American business consultant Jim Collins once said; “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
And while there are a lot of factors that contribute to business success, the fact remains that it is the employees that make it happen; and hiring the wrong people can be an extremely costly mistake.
That’s why it is fundamental that your search and selection process, for all employees – not just at senior levels, is carried out thoroughly and effectively.
While carefully tailored, competency-based interview questions certainly play a role in the hiring process, more and more of our clients are adding psychometric testing to their recruitment assessment processes in order to add another layer of security.
Psychometric tests as defined by the Psychometric Institute are “a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals’ mental capabilities and behavioural style. Psychometric tests are designed to measure candidates’ suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude”.
I caught up with our Leadership Assessment Consultant, John McFarland, who has over 20 years’ experience in this field, to find out the key facts that you should know about how psychometric tests can be used in your recruitment process.
1. What are the main benefits?
Probably the key advantage to psychometric testing is that you are able to obtain information that is almost impossible to reveal during the standard interview process. The tests can measure a number of attributes including intelligence, critical reasoning, motivation and personality profile.
As well as this, the tests provide objective data. One of the main issues throughout the recruitment process is bias and subjectivity – whether conscious or not. An interview process can be fairly subjective and although employers will normally assess skills and experience fairly accurately, much can still be left to gut instinct.
Psychometric testing offers some ‘scientific’ credibility and objectivity, which is a fairer approach to assessing a candidate as all applicants complete a standardised test.
This objective evidence then allows you to benchmark a wide range of candidates against a specific level and comparison group, narrowing down the pool to a small group of highly relevant, target candidates.
2. What tools are out there?
There are bundles of tools available for various types of testing, whether it be ability testing, situational testing or personality profiling.
When it comes to executive search, the most prevalent type of psychometric testing is personality profiling. For this, there are two main categories; understanding what type of personality you have or what personality traits you exhibit.
Type tools are good for team building; understanding who in the team is the leader, who is the creative mind, who is the motivator. But these methods tend to just pigeonhole people into categories, which isn’t overly helpful for the selection process.
For recruitment purposes we are most interested by trait-based tools which give you an idea about a candidate’s personality characteristics and give each individual a unique score.
In terms of what options are available John suggests three main tests; SHL’s OPQ, Saville’s Wave and Cubiks’ PAPI. All three are quite similar and based on the same theory and methodology. We prefer to use OPQ tests on behalf of our clients.
Another type of test which is increasingly being used for executive search, is Situational Judgement Testing (SJT). These put you in fictitious situations and ask you to make decisions based on that scenario, giving you a good assessment of that candidate’s judgement.
Each employer will have a preferred answer to each situation and the responses will allow them to see how that candidate will fit in with the company’s culture and expectations.
There are 2 options when it comes to SJT’s – off-the-shelf or bespoke. SHL also offer these and their portfolio of off-the-shelf options is called Scenarios. Alternatively, you can pay companies to design bespoke options that are tailored specifically to situations that would arise within the position candidates are applying for.
3. When should the tools be used?
Testing can be used to screen out candidates early on in the process, or they can be used to aid the interview process.
The golden rule is that ability tests are great tools for screening out applicants early on, but personality tests should only ever be used to gather information to help you at interview stage.
We typically use personality tests at the shortlist stage or in between the clients 1st and 2nd interviews; providing feedback in tailored reports and suggest 1 or 2 interview questions.
As SJT’s are almost a hybrid between ability and personality tests, they can be used at either stage. If you want to use them for screening, you can set a cut off score, so anyone below this point is ruled out.
4. How can the tests be used besides recruitment?
Psychometric testing isn’t just a recruitment aid. It can also aid management development and how to get the best out of existing employees.
And this is where a lot of companies tend to miss a trick.
Psychometric testing, while valuable, isn’t a cheap option and so it is crazy that some employers invest huge amounts to gather all of these insights for recruitment and then the data is filed away and never looked at again.
All of the information discovered to select successful candidates should be used when they join on day 1 to determine a development plan which improves where gaps and weaknesses were identified and leverages their strengths.
Psychometric tests can be a hugely valuable resources during the executive search process and we are certainly seeing an increase in the number of our clients opting for them prior to the interview stage.
What is your opinion of psychometric tests?