Larger companies have used psychometric testing in recruitment for many years. Now, many more businesses are using it to replace the “gut feel” they used when we could meet in person. But can it be used to identify successful leaders?
A 2018 Financial Times article by Pilita Clark recounts an interesting story about psychometric testing. A group of investors asked a British entrepreneur on the brink of sealing a deal to take a psychometric test. They were checking he wasn’t a psychopath as, apparently, 10% of entrepreneurs are. (He wasn’t and got the investment.)
Funny anecdote, right? But really, it’s not how it should be used. Businesses using psychometric testing in recruitment is now widespread (61% of businesses in mature markets use them in some w) but it’s had some bad press recently. The perception is that psychometric tests decide whether someone should get the job or not.
What psychometric tests in recruitment can do is provide a basis for understanding how candidates work and guide interview processes to uncover the best talent for roles.
Psychometric testing companies designed these tests to eliminate “gut feel” by putting candidates on a level playing field. But when they’re used as a sole decision-making tool or by people who can’t read them properly, issues can appear:
- Unconscious bias across languages: It’s difficult to standardise psychometric tests across languages. They can be culturally skewed to English speakers. However, some psychometric test providers, like Thomas International provide test input and reports in various languages to mitigate this risk.
- Prospects being nervous: Answers can be skewed because someone is feeling particularly nervous. (Perhaps because they’re interviewing for their dream job…). However, the tests themselves are quite straightforward and there are credibility checks within the tools to understand and identify skews.
- Other factors are diminished: Hiring managers can assume psychometric tests just pull out the most appropriate candidate. That diminishes the importance of attributes like candidates’ qualifications and experience, all of which carry their own weight.
How Psychometric Tests in Recruitment Should be Used
Recruitment is a well-defined and thorough process and psychometric tests are just one tool recruiters can use. From the first assignment scoping meeting, a variety of tools and techniques identify the candidate criteria, their job role, and how they’ll work within the role and company.
Imagine a plane flies one degree off-course at the start of a trip. By the time it gets to its destination it’s miles off course. Pilots use many instruments to keep planes – and recruitment processes – on course. Ignoring them and basing everything on psychometric tests is like only using the speedometer to assess how the flight is going.
Using Psychometric Testing in Recruitment to Stay On-Course
As part of Recruitment Process Intelligence, the recruiter kicks off the process with a scoping call. It defines and documents the skills, experience, and qualities a good leader must have, as well as salary and benefits. In addition it qualifies what the role will entail, alongside areas of flex.
This is the first of six steps that discover the right candidate for positions, 98% of the time. “The 6S Process” consists of Scoping, Scorecarding, Sourcing, Selecting, Securing, and Satisfying.
The key steps, relevant to psychometric testing are:
The Scoping/Scorecarding Stage:
At the first step, it’s important to discover the type of person the business is looking for. This includes getting various stakeholders to outline their candidate expectations. If one hiring manager wants someone passive, while another wants someone dynamic to challenge expectations, deeper conversations need to happen.
These differences in stakeholder expectations can be resolved by all stakeholders doing a short online Job Profile questionnaire. The recruiter compares and compiles the answers to agree the “ideal Job Profile”.
Sourcing Suitable Talent
After that, the sourcing of top talent begins. Using the Candidate Fit Scorecard, the recruiter benchmarks candidates against the requirements set out in the initial call. They’ll also ask prospective employees about their career motivations, to check if they match what the client has to offer – we call that the CVP – Candidate Value Proposition. When these align, it’s more likely the person will be a successful long-term employee.
A CVP differs from the more commonly known Employee Value Proposition because it’s made up of the reasons someone would join your company, rather than why they would stay.
Getting passive candidates interested in a new opportunity, and increasing their interest in the role and company, is a key task of an RPI recruitment consultant. A good way of increasing engagement is offering psychometric testing – and feedback – early in the process, to establish a strong bond between recruiter and candidate.
