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Psychometrics don’t work – unless you choose the right supplier


Choose an excellent supplier

With recruitment costs and the pressure to attract talent increasing, Jacqui van Loen outlines the benefits of psychometric testing and explains how to choose the right supplier for your organisation.

According to a Daily Telegraph survey, 70% of British organisations use some sort of psychometric test as part of their recruitment procedure.

The psychometric test industry has produced an expanding range of tests which assess values, interests, leadership, and behaviour. One search on Google will show thousands of entries under the heading ‘psychometric test’.

But which one is the one for you? Can you trust the test to measure what it says it is measuring? Do you want to measure personality, ability, motivation, leadership? The list goes on.

“These suppliers have expert consultants that will issue and interpret the assessment, giving HR and the candidate independent feedback.”

The key is to choose a supplier that will be able to deliver the right psychometric test for your company. These suppliers have expert consultants that will issue and interpret the assessment, giving HR and the candidate independent feedback.

So how do you know that the supplier is an expert in the field? The British Psychological Society and CIPD has a recommended list of suppliers; some either publish their own tests like Quest Partnership, who publish identity, or there are suppliers such as Hogrefe or Pearson, who publish and sell other peoples tests after rigorous research.

Vigorous testing

Many consultancies use tests that they have purchased such as PCL and Team Focus who use the Hogan Tests (HPI, HDS etc). Whether these suppliers publish their own or others’ assessments, what they all have in common is that the tests have gone through a vigorous amount of testing to see whether it is reliable and valid, before it is sold to the HR department.

There are two levels of training set by the British Psychological Society – Level A and Level B. Level A covers test administration and gains you entry to use aptitude and ability tests. Level B is for personality and interest tests. In order to do Level B you must first complete Level A.

Many companies offer training courses in psychometric testing. These range from three to five days. Typically the course will involve a number of assessments and submission of various pieces of evidence for your competency portfolio. Costs can vary from £1,350 plus vat for a Level A course, which spans over four days, to just under £1,000 plus vat for Level B. It’s not cheap, but if HR staff use the tests as part of recruitment, then it increases the chance that the right candidate is employed, and with recruitment costs rocketing out of control, this is one training need that can pay for itself.

Once trained, you can then register with the publishers of tests and start to use them. However, many will ask you to complete their own ‘conversion course’. This introduces you to the publisher’s own tests and how to use and interpret them. It’s their main business so before you go ahead, ask a few questions:

  • Firstly, how reliable and valid are the tests and what norm tables were used? The norms are important as they show what type of people the test is benchmarked against. One psychologist, Lucy Breason says: “I always ask the test provider who the norm group are; I normally look for the working population in the UK for recruiting junior management.”

  • What do you need the test for? Ask yourself, is the test going to be used for recruitment purposes, developing staff, team building etc? And once you have asked your candidates to do the test, what happens next?

  • What do you want the test to measure? Tests can measure all sorts of areas, the most common are personality and ability with numerical and verbal reasoning tests, but they can also measure emotional intelligence, motivation and leadership.

  • What kind of reports will be issued? Most assessments are online and come with their own set of reports for the trained individual to interpret and feedback to the candidate. However if you are not trained in Level A or B then many test publishers offer a bureau service which acts as a consultancy. Mark Watton, a psychologist at Hogrefe says: “If a client wants a psychometric test but doesn’t have the required training, then we will come into their office and do it for them. We then offer feedback to the test user and to HR.”

  • Will it be cost beneficial for HR to be trained in psychometric testing or would it be better to get in a consultant? Being trained in psychometrics is certainly worthwhile if your company plans to use assessments long term and on a regular basis, but if you need just a one-off psychometric test, calling in an expert will save you time.

Psychometric assessments are a tool that HR has at its fingertips, and with the rising costs of recruitment and the pressure to retain talent, it is a tool that most companies can’t afford to be without.

Finding the right consultant who can supply psychometrics will give the HR department an expert outsourcer; plus being trained in the process not only adds to the HR manager’s own skills but provides a return on investment for the company.

Jacqui van Loen is from HR-Index.

5 Responses

  1. profiles… -v- …tests – & who is the supplier
    Indeed the labels used do not help our case to the wider community.

    Even within the BPS community the terms are still ‘level a tests’ or ‘level b tests’. Certainly the use of the word profile will enable us to educate those that do not understand the differences.

