What Is Your Take On Psychometric Testing?

Mar 24, 2014 1 Min Read

Photo Source: Satish

In HR Talk, we pick one human resources (HR) related topic each week, and gather a few HR experts to share their opinions on it. If you have any questions about the HR industry, send them to us at mystarjob@leaderonomics.com and we will get our panel of experts to answer them.

This week’s topic

What is your take on psychometric testing?

PEI PEI LAI – Business HR, PwC Malaysia 

Psychometric assessments are like controlled medicines. Prescribed by a qualified doctor, and used in the right doses and correct circumstances, they make for more efficient and accurate hiring.

For experienced candidates, it gives hiring managers more insight into a candidate’s thinking style, motivations and preferences.

It also allows us to focus on potential areas for development. At the entry level, it helps graduate recruiters from drowning in a sea of resumes.

I’ve seen the law of unintended consequences at work and sometimes good candidates slip through our fingers or bad candidates come through when:

– You don’t know what you’re testing for.

– Untrained HR staff administer tests that they can’t properly explain to the candidate leading to inaccurate results. Poorly explained to hiring managers, these reports can also be misinterpreted.

– Hiring managers treat the assessment as the final decision making tool rather than as part of the decision making process.

– There is a tendency for interviewers to go on auto-pilot during an interview, purely based on assessment results.

Instead of seeking to clarify, understand and validate the results, they come in with their mind half made up, which is a situation that sometimes leads to bad hiring decisions.

Hiring managers should not see the use of assessment tools as an opportunity to abdicate accountability in the hiring decision.

The ability to size up and hire the right people through the face to face interview is a must have competency in any manager’s skills arsenal. The right assessment tools help them make better decisions.

 CLAUDIA CADENA – Director, Strategic human capital management, President & Group CEO’s office, SapuraKencana

Psychometric testing has its benefits and disadvantages. These aspects need to be considered before organisations make a decision on how to use them for the purpose of managing talent.


1. Perceived objectivity. When making talent management decisions, organisations are many times challenged by employees about how those decisions are taken and who takes them.

In order to “legitimise” decisions and provide a sense of objectivity, many organisations use psychometric tools to “validate” information which has been obtained via perceived “subjective” methods like 360 degree feedback and performance ratings.

2. An additional data point. Making recruitment decisions can be supported by the use of psychometric tools.

Some candidates are very effective/impressive in the way they express themselves and convey information during the interviews. However, these impressions are very soon crushed once the candidate joins the workforce.

Using some of the available tools, will enable recruitment teams to have additional information to validate information gathered via the review of the candidate’s curriculum vitae, the interview and reference checks conducted.

3. Versatility. Some psychometric tools can be used for a variety of purposes with varying degrees of reliability. They can be used for recruitment, to identify interventions to strengthen soft skills and for career profiling or advancement.

Therefore the same tool can be used at different times in the employees’ life-cycle within the organisation, which in itself provides a sense of continuity and clarity, instead of having to use different tools which can be confusing and at times even contradicting when results are analysed.


1. The ultimate data point. Managing talent is not a scientific / numerical discipline. It requires the ability to understand business requirements, understand the individual’s strengths and areas for improvement and the ability to make decisions that will ultimately serve both the business and the individual at the same time.

As these decisions are complex and more often than not there are no clear cut answers, many leaders opt for using psychometric results as the single most powerful and influential tool to make their decisions.

The tool disregards how others view the individual, how the individual interacts with people and how the individual has performed in the past within the organisational environment.

The tool in isolation will not give the full picture which is required to make talent management decisions that are effective and relevant.

2. Gaming the system. Psychometric tools require that candidates are candid and place themselves in the work environment as it is and not as they may want it to be.

Many candidates have difficulties in doing exactly that, and at times they end up replying the questionnaires using what they perceive to be the ideal situation instead of their own reality.

It is very prevalent to have psychometric results which are totally the opposite to what the individual is perceived to be in the workplace, or to the perception created after an interview.

It is for this precise reason, that psychometrics should only be used as an additional data point, and not the most important data point.

3. Which one to choose. There are so many psychometric tools in the market and each of them claim to be the ultimate solution for our talent management problems.

When selecting a tool, it is important to understand how the tool was developed, how it was tested, what it intends to review and analyse and how can the results be used.

Many times, it is equally difficult trying to ascertain what the tool is trying to achieve in itself, that the focus shifts from making a talent management decision, to trying to justify the validity of the tool with top management.

So, will I use psychometrics in managing talent? My answer is, it depends. I have used them in the past, and I have implemented talent management efforts without them. I can’t say that using psychometric tools has given me any better or more accurate results than not using them.

What I can say, is that the power of the psychometric tools can be derived when we use them in a mature way as an additional data point to validate/compare/contrast the information gathered internally.

It is also a good tool to provide feedback to the employees. However, if there is no rigour in educating those decision makers on the validity and limitations of the tool, the risks of using them out-weighs their benefits in my opinion.

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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