch model.

This form of testing is generally viewed as being expensive, and certainly it can be a costly exercise requiring specialist administration, assessment and interpretation of the results. However, even with this investment, many companies are not getting the most from the results generated, and the usage of the data is being limited to the selection process point, rather than being applied more broadly and with greater value.

Other uses for psychometric testing
The fact is, psychometric testing has a broad range of organisational applications and can provide tangible and measurable value when implemented more broadly. Organisations will also typically find that the cost of using these tests lowers drastically on a unit basis when the service is brought in more broadly. Specialist providers will often work on a retainer or contract basis for far better value than a per-recruitment fee basis.

Forward-thinking organisations will also use these tests and interpret the results to help with their onboarding process, to help grow high performing teams, to embed a consistent, strong corporate culture and to predict candidate performance within a role as part of predictive analytics; a rapidly growing field of human resource development.

The takeaway for employers
If you are going to invest in psychometrics, do it properly. No business can afford to fritter away precious budget on a high performance tool that isn’t properly implemented or used to its full potential. When buying in the service, be sure to buy in the specialist evaluation and interpretation service and resource that will allow you to understand the results. You might do this by flexibly hiring outsourced consultancy time, or by having in-house HR resource trained up in specialist psychometric testing delivery.

Be sure to also train your hiring managers in the field of psychometric test understanding. They needn’t understand the detail, but they will need to know how to interpret results and know what makes a ‘good’ hire. This will depend on your broader recruitment and people resourcing strategies which starts with having strong and detailed job descriptions and person specifications and focusing your recruitment on capabilities and competencies, rather than overly focusing on experience and qualifications.

Remember, these tests will give you vital information about the behavioural preferences, personality traits, competencies and styles of an individual, so your hiring managers will need to know how to assess an individual’s successful placement within an existing team. Training on group dynamics and particular methodologies for assessment such as Myers-Briggs can be very useful for this purpose. You don’t want to risk a ‘clone’ recruitment culture whereby you end up with too many of one personality type… that magically matches the hiring manager. The key is to create teams of high performing staff with varied personality types, experiences, competencies and styles that can work together in a complementary way and create the right amount of positive challenge to generate creativity and challenge the status quo.

Recruitment is an art form so it is always worth investing in the specialist skillsets you need to get it right – and constantly review your approach and results using analytics and rich data – rather than ‘gut feel’.

Author:  Karen Young, Director, Hays UK

Karen is responsible for the UK finance recruitment business at Hays plc. With nearly 20 years of recruitment experience whilst working for this market leading global recruitment firm, Karen has a personal track record of recruiting top finance talent for business.

Her knowledge covers finance appointments across a wide range of industry sectors and she is an expert in tried and tested talent acquisition methods. Karen provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across a network of 100 UK offices. Extremely passionate about helping people to find the right job, she is also a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.