The power of Psychometrics

What words does the term “Psychometrics” conjure up to you? Does it send shivers down your spine? Do your hairs stand on end? Do you dismiss them as adding little value?

Despite psychometrics being used in hiring for over 10 years and their increasing popularity amongst hiring managers and HR teams, I often encounter misconceptions about the insights they provide and the value they bring… I’ve even heard senior leaders compare psychometrics to a new age fad!

In truth, psychometrics are actually based on the theory and technique of psychological measurement; created using a combination of science, psychology, mathematics and technology.  This in turn can be designed in such a way as to measure knowledge, ability, attitude and personality.

Of course not all tests are same. When we refer to a “test” we think of it as having definite right or wrong answers – and there are some tests used in hiring that do just that, measuring your aptitude and reasoning ability (numerical, spatial and verbal). However, those that identify preferences and styles of behaviour (my personal favourites) deliver no “right or wrong” answer. I still become somewhat frustrated that in recruitment we continue to call these “personality tests”. This is what can turn people off and can create a feeling of apprehension, creating the illusion they will somehow tell you something you don’t already know about yourself, or reveal some dark hidden secret.

More appropriately referred to as a preferences questionnaire or behavioural assessment, the supposed mysticism is unveiled once you know that these tools are in effect self-report style questionnaires.  The structure is self-reflective, allowing the individual to rate their own preferences and styles of behaviour.  The objective being, to provide insight into the style of behaviours they are more likely to display.

As Michael Gravelle, managing director of The McQuaig Institute states “hiring winning talent is a complicated process, but one that’s much easier when you take the time to understand what you need and who you are interviewing”.

The Science Behind The Assessments

The effectiveness of these assessments are measured most by what we call criterion related validity –the extent to which the score on a self-report item predicts the future demonstration of that behaviour.

All psychometrics, whether they be behavioural preferences or definitive tests should always be registered with the British Psychological Society (BPS) and their subsequent Psychological Testing Centre (PTC).  This ensures they have undergone stringent and objective evaluations culminating in a genuine instrument for assessment.

So Why Aren’t They More Widely Used?

Interestingly, despite these scientifically validated tools being available, surveys conducted by the CIPD show that only 56% of companies use assessment tools.

The reasons for this can be narrowed down to the following three barriers:


Ensuring the organisation has accredited practitioners who can deliver, interpret and feedback on tools

Not understanding what they are or how they can assist in predicting job fit

The main concern for organisations is that such assessments can become a rather expensive part of the hiring process. Having worked as an in-house recruiter, utilising Psychometrics from various third party suppliers, fees can start at around £250 per test, to £5000 and above for a full individual assessment of an operating leader.

This is at a time when the costs of recruiting are higher than ever – research conducted by the CIPD has found that on average the internal costs of recruiting a senior employee before even considering such assessments, can be in the region of £9,000 per participant.

Due to these cost implications some organisations use behavioural assessment but don’t bring it in until the end of the process. This can often be a false economy though if the candidate is deemed to not be a good fit at the end of the hiring process. Instead this candidate could have been ‘filtered’ at an earlier stage via such an assessment, allowing the right candidates to have passed through the process, thereby reducing costs and ultimately securing the best person for the role.

During my career history I have developed a high regard for colleagues and organisations who utilise such behavioural assessment tools to help inform hiring decisions. But with the competition for top talent increasing there is a continual pressure to find and select top talent from the outset, whilst trying to keep campaigns within budget, in conjunction with delivering a best in class recruitment service for candidates and clients alike.

With such an incentive to get hiring right (and the high costs when a hire hire doesn’t work out), the art lies in selecting the right candidates to interview who display the attitudes, values and behaviours that you are looking for, matched against role and skill requirements (before they even set foot in the door). Harnessing such an assessment before you have even met a candidate, allows you, as a prospective employer, to find out important information about the potential of an individual and help inform future interview recruitment stages.

It’s also possible to offset the cost of using psychometric’s by using a recruitment partner who advocates behavioural assessments and are willing to absorb the cost. This in effect can give you the best of both worlds – more detailed candidate assessment without the extra cost.

The Future of Behavioural Assessments

Good recruitment practices, positive candidate experience and innovative technology are an important part of any recruitment process. This is especially true for candidates who are rejected during the recruitment process – the last thing your brand needs is senior candidates who were unhappy with your hiring process talking negatively to the market about their experiences.

What Next?

Learn more about how you can combine psychometrics with technology to de-risk your hiring process and assess a candidates suitability.