Psychometric tests, also known as pre-employment assessments, can double or triple your chances of hiring the right person. Unfortunately, most small businesses are not using this powerful tool.
Recruiting the right people is one of the biggest factors in creating a great workplace culture. Research shows that you’re two or three times more likely to hire a high-performing candidate by using psychometric tests.
Despite this, most small businesses don’t use psychometric testing. Perhaps business owners feel their organisation is too small to bother, or that these tests are a bit woowoo, or they don’t really understand how they work. Often small business owners simply don’t know how to access psychometric testing.
Often small business owners simply don’t know how to access psychometric testing.
But psychometric testing can be used by organisations of all sizes, and they have a huge impact on your recruitment processes.
What’s Wrong with Interviews?
Research tells us over and over again that interviewing potential employees is not the best way to predict future employment performance. I’m going to say that again: interviews are not the best way to predict future employment performance.
So why do we use them? Probably because it’s what we’ve always done. The process is established – we advertise the job, somebody responds to our ad, we look at the application and if they’ve got the right skills and experience, we interview them. If we like them, we hire them.
Notice that last sentence: if we like them, we hire them. That is precisely the problem. We’re hiring people based on who we liked in the interview, according to our own biases. We choose them based on whether they interview well for the role, and not necessarily whether they can perform on the job. But there are a few problems with interviews.
We know that our biases affect our recruitment decision-making because we all like people that are like us, whether that be related to gender, race or age. We can’t help it, even when we are super aware that we can be biased, we are still biased.
There’s a great image from the Museum of Tolerance in America. There are two doors presented to visitors. One is red and says ‘PREJUDICED’. The other is green and says ‘UNPREJUDICED’. But the one that says UNPREJUDICED is locked – a sign on it says, ‘Think… now use the other door’. So visitors must use the PREJUDICED door. It’s trying to remind us that despite our best intentions, we all have prejudice. And we bring those prejudices into interviews, which is one of the reasons why interviews are just not very effective.
The Eye of the Beholder
Also, bias in interviews is not just about gender, ethnicity and age. It’s also about perceived beauty. Research shows that 62% of managers will select an attractive applicant as their first choice. And one study even showed that having a scar or a stain on our face distracts the interviewer and results in less positive outcomes.
Another problem with interviews is impression management, otherwise known as faking. Faking is a common human behaviour, we all want to make a good impression on other people.
This impacts on the predictive validity of interviews, that is, how likely it is that the candidate selected from an interview alone will be a high-performing employee. That’s because the employee is trying to put their best self forward and some people will fake things. Even if they’re not stretching the truth, just because they perform well in an interview, their skills won’t necessarily translate into job performance.
The opposite of faking can also be true, and you’ve probably come across this before where you’ve had great employees and they have applied for a promotion. Some people interview terribly, but they still get the promotion because everyone knows that they can do the job. They just can’t perform in an interview.
Improving the Interview Process
So does all this mean we should stop interviewing candidates? Well, no, interviews still have their place as part of an overall recruitment process.
Interviews can be improved with:
- Structure We need to ensure that we ask each candidate the same questions. It’s harder for bias to seep into structured interviews.
- Behaviour-based questions We need to ask questions relating to real-life examples. Questions like – tell me about a time when things didn’t go to plan? In effect, we are asking the person to recollect real-life examples and that gives us a lot more information.
- Work product testing We can ask people to show us that they can do what they claim. For example, if I’m hiring a copywriter, I might give them seven transcripts from podcasts and ask them to write two tweets and a small social post from the transcript. I can then assess their capacity to do the actual job, not just their performance in an interview..
A good interview strategy is important, but an ideal recruitment process will combine an interview with psychometric testing.
Introducing Psychometric Tests
Psychometric assessments dramatically increase the predictability of whether someone can perform in a role. The use of psychometric tests is two to three times better than relying on interviews and experience alone.
The data speaks for itself. In some social psychology research, the correlation between just conducting interviews and reference checks for employees and their performance in the role is 0.26, out of a perfect score of 1.0, with a good store of 0.7 and above. So 0.26 is extremely low. It means that there’s not much correlation between an interview predicting future performance.
But once we add in psychometric assessments that can go right up through 0.76 in terms of a correlation. The best results come from multi tests, where we look at cognitive ability, integrity, and how well the candidate’s interests match the job.
Types of Psychometric Assessments
- Single Assessments Single assessments take a potential employee through a cognitive assessment, for example. Many testing organisations use a subscription model, which means that if you just don’t have a large volume of people to test, it’s not worthwhile.
- Benchmark Assessments A benchmark assessment documents the things that are important for your business, for example, behaviours, qualities and traits. You can then use it to compare candidates to your organisation’s benchmark.
- AI Artificial intelligence is opening up new options, many of which are on subscription models. This makes them more suited to high levels of recruitment, but they’re still worthwhile.
Top Tips for Small Business
The subscription model used for most single assessments makes it harder for small businesses who aren’t recruiting on a large scale. But there are also affordable options that work on a pay-per-assessment model offering single tests for a few hundred dollars.
Some small businesses are unwilling to pay for a single test, but to put things in perspective, if you’re paying a recruitment agency $15,000 or $20,000 to recruit someone, it’s well worth spending $300 on an assessment. Psychometric assessment is a fantastic investment and offers a high degree of predictability around whether a person will be a good fit for the role and also for your organisation.
Best Areas to Test
- Cognitive and integrity tests Research shows these are the best predictors for performance in a role. Sometimes, depending on the provider, these will be called aptitude tests.
- Behavioural tests These look at how a person responds in certain circumstances. They are the best predictor of whether a person is going to be a really high-performing employee.
Area to Avoid Testing
People often ask me about personality testing, but this is not the same as psychometric testing, and I usually advise against personality testing. Why? A person’s personality is extremely complicated, and there’s not even that much agreement in social psychology circles on the definition of ‘personality’.
Also, unless you have benchmark data, ie you know the kinds of personality traits that are suited to the role and your organisation, it doesn’t actually help to test a person’s personality.
One personality attribute that we know is a good indicator of performance is conscientiousness. This is described as being achievement-oriented, dependable, orderly, and cautious. But there’s always the risk that this can be faked. Personality testing has its place, but it’s not the best way to get the results that you need.
Analysing the Results
It’s important to remember that when you are getting the results back from psychometric tests, you’re looking for average, or above. There’s a temptation to focus on people that are above average. But remember that being above average is statistically impossible for most people. So we’re looking for average or above average, within our testing.
If you are a small business and you haven’t tried psychometric assessments before, I would encourage you to do so. They will help you hire great people, which will create a fantastic culture, ensure people come up to speed quickly, and ensure they’re productive. Over time, that’s going to be much better in terms of profitability for your business.