    If the ‘supplier’ is the publisher’ then this article is incorrect – if the ‘supplier’ is the person managing the testing process then I agree…

  2. Psychometric Profiles – v Tests
    John is absolutely right. In my view, almost all psychomtric profiling tools should be referred to as ‘profiles’, not as ‘tests’.

    I think it is really hard to under-estimate the damage done by work-force developers in particular, but also recruiters, in talking about psychometric ‘tests’ rather than ‘profiles’, thus suggesting some right/wrong, go/no-go answers.

    Even though so-called ‘tests’, such as the really valuable GMAT, Wason-Glaser, Wunderlich and many other similar cognitive or knoweldege-based tools may present some ‘right or wrong answers’ to the individual questions asked at a reasonably senior level – they do NOT offer ‘right’ answers overall to an employer.

    If you eally need someone who can speak English, read Japanese, understand the 2nd-Law of Thermodynamics, read a 3-d drawing, differentiate iron from steel, offer a compelling 5-minute speech, parse a sentence or calculate the square root of minus 1, you may well apply a ‘test’. (All of these skills and abilities may be learned.) But such ‘tests’ may say nothing about any employees’ wider suitability for work, nor necessarily their development potential. If only life were so simple!

    One might ‘test’ for specific aptitudes, but I suggest only ‘profile’ for wider suitability.

    What say you?

    Jeremy Thorn

  3. Psychometric Tests DO WORK -it’s the Managers that DON’T
    Psychometric Testing – the right tool for the job?

    Whilst I agree with much of what has been written, I do feel that the word TEST suggests that the “Tool” is to be believed in its entirety.

    The absolute need for a TEST to be validated suggests that the Manager using the tool is going to make important decisions based on the output of the TEST.

    Firstly, psychometric “TESTS” can be separated into (at least)two categories – the Personality test, which is more than likely going to be an IPSITIVE questionaire which only displays preferences of an individual.

    This type of tool should only be used, in my opinion, to generate questions for a manager to open up topics for discussion. People management after all, is about interaction between the manager and the individual – not about making people decisions based on test results alone.

    The relevance of “Normative” tests, using Norm tables, is of course as described, and the tables should be relevant, and these ARE tests, in other words they test one person against another, as opposed to Ipsitive which do not.(I see so many articles that simply LUMP these together)

    The desire for Managers to be removed from the vital role of understanding the need to talk to staff openly and honestly is a concern, and “hiding behind” the BPS or computer tests can be seen as negative.

    I have always found manegement tools of this nature to be extremely valuable when used to generate communication, and will continue to use them for this reason only.

  4. missing the point? not the supplier but the choice of test
    While I support much of what has been said in the article to me it misses a key point.

    As the old saying goes “a poor workman blames his tools”.

    Almost all tests themselves are fit for purpose, as a test user it is our responsibility to check, not the ‘supplier’ – it is often the users that mis-uses the instrument. For example the MBTI is a great tool for looking at an individual or teams development and preferences – but it is not an effective (or indeed safe) tool in recruitment (indeed the publisher recommends against its use for recruitment).

    Frequently I come across individuals that have qualified with one provider and then uses their tests – nothing wrong with that BUT is it the right test for the job?

    As time goes on people taking level b qualifications seem to be less and less able to be in the position of identifying the need and selecting the right tool for the job.

    As users of tests we have the responsibility to get it right.

    If hiring a consultant to undertake testing and test selection make sure the supplier can chose from a range of suppliers and can identify the RIGHT test for your needs.

    I also think the article is confusing supply of test and turn key solution. While all publishers can provide a ‘one stop shop’ most purchasers only use the supplier for the tests themselves. This activity alone undermines the core of the article.

    That said the last line of the article-
    “Finding the right consultant who can supply psychometrics will give the HR department an expert outsourcer; plus being trained in the process not only adds to the HR manager’s own skills but provides a return on investment for the company.” … I totally agree with.


  5. Choice of Psychometrics
    I hope Jacqui won’t mind me saying that while I thought the overall tenor of her article was great, it was in my view significantly let down by referring to some very specific profiling tools that do not reflect the far greater variety of choices available.

    Just to be clear, I hold no allegiance to any particular profiling tool as long as it is properly validated and meets the ethical requirements of the BPS, relevant to the need in question, with of course the appropriate scoring norms.

    Whether intended or not, I am afraid I read this article as a not very subtle and distinctly partial sales-pitch for a very select few instruments in particular, which was such a pity as there is no doubt many of her wider points were well made.

    Accordingly, I think her mission to help ‘choose the right supplier’ was unneccessarily rather prejudiced. What an opportunity lost, and what a pity!


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