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Perspective on Psychometric Testing

Perspective on Psychometric Testing

A journalist for the Singapore Business Times interviewed me to write an article on psychometric testing at the workplace. Following interview transcript with the hope to start a discussion about this interesting topic at the comment section below. 

Question 1. As a HR professional, could you share your experience in the usage of psychometric tests for career guidance, talent management and team building in the company?

Psychometric tests, broadly speaking, are means to assess skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personalities. There is a wide array of such tests available in the market. Some are broad-based in applicability (e.g. DISC, Myers Briggs, Strength Finder, and Saville), and some are function-specific (e.g. Marketing or Sales). The usefulness of such tools lies not in the tool itself. Rather it is how such tools are leveraged during, and more importantly post the activities, be it recruitment, talent identification, team building or individual development. For example, a psychometric test done in a team building exercise may lead to better understanding of individuals. But if that understanding is not translated into committed actions back in the work place, the investment of time and money on the test itself stays and ends at the team building activity.

Question 2. What are its benefits? Do you have any examples on its impact in the long run?

Two examples:

  • Self-discovery and communicating these discoveries between manager and employees, within a team, or within a department, enables clearer understanding of fellow colleagues’ attributes and strengths. Such understanding enables effective team problem solving.
  • In a more quantifiable example, in companies where the company culture is distinctly different against competitors’, psychometric test enables better recruitment decision by identifying candidates with the strongest probability of fitting into the company’s culture. Specifically, research has shown that standard job interviews only have a validity of 0.1 – 0.2, however established psychometric tools can have a validity in excess of 0.5 – which can greatly reduce the chances of wrong hires.

Question 3. Are such tests expensive? How do you weigh if it’s worth the investment?

Whether a test is considered as expensive or not depends on the value it provides. A good “litmus test” is to ask for the cost implications if one chose not to purchase the test. By using a proven tool for identification of high potential employees, companies can ensure that their talent investments are channeled effectively and show a positive ROI. The cost of the tests should be evaluated in the context of the reliability* and validity* of the test.

*Reliability refers to the consistency or stability of the test scores; validity refers to the accuracy of the inferences or interpretations you make from the test scores. Both of these characteristics are important.

Question 4. Do companies usually subject all candidates to it? Or is it for only junior or senior positions? Are there certain jobs that require more psychometric testing than others? How far do they go?

There are different types of tests available for different populations. Some tests are suitable for entry-level hiring and employee development. Whereas some are tailored for advanced usage in areas like talent identification, succession planning, leadership development etc. There is no homogenous adoption on the usage of such tests, be it in small or big sized companies. However, the following factors are key decision criteria in deciding on the test choice: Cost, target population size, reliability and validity.

Question 5. What are some limitations of psychometric testing - be it recruitment, talent management or team building. From your experience, what are some of its biggest disadvantages?

As mentioned above, validating criteria, such as test reliability and validity, can be used to pin point the usefulness and limitation of each test type. What is more important to note is that the results of such testing, regardless of how reliable or valid a test is, should be viewed a complementary tool in decision making. 


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