Using the Disc/PPA Test to Gauge Candidate Suitability
The first test step of psychometric testing in Recruitment Process Intelligence is the PPA test from Thomas International. This test tells hiring managers and recruiters how a candidate will behave at work and in times of pressure: “Giving an initial profile detailing a person’s strengths and weaknesses, their communication style, what motivates them, their basic fears, their value to the business, and how they behave under pressure.”
Recruiters and hiring managers can compare this report to the agreed Ideal Job Profile to help identify a candidate’s strengths and any potential shortfalls, and can suggest areas to explore in detail at an interview
After interviewing a candidate based on the psychometric feedback, hiring managers can see how they could integrate into the organisation. It could also assist their decision on taking a candidate forward, by giving insight into how successful they could be in that working environment.
Using HPTI for Measuring Candidate Potential
One of the ways employees can be evaluated is through using the HPTI test, which measures potential. Recruiters also assess external candidates’ potential traits and gauge their qualities for leadership using HPTI testing.
The HPTI test looks at six areas:
People with higher levels of conscientiousness are more internally motivated. A candidate is motivated externally by people or circumstance when they have lower conscientiousness
Those with high adjustment are very resilient to stress. Those with low adjustment are more affected by difficulties they face at work.
Those with high curiosity like new methods and ideas. Those with lower curiosity tend to stick to tried and true methods.
Those with higher risk approach have a more proactive approach to dealing with problems. Those with lower risk approach tend to have more reactive, instinctual responses.
Those with higher ambiguity acceptance do well in complex environments. Those with lower ambiguity acceptance prefer clear-cut answers and stability.
The hyper-competitive leader wants to be the success of the organisation. The uncompetitive leader may have difficulty focusing on strategic advantages and pursuing opportunities. But they’ll work in a more collaborative way.
The recruiter discusses each trait with the hiring manager, and whether they prefer excessive or moderate if the candidate doesn’t fall into optimal. (It’s extremely rare for someone to fall into optimal for every aspect of HPTI.)
How Does Psychometric Testing in RPI Fit into Final Hiring Decisions?
Recruiters use psychometric tests to inform decisions rather than to make absolute decisions.
Whenever a candidate completes a psychometric test in Recruitment Process Intelligence, they’ll sit down with the recruiter to discuss the results. In this discussion, it may come up that the candidate is aware of their weaknesses and are working on them.
Or the candidate may be completely unaware and not willing to work on areas of improvement identified by the test. The recruiter passes this on to the hiring team and during interview stages, they might use the information gathered to guide the type of questions they ask in the interview.
Take a good candidate with a moderate risk approach. If, when questioned, they make it clear they’re aware of and working on it, that shows good potential to overcome this drawback.
That could make a good candidate a standout candidate because of their willingness towards personal development. Or, for instance, take a candidate with moderate curiosity. It could be that the team they’re potentially heading up is full of very highly curious people and they could act as a moderating influence. Their willingness to take this on could form the basis of questions.
Test Usage for Internal Teams
Psychometric testing for leadership isn’t just a good tool for candidates: it helps evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of internal teams.
By understanding someone’s personality and how it interacts with a function or role, management can develop their strengths and areas for improvement. This will help them reach their full potential in work they’re well suited for.
Internal Talent Mapping
Psychometric tests can also assist in internal talent mapping. Psychometric tests in recruitment processes can identify future leaders, helping with succession planning. This is useful for stopping substantial gaps if a key member of the team leaves. Then, a recruitment talent map expert will create a comprehensive map by looking at psychometric testing, internal staff’s skills, qualifications, experience and qualities.
This is particularly useful in businesses that are evolving rapidly. It keeps the company on an even keel, allowing smooth changeover during employee turnover. These tests identify ambitious employees who could become restless, and create development plans to reduce attrition.
Outwith leadership, psychometric tests are used to assess lateral mobility, finding people who may be better suited to other roles within the organisation. The tests also identify high potential employees who would be a better fit in another position.
While psychometric tests in recruitment are useful tools, they work best as part of a recruitment process. A thorough process will have various steps involved to cover all aspects of a good employee like skills, qualities, candidate add and fit, experience, and leadership skills.