Psychometric Tests for Hiring: Advantages & Disadvantages

Anete Vesere (1)

Anete Vesere

Content Marketer

Psychometric Tests for Hiring: Advantages & Disadvantages

The painful truth is that often we make hiring decisions based on our gut feeling.

What ends up happening is that we either hire the wrong person or end up rejecting the right ones. Especially now, when the war for talent is more prominent than ever and finding the best-fit candidates is difficult, the ability to look into the future and see how employees perform before they are actually hired is the goal for everyone.

There are two most common ways through which a candidate’s suitability for a role is often assessed: resume screening and traditional psychometric tests.

In this blog, we will tell you a bit more about psychometric testing in recruitment.

Psychometric tests in recruitment

Psychometric tests have been around for approximately 200 years and have become a popular method of measuring and assessing the intelligence and aptitude of individuals. It’s nothing new and more than 75% of The Times Best Companies to Work For are using it and seeing positive changes in their teams.

Yet, what exactly are psychometric tests?

Psychometric tests: A definition

Psychometric tests are psychological tools, which are developed and validated according to a scientific method, to measure a candidate’s cognitive abilities, personality, and aptitude. Cognitive ability tests, in this case, can be seen as a subgroup of aptitude assessments.

These tests have become an increasingly popular method in HR processes – whether it be when assessing the dynamics of current employees or assessing the suitability of candidates for specific job roles.

”It’s scientifically proven that human beings are bad judges of themselves and others.”

”Psychometric tests allow us to start seeing what we can’t visually observe. It allows us to take that look inside someone’s brain. It allows us to judge ourselves and others based on science, instead of bias.”

Leonie Grandpierre, Neuroscientist at Equalture

What kind of traits do psychometric tests measure?

The most commonly used psychometric tests within HR processes are aptitude, personality and behavioural tests. At the core of aptitude tests is the measurement of cognitive abilities and reasoning skills, whereas, personality and behaviour-focused tests place a focus on exploring an individual’s values, behaviours and motivations.

Long story short – personality tests are focused on determining the personality and behavioural characteristics of each individual and aptitude tests focus on cognitive abilities.

Aptitude tests: Cognitive ability/GCA

Aptitude tests measure the general ability to learn, solve problems and process information. In fact, General Cognitive Ability (GCA) is the #1 most important trait determinant of job performance. Some examples of the things that are measured by GCA assessments include reasoning, memory, problem-solving skills and so on. It has the highest validity and also the lowest application costs. It is also the best predictor of job-related learning. 

Cognitive ability has proven to be the most significant predictor of work performance, with a correlation of 0.65-0.74 (source). 

In contrast to that, the predictive power of a CV is very low:

  • The correlation between education and job performance is 0.10;
  • The correlation between work experience and job performance is 0.16.

An example of an aptitude test: The Figure Series Test.

an example of figure series test, otherwise know as abstract reasoning or aptitude test

Behavioural tests

In contrast to aptitude tests, behavioural tests (usually in the format of questionnaires) assess personal behaviour preferences. Basically, the way in which an individual prefers to work. In fact, behaviour has proven to be a significant predictor of work performance, with a correlation of 0.45 (source).

At the core of personality tests or questionnaires is the idea that it is possible to quantify one’s intrinsic personality and behavioural characteristics by asking a multitude of questions related to an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Two of the most popular personality tests include: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five personality traits.

Being aware of various personality and behavioural aspects of a candidate is absolutely crucial as it can be the determining factor for whether the person is a fit with the organization in terms of attitude, general work style and overall personality.

An example of a personality questionnaire.

an example of a personality questionnaire

3 advantages of psychometric testing

Psychometric tests can objectively reveal the part of human beings that you can’t read from a resume, yet the parts which do have a significant impact on your hiring success.

There are three main advantages of using psychometric tests in recruitment:

Eliminate bias (Both screening + interviews).

This means that all the candidates are being assessed equally while you are simultaneously getting to know the person behind the CV objectively.

Improve hiring success.

Psychometric tests focus on personality, (soft) skills and cognitive ability, which have proven to be the best predictors of future performance.

Improved hiring efficiency.

You are provided with an already interpreted report for each and every candidate, in a standardised format, saving you a lot of screening time.

Eliminate bias (Both screening + interviews)

Eliminating bias from the hiring process can often seem like a tricky and complex puzzle. However, if bias is not eliminated from the hiring process, we tend to make hiring decisions that are based on our own subjective feelings and thoughts rather than on facts.

This results in an increasingly high rate of mishires, which in turn leads to large financial losses on a company-wide level. 

There are risks of CV-based screening you (probably) weren’t aware of that lead to misleading and inconsistent insights. Furthermore, your first impression of the candidates might end up being heavily influenced by unconscious biases. Once bias creeps into your hiring process, your talent pool becomes less diverse and inclusive. 

Using psychometric tests helps you fight bias both during the candidate screening and the interview process. These tests are made to be less biased as they use standard methods of assessment such that every candidate is provided with the exact same set of questions and instructions. 

This means that all the candidates are being assessed equally while you are simultaneously getting to know the person behind the CV objectively.

Additionally, since you’ve already collected a lot of information prior to the interview you can now focus on diving into this information. This way you can get the right first impression about each candidate and prevent wrongfully rejecting or advancing candidates in the future, as well as make better hiring decisions.

