Psychometric testing

Does psychometric testing ‘work’?

Bill McAneny's picture
Published on Thu, 01/30/2014 - 14:19 by Bill McAneny

Multiple choiceOn the BBC Jeremy Vine Show yesterday he posed the question: “psychometric tests are they good or worthless?” Then several people were paraded, each with their own experience of how brilliant they are and others who had bad experiences of applying for a job only to have ‘failed’ the test. We know for a Radio Show it is good to polarise ‘good vs worthless’ but in reality this probably needs a little unpicking.

Firstly there are so many psychometric assessments around and some are true ‘tests,’ ie ‘pass or fail,’ such as Numerical Reasoning or Verbal Reasoning, and some are ‘assessments,’ ie to be used as a jumping off point for discussion, such as personality or behavioural assessments. The first issue to determine is ‘why do we need to use an assessment?’ In the 1990s assessment became ‘the norm’ (if you pardon the pun) but often with no valid rationale behind it. So many organisations used ‘Intelligence Testing” without defining ‘intelligence’ or establishing why that was an important attribute for the role. So why are you assessing, what is it you’re trying to establish and why? For example reaction tests for train drivers are important in determining how quickly they can see changes in their environment.

So how do you use them? The majority of assessments are based around personality and behaviour and these are really useful jumping off points for discussion. We would never recommend making any decisions about individuals based on an assessment result, but they are great to use at interview, or in discussions about promotion, career change etc as an opener. For example we recently assessed an individual and we said: 

you are not detailed, you are expedient and often disregard rules, regulations and like to go your own way.

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