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Psychometrics in recruitment: The what, why and how

August 11, 2023
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Hiring is no walk in the park. Making a mistake can cost you money, time, and energy — not to mention the disruption to your business activity overall. It’s no wonder that businesses are constantly trying to improve and streamline their recruitment processes to make them as efficient and successful as possible.

One option that has become very popular in today’s world are psychometric evaluations. 80% of Fortune 500 firms swear by them, as well as 75% of The Times’ Best Companies to Work. But what are they? Why are so many organisations opting to use them? And how can they be best implemented into your hiring process?

What are psychometrics?

Psychometrics are a long standing research field originating in the 19th century, which is concerned with psychological measurement. These assessments measure how psychological traits and behaviours (or ‘constructs’) relate to different elements of human life (for example, job or academic performance, or even the way we approach relationships). They combine psychology, analytics, statistics and behavioural science in their design.

Further reading: The history of psychometrics

What is a psychometric test in recruitment?

In recruitment, psychometrics are mainly used as an indicator of performance, role suitability, and cultural fit into an organisation. The main types of psychometric assessments in hiring are:

  • Ability/cognitive tests: Measure the numerical, verbal, logical, and critical thinking capabilities of candidates.
  • Personality tests: Measure the traits, characteristics, behaviours, and motivations of candidates.
  • Skill tests: Measure the technical ability of candidates.

These are designed specifically with the aim to help businesses find the right people to join them. Many psychometric assessments of this sort will take into account a candidate’s specific role and seniority, as the characteristics and abilities required for different jobs vary — a salesperson might need to be extraverted and persuasive, whereas these traits wouldn’t make much of a difference in an accountant, for example.

Why are psychometrics used in recruitment?

The most difficult element of recruitment is attempting to predict whether a person you don’t know will be able to do the job well, fit into your company culture, and stay in the long term. The reality is that CVs and interviews are simply not enough to glean this information. Psychometrics are an objective, scientifically-proven tool that can help predict these things quickly and at a low cost. In other words, psychometric assessments add validity to the recruitment process, particularly as they can be used without bias to effectively test candidates from all levels of seniority.

The benefits of psychometrics in recruitment

Here are some of the main reasons why businesses choose to incorporate psychometric assessments: 

1. Reduce cost and time

Hiring costs can be massive, especially if you’re paying a recruitment agency. It’s also a time-consuming process, with an average of 44 days to fill a role. Psychometric assessments are usually very affordable, and they can significantly cut down on the time it takes to recruit.

With psychometrics, you can make sure that each candidate reaching the interview stage — the most time consuming and pricey stage of all — is really a potential fit, rather than going in blind and wasting time on those who aren’t suitable from the get go. If you follow Thrive’s recommendation — quick screening call, assessment, and then a structured interview — you can cut the average time by half!

2. Lower turnover

Almost half of new employees quit their jobs or fail within the first 18 months, 89% of which due to attitude misfit. When you take into account that, according to Gallup, rehiring costs between half to two times (!) the employee’s salary, it’s no joke. Unfortunately, attitude to work is quite difficult to predict using a CV or even an interview.

A psychometric evaluation, however, can tell you what skills, traits, and behaviours your candidate uses in their everyday work life. This will give you a better indication of their suitability to your company culture and the role, mitigating the risk of them leaving. The more informed your decisions are, the more likely you and your fresh employee will both be satisfied, staying together for longer.

3. Improve performance

Hiring the right people means hiring top performers, which is another element that is difficult to predict. Psychometric tests were proven to be the best indicators of job performance — 14 times better than an average interview, in fact — so it’s safe to say that incorporating them can truly boost your bottom line.

Personality and skill are far more useful than a CV, for example, for determining whether an individual will become a star performer in your organisation. The way you conduct yourself at work, how you interact with others, and where you shine, can tell you a lot about a person, especially when you compare it to their education history or work experience. However, if you’re only using a single predictor, cognitive ability assessments in particular were found to be the strongest indicator of work performance.

4. Mitigate bias

The beauty of psychometrics is that they’re backed by science. Decades of research have brought us the assessments we use today, and the scientific models and theories they’re based on have shown how powerful they are at presenting objective, reliable, and valid information.

The design of appropriate assessments today includes meticulous thought regarding who is taking the test, and benchmarking occurs across a wide range of criteria, cultures, languages, and abilities. Instead of relying exclusively on interviews, which are usually not standardised and extremely open to bias, you can gain a much more accurate picture that’s fair and free of prejudice.

5. Better development

When you base your decisions on something tangible such as psychometrics, you can rationalise your decisions in a clearer way. This means you’re more likely to provide useful feedback to both successful and unsuccessful candidates, making it a more pleasant experience and strengthening your brand as well as the development of those who interact with it. By sharing the report with an unsuccessful candidate, for example, you’re empowering them to develop and improve the specific areas they are lacking in.

The benefit of psychometric testing goes beyond just the clear-cut recruitment process, though. When your employees know what their strengths and weaknesses are in a clear manner, you’re also supporting their development within your organisation. This is crucial, because supporting employee development improves people’s skills and performance, increases productivity, and makes for a more motivated workforce — not to mention the fact that employees who have access to self-development opportunities are 15% more engaged. It will also help you identify potential leaders so you can promote from within more effectively.

How are psychometrics used in recruitment?

In order to use psychometrics in the most productive way, you should start by picking the right assessment for you. It’s crucial that you ensure the assessment you pick is scientifically backed and robust. We then recommend that you take the evaluation yourself, both to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, but also to effectively engage with the results of candidates.

Sharing the results with the candidates is crucial for the continuing development of their skills, and structuring their development plan around it is extremely beneficial.

It’s also important to understand that psychometrics, like anything else, aren’t perfect and shouldn’t be used as the only factor in important decisions such as who to hire. Interviews are essential — but the results of the assessment can help inform those interviews. For example, based on their assessment results, the Thrive platform gives you specific questions you should ask a candidate to understand how they deal with their individual challenges.

If you need a little more help, Thrive recommends this process:

  1. Purchase a scientifically robust assessment
  2. Have a quick 5-10 minute screening call with a candidate
  3. Ask them to take the assessment
  4. Invite them to a structured interview, incorporating the knowledge you received from the assessment
  5. Share the results and any feedback you have with them
  6. Continue to use the results in their development plan

Looking for a powerful psychometric assessment to incorporate into your recruitment process? Book a demo with us today.

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