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.

He agreed and took us through what problems that has caused, how he now recognises it and what he has done about it:

know and I make sure I have someone who can sweep up behind me if I leave debris, and who can ground me every week to make sure I am on track.

So the assessment did not judge whether or not he was right, or indeed ‘passed’ or ‘failed,’ it was used as a way of creating dialogue and through doing so get to know the individual. Nothing can replace sitting down and having an open and honest discussion with someone where you use all the available information to make balanced and reasoned judgements. Business, as with life, is a people game and a contact sport and it’s important not to lose sight of that. 

What are your experiences of psychometric assessments?

Thanks for dropping by and reading our Personality Blog - we hope you found it useful. Please feel free to share this article with your friends and colleagues. You can also take the Character Analysis free personality test and get an instant personality profile in less than 3 minutes.