Way back in 1991, as part of my interview with Sundaram Information Systems, I was evaluated by a Psychologist. It was an enriching discussion that lasted for about two hours, an unforgettable experience. He was in no tearing hurry. It was also one of the best interviews that I have had. Good enough to recollect after 30 long years. You were unsure whether you would get the job, but a stimulating discussion helped to introspect on several aspects.
I remember the psychologist put me at ease in calm and quiet setting right at the beginning. The gentleman went about his job meticulously and diligently, trying to ascertain if I would indeed be a fit for the organization. He was empathetic to my needs. There were wide-ranging discussions. As far as I can recall, he made an effort to understand my value systems, interests, how I would respond in different situations and my intrinsic motivational levels.
In the present day scenario, organizations are trying to achieve scale. As a result, they are presented with the challenge of evaluating a large number of applicants within the constraints of time and an organization's bandwidth. Psychometric testing transforms recruitment strategies probing deep into applicant psychology. It provides more insightful information to employers than from resumes or one-on-one interviews.
Psychometrics is a field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement. Generally, it refers to the specialist fields within psychology and education devoted to testing, measurement, assessment, and related activities. The field is concerned with the objective measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, clinical constructs and mental disorders as well as educational achievement.
A psychometric test is an activity or assessment conducted to examine individual differences that may impact an applicant's suitability for a job role. When designed and developed appropriately, psychometric tests are scientific and objective tools that help organizations compare applicants' ability to perform a job role fairly and objectively. In addition, employers can utilize the information gathered through psychometric testing to understand applicants' strengths and risk areas better and use that information during the latter stages of the hiring process.
Psychometric Test Types
There are many psychometric test types, each of which are designed to measure different indicators of potential performance at work. Such test types include but are not limited to skills, knowledge, abilities, and personality traits.
These assess one's ability to perform specific tasks and duties. Examples of Skill or Knowledge-based tests include IT skills such as proficiency in specific coding languages like Java, Python, or R, or perhaps a business skill like bookkeeping.
These are essentially designed for the fresh out of college or people who do not have prior training or experience in specific areas. Organizations would like to understand how they would perform without training or experience. Ability tests measure one's general ability to learn and problem-solving capabilities.
These tests do not reflect a person's capability. It is more of an assessment of a person's behaviour. Understanding the person's behavioural characteristics helps understand the individual well. It gives insights into the probable teams where the person can fit and be effective. It is certainly helpful to know how the individual is driven. An organization would like to take stock if the individual is a leader in the making. Will the person thrive in ambiguity? How much pressure can the person take on?
Selecting a Psychometric Test
There is no one specific psychometric test that fits all the needs.
Organizations should evaluate the use of potential psychometric tests. In addition, they need to make a conscious effort to understand that different psychometric tests apply to various jobs and roles.
It is important to understand what a psychometric test measures and the meaning of the score generated by the psychometric test. The interpretation needs to be clear.
Psychometric tests come in different forms: interactive or gamified, traditional multiple-choice questions. Professional guidelines (e.g., Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures, 2003; Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, 1999; International Guidelines for Testing, 2000) have established key standards to evaluate assessments.
There is no single formula to select the best assessment tool. The following criteria should always be kept in mind while arriving at the most appropriate tool for one’s needs.
Reliability and validity
When choosing a psychometric test for your organization, ensure that the test is reliable. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Has the test consistently produced similar results and scientifically measured what it is intended to measure?
Have you taken the abundant precaution to check with the suppliers about the scientific validity of the tests? Are they up to date with their study to keep with research trends and accuracy? The date and mode by which the study was completed would be as important. So would be the details of their collaborators and their qualifications. Sample size and demographic would be no less critical. It would be important to also understand how the results were derived, the basis of the theories and what was done to ensure the credibility of the results.
Cost-Benefit: A necessary consciousness
Do you need an assessment tool?
Are you looking to evaluate a few applicants for specific streams or are you looking for unlimited access?
What are your budgets? What time and bandwidth are available to implement a psychometric test in an organization?
Beware of free assessments. Beware of assessment tools that are not reliable. Watch out for assessment that could have added costs associated to consulting services and interpretation of results. You do not want to invest more time and money in hiring a professional to come in and interpret your tests every time. You want to be able to understand results and apply them without delay.
Investing in a reliable and effective psychometric test will be money well spent. It will ensure your return on investment. Right people will be aligned to the right positions thereby ensuring a motivated organization and lesser turnovers.
User Friendly platform
The assessments need to have a user-friendly platform making even the computer illiterate feel at ease. Psychometric tests be accessible online. Autonomy is an essential factor. The employees of an organization must be able to administer the test and view the results by themselves.
Assessment can provide clear insights and a definite sense of fairness in the selection process. In addition the assessment data available is insurance against any allegation of unfair hiring practices or discrimination and any legal threat arising out of the allegation.
User Reactions and Perceptions:
Applicant’s perceptions about the assessment matter. Applicant’s positive reaction to the assessment matters.
When an organization is conscious of these parameters, they ensure that assessments produce desirable results, which minimize legal risk and ensure a positive applicants experience. In addition, it strengthens the employer brand.
Here are some aspects one may want to be wary about psychometric assessment
Standard psychometric assessment is readily available, and there’s a great chance that an applicant who wants the job will do their homework before appearing for the test. They can provide socially desirable answers, thereby misleading the entire experience for everyone involved.
Test anxiety can create a false negative – Results might be skewed and not representative if the applicant is a bad tester. Many job seekers fail to give their best during the test because of anxiety or undue pressure due to time limitations.
Culture and Language Barriers
The tests may put specific individuals at a disadvantage. For example, suppose they have a different cultural background or a language barrier. They might not test as well as others and not necessarily because they are not a good fit for the role.
Psychometric tests must be used in conjunction with other methods
Small businesses with smaller teams should be careful not to base all decisions to hire someone on psychometric tests. The tests have to be treated as an additional data point in the decision to hire. Ideally an organization needs to establish internal benchmarks of the best performers in their team and use them to assess their tests results against potential hires. It is hard for smaller businesses to accomplish with smaller teams.
National Council on Measurement in Education
Tabachnick, B.G.; Fidell, L.S. (2001). Using Multivariate Analysis. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 978-0-321-05677-1.[page needed]