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4 min read

Do Psychometric Assessments Actually Work?

Aug 20, 2021 1:50:00 PM

Every so often we get people asking about how psychometrics work. This will often be accompanied with some element of doubt, and understandable discomfort about using them to make recruitment decisions.

If you’re a non-believer prepare to be enlightened...

Do psychometrics actually work?

Psychometric assessments come in many different shapes and sizes, and are used for many different purposes, but for now let’s look at personality questionnaires being used to inform the recruitment process.

First off, what we've developed is far more complex than your typical buzz-feed style quiz. Our soft skills assessments have been created by psychologists to ensure that they are easy to use, the items measure what they set out to (have validity), and they are occupationally relevant. They have undergone a detailed development process and are based on empirical research and current personality theory.  

Within our psychometric assessments platform, our tests are mainly used by recruiters to help aid decision making in the recruitment process, not to act as the be all and end all. They allow you to understand how a candidate sees themselves in the workplace and how they tend to behave, compared to their peers. 

In order to receive BPS accreditation (an official governing body stamp of approval) tests must pass strict guidelines in order to prove they measure what they say they do, and that they accurately predict job performance

When the BPS check a test  they look at reliability, validity, norm groups, test development and theoretical foundations as well as many other areas. This means that if a test has been accredited by the BPS they are sure to be sufficient in these aspects. If they were not at the time of review, the BPS would make suggestions on how to amend these issues and the test provider is expected to make these changes.

So, how can you tell the difference between personality questionnaires like ours, which are reliable and are an effective tool within the recruitment process, and those which fall short?


Warning Signs*

  • No BPS accreditation 

  • Providers are unclear about what their tests should be used for if the exact same test and related report claims to be all singing all dancing, this could be a cause for concern. For a well thought out overview of someone’s personality, it should be tailored towards a specific use and towards a specific viewer, and therefore presented differently.

  • Items are abstract – If items are very abstract, they may be poorly related to what they are intended to measure. A test should be clear and not aim to fool the candidate in any way. Where items are unclear about what they are testing, they are often more ambiguous and open to interpretation by the candidate. 

  • Items are emotion based and ask about personal life – a personality questionnaire for recruitment should be concerned with a candidate’s behaviours, preferences and tendencies at work and so not surprisingly, should also ask questions in a work based context. A questionnaire should not ask about what you’re like at a party if it is aiming to be occupationally relevant.

  • Items are future based – a candidate’s ability to predict what they would do in the future is strongly influenced by their current state and how they are feeling in that particular moment, rather than traits; what they are like as a person. Instead items should ask about what a candidate is like more generally.

  • Vague output – if you receive a report that is vague, and includes only a small amount of information that seems genuinely relevant to you, then this is probably due to the fact the test is inaccurate. It may have made general sweeping statements to cover the fact that there is no deeper information available from the output of the test. 

  • Type based assessments – output which involves type based personalities can be great for development needs; for getting the conversation started about personality and to help people reflect on their preferences in comparison to other work colleagues. They are not, however, a suitable tool for informing recruitment decisions as the narrow definitions or 'boxes' adopted by the type based approaches severely simplifies the complexities of an individual. This means it is hard to distinguish between people of the same type as there is no deeper information about them.

*these do not necessarily indicate a test doesn’t work at all, but they are a few things to look out for and consider in the context of your recruitment and selection needs.

If you’re interesting in using some valid, reliable and predictive soft skills assessments, contact us on 01273 73400 or email us via our contact page.

Topics: Assessments
Lily Harvey

Written by Lily Harvey