When is a rose not a rose? Well it would seem in the case of former Co-op chairman Paul Flowers. And the coup de grâce (or coup dis grâce) in this sorry saga has been identified as psychometric testing.

Certainly in the case of the de-Flowering of Co-op it was the psychometric test that made the headlines, which will be a relief to the key executives who interviewed Paul Flowers and obviously botched it. But as much as psychometric testing has been made the scapegoat, it certainly should not be blamed for the obvious failings of the Co-op’s recruitment process.

Psychometric tests measure the mind, which is merely one of the metrics needing to be assessed in candidate selection. Others include education, skills, experience and competencies relative to those required in the role. Relying on just psychometric tests is not only flawed, but as in the case of the Co-op, potentially devastating to a business. So the question has to be asked, why are these tests used, and abused, in the first case?

For many making critical decisions like choosing key management, there is a need to base them on objective data rather than the subjectivity of an interview. Of course blaming empirical data is also a useful way to avoid taking personal responsibility if a candidate turns out to be a liability rather than an asset!

This method of selection is also very cost-effective in comparison to other approaches such as face-to-face interviews, as well being efficient in screening and eliminating large numbers of candidates at the start of the recruitment process. Psychometric testing reduces both the time and cost burden in identifying suitable candidates for later stages of the recruitment process, and therein lies the success of the psychometric test, as one component in an integrated evaluation strategy.

Assessing attributes such as intelligence, critical reasoning, motivation and personality is equally important in this recruitment process, but is very difficult to do without the use of psychometric tests. Being able to offer this assessment in standardised tests also offers candidates fair and accurate access to the process.

When conducted with other complimentary tools such as structured interviews, work sample tests, ability tests and questions to illicit more about the context of experience and competencies, both candidates and interviewers will have the ability to decide if they are in alignment. This is essential to ascertain future performance and retention, which is critical for both parties.

There are many different types of tests that can measure candidate’s values, priorities, and opinions in a number of scenarios. They can expose working styles that may be out of sync with the businesses, how candidates will interact with existing employees as well as other hidden personality traits. What they won’t do is compensate for a dysfunctional selection process, nor will they be a substitute for sensible human assessments. No matter how sophisticated these tests are, they should remain just one of a number of methods used to find the ideal candidate.