A Critical Analysis Of Psychometric Tests In The Recruitment And Selection Process

Job applications or CVs and interviews –

provide information on applicants’ details and experiences and an understanding of the applicants’ knowledge of different subject matters respectively, but do not provide information on their aptitude and personality, the information of which can be gathered through the use of appropriate psychometric tests that objectively assessed individuals’ abilities and personalities (Parkinson, 2008). Hancock (1998) points out that in actual fact assessing personality of people is not an easy task as information regarding this cannot be drawn from CVs or through interviews rather people’s personality can be well assessed using psychometric tests that bridge interview gaps. Cressey (n.d. cited in Tatham, 2008) spells out that the use of psychometric tests at the initial stage help employers acquire information of prospective employees and take an approach of how they will design the interview session and particular references they will be asking for.

Corcoran (2005) specifies that organizations using psychometric tests in their recruitment and selection process get an indication of whether candidates’ abilities and personality fit with competencies required for the job and a decision is made in accordance. On the contrary, it is revealed by the HR department of a multinational company that the use of psychometric instrument does not help them a lot in the recruitment and selection process as the result of the candidates’ responses are almost alike and the end result does not justifies the means (Hancock, 1998). Hackston (2007) denotes that the use of psychometric tests in the recruitment and selection process must have a clear and comprehensible objective, which means that there must be relevance between the job to fill and the attributes employers are seeking within the candidates and to what extent the use of psychometric test shapes the needs. It is been argued that psychometric tests, at all times, do not serve the purpose.

According to Bakker (2006), organizations are now able to achieve cost effectiveness in their recruitment and selection process as the use of psychometric instruments help short listing the applicants’ size and produce speedy decision making as less time is needed. It is also pointed out that though some tests are lengthy to assess candidates, potential costs of training and development can be minimized. Rust (2007) points out that the cost of recruitment goes down by 30% to 40% and the time of assessment is significantly reduced as a result of incorporating of good psychometric tests in the recruitment and selection process that are particularly delivered online. Another study conducted by British Psychological Society (n.d. cited in Simms, 2007) reveals that organizations using psychometric tests in their recruitment and selection process are able to trim down their hiring costs by 70% and are benefitted from the features these tests occupy such as predictive validity, reliability, objectivity and so on. Using psychometric tests online for recruitment and selection purposes also enables employers assess candidates over a wide geographic area, which is cost effective, less time consuming, easy to administer, sophisticated and clear-cut (Hackston, 2007). In opposition, it is indicated that organizations that use psychometric assessments for online recruitment find it difficult to establish psychometric credibility due to the concern of delicacy (Piotrowski and Armstrong, 2006). O’Connell (2009) provides various real life examples of the use of psychometric tests online and indicates that they can be passed easily with the help of someone who has taken the test before or by retrieving a test cheat sheet from online, which in many cases offer a wrong choice for the employer. In addition, Bartram (2000) points toward other issues concerning online assessment method such as security and confidentiality of candidates’ private information, verification of test taker, assurance of uninterrupted service during the test and test takers are not being aided and ensuring all test takers having equal internet access opportunity, which place a question mark about the credibility of online psychometric assessment as well.

Williams (2008) reveals that the use of psychometric instruments is mounting due to their effective contribution in the recruitment and selection process. Extensive research has been conducted to figure out the accuracy and precision of different recruitment and selection methods available over the last few decades and psychometric tests are regarded as the best to discover candidates’ skills, abilities and aptitudes precisely (Smith and Smith, 2005). According to a study of Employment Review (n.d. cited in Wiliiams, 2008), 34% employers involve online psychometric testing and 27% employers entail psychometric tests in person as part of their recruitment and selection process during 2006 and 2007. Phillips (2007) states that the use of psychometric tests in the recruitment and selection process has a valid and reliable impact as these tests help employers assess the fitness of employees in the workplace, which is otherwise impracticable to measure through looking at applicants’ educational qualifications as they do not provide reliable and objective information. Simms (2004) provides a case example of Sainsbury’s former CEO recruitment of Sir Peter Davis, who was hired based on his academic backgrounds and proven track records in managing organizations and in turn was unsuccessful in his assignment in providing the supermarket a sound direction and makes it clear that assessing people on the basis of their qualifications and experiences does not offer a solid base in the process of recruitment and selection.

CEO of Caliper, Greenberg (n.d. cited in Laff, 2008), stipulates that traits like mind-set and motivation are impractical to assess in the interview as this is highly subjective and interviewers are, in many cases, deceived by individuals displaying themselves as highly motivated in order to get the job. Grosvenor (2007) points out that psychological testing, in cases like this, helps employers understand the motivational aspects of prospective candidates through measuring their aptitudes, knowledge, personality and integrity. However, it is also pointed out that psychometric tests should not be used in isolation in hiring people as using the tests solely for selection purpose does not produce precise and accurate decision rather they should be used in conjunction with other recruitment and assessment tools in an organized and efficient way (Smith and Smith, 2005; Tatham, 2008).

Taylor (2007) points out that though psychometric testing is a good instrument in candidates’ aptitudes and personality for a particular role, many organizations that do not have qualified and trained experts on psychological testing are often predisposed to use instinctive, common sense decision for hiring people. Towler (2005) specifies that use of such speculative and instinctive approaches put organizations in haphazard situations and inefficacy results in. He argues that before putting a test into practice, it is imperative to understand the underlying issues, that is, what the test is for, what does it measure, how the measurement works, how to interpret the results and the like. Melamed and Jackson (1995: p. 15) strongly stipulate that

It is important to realize that the interpretation of psychometric information must only be carried out by properly qualified people.

Furthermore, according to CIPD (2008), when selecting a psychometric test for a recruitment and selection process, organizations need to be clear and convinced enough that using such test is unprejudiced and does not present any unfair treatment to a particular set of people. Lyons (2008) points out that psychometric tests are reliable and fair and treat candidates from everywhere equally whereas it is spelled out that psychometric tests do not demonstrate reliability and discriminate on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, age, religion and the like (Anonymous, 2006). It is also indicated that a biased test can result in right candidates being screened out, downward company performance, facing legal action and the like (Lyons, 2006). Moreover, Humber (2004) points out that a number of organizations are convincingly using personality test (e.g. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator used for employee development purpose) to screen people and make short listing without having a good understanding and knowledge of such test and such tests do not add value to the selection process. It is suggested not to use personality test to screen employees.


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• Williams, N. (2008), “Skills-based grilling finds best hopefuls”, Personnel Today[UK], March 11, p49-49.


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