Why you need to use psychometric testing when recruiting

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People are like icebergs. You know the old picture – the one where the mass of the iceberg is hidden from view from those looking at the iceberg from the surface.

Much like the mass of an iceberg, the ability, drives, and motivations of people are usually hidden deep below the surface. Psychometric assessments give us a look at what is underneath the surface level of a person – it gives insight into what drives them.

Why is this important? 

At the end of the day, the primary goal in the game of recruitment is prediction – that is, how certain are we that Joe Bloggs is suited to the role? Can they adapt to the demands of the organization? Do they have the framework to cope with the busy nature of the role? Can they manage a team? Can they perform under aset of time limits? Or, do they enjoy selling?

While a magic crystal ball would be the only thing thatcould give us 100% certainty, phone interviews, behavioural interviews – and yes, even reference checks – can give us some insight into the above questions. Though none quite get under the surface of who someone is more than psychometric assessments.  

 

Not all recruitment measures are created equal

We have probably heard of a questionable candidate who did not work out in their new role. I hear of this all the time. The first step is to sit back and ask how they got the job in the first place, we see red flag after a red flag in the interviews, but their years of experience and outstanding references got them ‘across the line’.

 

References and experience are the least valid measures.

We connect with references because they are other people who know the candidate – surely they know best, right? The reference, caught off guard and not wanting to talk ill of their old workmate, says they were outstanding (despite always being late and nevermeeting deadlines).

And the years of experience they have in the industry, surely, they know how to perform? Though this ignores the fact they may have been flying under the radar and underperforming for 5, 10 or 20 years!

Not all tools will have the same ability to predict how a person will perform – yet we often put more weight on less valid assessments like reference checks and experience.

In a 2016 article called “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of ResearchFindings” Schmidt found that general mental ability as measured through psychometric assessments is the largest predictor of job performance. 

In fact, many assessments have been put to the test – but which ones come out on top in terms of prediction? Below is an outline of just that.

 

 

  • Aptitude tests = .65 correlation (42% of variance)
  • Structured interviews = .58 correlation (33.6% variance)
  • References = .26 (6.7% of variance)
  • Job Experience = .13 (1.7% of variance)


The above picture puts some interesting perspective and challenges the norm; reference checks and experience make up a small part of the pie when predicting job performance. If I had a dollar for every time, I have seen the dreaded 5 years’ experience requirement, I would be rich. And if you’re a business owner, you’d likely be just as rich if you had a dollar for every time a recruiter approached you with a candidate with some impressive number of years in or had great references.

 

These are the least valid measures of performance, yet we often put the most weight on them. We have been focusing on the wrong thing for far too long.

Job experience can be important, however, in my experience far too much weight is placed on this. If you are spending time focusing on experience, rather than what psychometric tests measure (like ability and personality traits), you are leaving yourself open to uncertainty and perhaps worse; missing the opportunity to bring on someone who can change your business.

Most people make supposed informed recruiting decisions and have the nervous wait to see if they have or have not made the right decision. When they are used correctly, and of course, in combination with other steps like structured interviews, psychometric assessments are a useful tool that can cut through the BS and get you that little bit more closure and certainty on your next recruit.

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