Psychometric testing: is it all it’s cracked up to be?

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could delve into the inner workings of a prospective employee’s mind to work out if they’re a good fit for your dealership before you commit to offering them a position?
 
For many dealerships, the concept of including psychometric testing in their recruitment process can seem like a great way to do exactly that. However, the reality is that while psychometric testing can add value to your hiring strategy, it may not give you the exact outcome you’re looking for.
 
Before jumping the gun and deciding to incorporate psychometric testing into your hiring processes, it’s best to first get a real understanding how the testing is intended to be used and how it can help or hinder your recruitment processes.

What is psychometric testing used for?

Psychometric testing has been a bit of a buzzword on the recruitment landscape for some time now, and has become commonplace in recruitment in a wide range of businesses and settings.
psychometrictesting | Teamrecruit
Ranging from anything from a general ability test, cognitive skills test or behavioural test, through to profiling personality traits and complete assessment centres (which often take a day or sometimes even more), psychometric testing can be applied in a number of ways to test different things.
 
Unfortunately, the primary purpose of the testing is often misunderstood. While psychometric tests are often relied upon as a decision-making or screening tool, they’re designed to work as a supporting tool more than anything else.
 
The general idea of the tests is to provide a way to identify if an individual possesses certain traits or characteristics that are generally considered desirable for a role, however there are a range of limitations that prevent them from working that way.
 
Psychometric tests merely provide a snapshot of how an individual responded to that particular test at a given time, without taking any external factors into account. While the concept may seem logical, there are generally far too many conflicting factors at play for testing to be 100% foolproof.

How are psychometric tests developed?

Depending on what it is that you’re trying to understand or identify in a candidate, psychometric tests are highly customisable to the individual scenario; however, a lot goes into developing an effective test that yields results which are both reliable and valid.
 
Psychometric tests are often developed by psychologists, are generally question-based, and should undergo rigorous testing to ensure they work effectively. It’s not uncommon for it to take months or even years to develop an effective psychometric test.
 
The process generally starts by identifying a particular skill, trait or ability you want to test; something which usually comes about when the rest of the candidate assessment process isn’t yielding enough information or insights.
 
Next, a shortlist including a large number of questions is usually developed, which is then refined down to only include the questions which are most effective at finding out what you need to know. Ideally, psychometric testing needs to be conducted on a large cohort of people (at least 200 people) to generate reliable results.

The issues with psychometric testing

There are a few key limitations associated with psychometric testing, including that they’ll only test what they’re designed to test and they don’t carry over to an individual’s entire skill set.
 
For example, imagine you’re hiring for a new automotive technician. As their role is quite technical, it’s a reasonable assumption that a good technician will perform well when asked to solve a mathematical equation. However, when tasked with the problem, you find they do very poorly. Even though they didn’t perform well solving mathematical problems, if you were to put them in front of a truck and ask them to solve a physical problem, they may do significantly better.
 
Another limitation is that the responses a candidate gives are only relevant to that particular day and time. As humans, our moods can fluctuate dramatically throughout the day or we could be dealing with a range of external factors (e.g. you could be having a bad day or feel stressed, tired or nervous)—each of these things could influence the responses given during testing.
 
Psychometric testing also won’t always yield a ‘true’ result. Many candidates answer questions based on what they think an employer wants to know in an attempt to ‘beat the system’, rather than providing an honest response.
 
The tests are also graded based on statistical norms, which while they can act as a good mass-indicator, aren’t always applicable at an individual level.

When is psychometric testing effective?

Psychometric tests are most effective when used as a supporting tool during the recruitment process after meeting with each candidate individually. If conducted too early in the process, it’s possible that you’ll end up discounting a great candidate prematurely before they’ve had the chance to show you what they have to offer.
 
Testing should also only be used if it’s really needed. While it can be helpful if you’re struggling to gain the insights you need to set some of the top candidates apart, if you adopt a black-and-white approach (i.e. refusing to consider candidates who don’t perform well), you’ll end up basing your decision on only half the picture.
 
Generally, psychometric testing works best when it involves behavioural-based scenarios, as they’ll provide a better idea of how a candidate is likely to respond in a real-word situation and can be a great way to set candidates apart.
 
Assessment centre testing can also be very effective if you have a large pool of candidates (i.e. more than 100) that you need to narrow down, as they’ll provide some great insights about how someone will react when presented with something foreign to them.
 
While there are certain scenarios that psychometric testing can be effective, our best word of wisdom is to avoid using them purely as a decision-making tool. While these tests may seem foolproof, there are certain limitations to them and you could even find yourself dealing with a range of legal ramifications if they are used as a core method of assessment.
 
Teamrecruit is Australia’s most established recruitment agency specialising in truck, earthmoving and agricultural machinery dealerships in Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Find out more about Teamrecruit and how we support employers and candidates in the dealership industry.

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