Improved hiring success

If you have not yet used psychometric tests as pre-employment assessments – you’re missing out.  Pre-employment assessments in general help you raise the quality of your hires by helping you find the very best candidates in terms of both job and team fit even before the first interview.

Improved hiring efficiency

By using psychometric tests you not only eliminate bias from both the screening and interview process but also improve hiring success. But is it a more efficient process than quickly skimming through resumes and motivation letters? It may at first seem like implementing psychometric testing and using these tests during the candidate screening process is time-consuming, however, that is not the case. 

Psychometric tests, in fact, allow you to more accurately, easily and efficiently sort through the applicants. It is the dream of everyone working in human resources – it can reduce the workload of going through large numbers of unsuitable candidates drastically.

Want to learn more about why psychometric tests are so important in hiring?

6 disadvantages of psychometric tests

Psychometric testing is an intuitive model that no doubt reaps great benefits for some recruiters and those in hiring positions. 

In fact, it’s being used increasingly at all levels and stages of the recruitment process. 

The use of a psychometric or another aptitude test can be handy for everything from filtering out weaker candidates in large-scale hiring processes for junior positions to delving deeper into the minds of finalists for executive roles.

However, it also comes with many often-overlooked disadvantages.

six disadvantages of traditional psychometric tests

Problem 1. Endlessly trainable

Traditional psychometric tests are focused primarily on capturing conscious behaviour. This means that candidate is aware of the tasks they are being asked to perform and can deliberately apply their skills and knowledge to complete them. Thus, leading to more inaccurate results.

Moreover, candidates can endlessly train for traditional psychometric assessments, such as Figure Series test – the internet explodes from websites, courses, and even books to become a pro.

Problem 2. Easy to manipulate

When presenting candidates with a multiple-choice personality questionnaire, they will consciously think about the answer that suits the job best, instead of the answer that fits them best.

Thus, self-assessments in hiring have been proven to be highly inaccurate, here are four main reasons why:

  1. There are significant differences in our self-assessments comparing low-stakes situations (doing a personality test for fun) and high-stakes situations (completing it for a job application).
  2. Research also showed that our peers have a more accurate view on our performance than we do about ourselves. But why?
  3. We might intentionally fake our responses. This might be because we really want the job we are applying for, we know how the assessment works or have some understanding about the company’s culture and culture fit. We might even just recognise the obviously ‘correct answer’ and choose it because we can.
  4. And then there is unintentional self-presentation, which is also called Social Desirability. Without knowing, we might present ourselves as more capable (Overconfidence Effect), or we might believe ourselves as better than others (Above-Average Effect), we might not have complete information about our performance (Information Insufficiency) or we might involuntarily ignore others and focus on ourselves (Information Neglect).

Problem 3. Stressful for candidates

Have you ever heard a candidate saying they enjoyed completing a Figure Series test or a Big Five personality questionnaire or did not find it stressful? 

I certainly have not. On top of that, traditional psychometric assessments are prone to making candidates more stressed as they are more aware of the fact that they are assessed.

Problem 4. Culturally biased

Socially desirable behaviour differs per culture. For example, someone from Asia will have a different perspective on desired behaviour than someone from Europe, resulting in cultural bias. 

Problem 5. High candidate drop-off rates

Traditional psychometric tests usually produce high cognitive load for test-takers, which can result in high dropout rates during the hiring process. That’s not all – traditional psychometric tests take on average 45-90 mins to complete. 

On average, 73% of candidates abandon an application if the process takes too long, and 49% of candidates would consider applying for a role instantly if the process appeared simple.

Problem 6. Inaccurate results

Traditional psychometric tests have fixed answers. This might not come across as an issue at first, however, it automatically implies that the person taking the test only has a set of answers to pick from.

What if they do not identify themselves with either? This results in inaccuracy.

The result of a person can be mentioned as introverted after a psychometric test when in reality, the individual can possess introvert as well as extrovert personality traits.

There’s no black and white when it comes to personalities.

Resolving the flaws of traditional psychometric tests: Game-based assessments

Traditional psychometric tests have shown some weak spots that gamification is capable of overcoming. Game-based psychometric tests are integrated more and more often. This innovative format is based on and validated through the same science, while simultaneously solving the weaknesses of traditional formats. 

  • During the game, candidates can hardly fake their reactions; what they would normally do when asked directly, for instance.
  • No room for (cultural) bias as gamified psychometric tests do not include a lot of text and are focused on the application of game technology elements to measure traits.
  • Gamified psychometric tests are more immersive, meaning that they make a candidate forget that they are assessed. This reduces stress and anxiety, resulting in a much better Candidate Experience.

Our game-based psychometric tests allow you to first assess your current team’s skills, personalities, and cultural traits. Consequently, let your candidates complete the games right away during their job application to get to know the person behind the CV and objectively benchmark their skills and personalities against your team, culture, and industry. 

"To start hiring objectively, collect as much data as possible, at the start of the hiring process. It should be data that is collected through an objective method, without any interference of human interpretation. Making use of game-based assessments is a great way to do so.'' 
Dr. Marcia Goddard, Neuroscientist, Member of Equalture's Advisory Board

TLDR: Gamification in Recruitment

Have a chat with us and we will gladly tell you why we’ve chosen to work with a gamified format over the traditional format of psychometric tests – don’t worry, no strings attached!

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