When it comes to psychometric assessments, whether you are an employer or a potential employee there are a lot of misconceptions around the process and its outcomes. There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to the merits and flaws of using psychometrics, whether it is for recruitment or personal development. Most of these myths are perpetuated by Management’s scepticism about the value of assessments.
MYTH #1. TESTING IS TOO COSTLY FOR MY BUSINESS
Actually, testing is a cost saver. Much has been written about the cost of bad hires and using assessments to reduce hiring risk is a significant money saver. Without exception, the cost of an assessment battery is always some fraction of the new hires first month’s salary. For that cost, approximately 70% — 80% of the risk is reduced. In addition, the organisation will understand how to effectively support the new hire from onboarding stage, largely from the information provided by the assessments.
MYTH #2. ASSESSMENTS WILL NOT PREDICT JOB PERFORMANCE
There is an incredibly rich science in psychometric testing. From the validation of the tools, to identification of the dimensions that best predict job performance. Several meta-analyses have been done, and countless individual articles. All conclude in a similar way: Assessments provide an invaluable source of information in predicting job performance. A few constructs such as Cognition; Emotional Stability; Conscientiousness and Emotional Intelligence correlate directly with Job Performance. Assessments go far broader than just these constructs and can identify precisely where the new hire may struggle. The process of interviewing is fraught with social and confirmatory biases and have been shown to be less reliable. Other methods such as academic results and reference checking have far lower correlations with job performance, so it is far more prudent to use science in helping make selection decisions.
MYTH #3. TESTS ARE EASY TO FAKE
There is noise in all assessment data, just as there is noise in any job interview. People are putting their best foot forward. Assessments are built with this knowledge in mind, and most self-report tests (e.g. for personality) have built-in scales which cleverly measure distortion. Yet while they are open to some distortion, most people are honest when answering self-report measures and there is much to gain from these tools. The more highly weighted tests, like for cognition and skills cannot be faked if done under supervised conditions. You cannot fake being smart. Of course, there is no right or wrong personality, and assessments are rather designed to look for a fit with the role from a diverse set of assessment lenses.
MYTH #4. THE RESULTS OF THE ASSESSMENTS CAN BE USED UNFAIRLY
The job seeking process in South Africa is a highly regulated. Psychometric assessments fall into this ambit and are controlled by the Health Professions Council. They are only administered and interpreted by trained and registered professionals. According to the Employment Equity Act (1998) Psychometric testing of workers or job applicants is illegal unless the tests:
Have been proved valid and reliable
Are fair to all workers
Do not discriminate against a worker or group
Psychometric assessments cannot be used to discriminate between individuals. Best practice also guides that assessment results should be used in conjunction with other sources of information (job performance, references etc.) and should never be utilised in isolation to make decisions.
Rather than being used unfairly, psychometric assessments introduce structure and some rigour to the assessment process. By comparing people against an objective battery, due process and an audit trail of results, evidence of an unbiased process are provided.
MYTH #5. ASSESSMENTS TAKE TOO LONG TO COMPLETE AND DELAY THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS
In general, a complex assessment battery takes no longer than a day. To accommodate the new hires’ diary, assessments can be split over more than one day if necessary. It should take no longer than a further 48 hours to finalize the reporting and feedback to the organisation. So while there is an additional step in the recruitment process, it is not too onerous and is always worthwhile for the wealth of information that comes with it.
Many companies use psychometric testing as a standard practice when recruiting. For those that don’t, it may be worthwhile experimenting with it. It is not only large companies that make use of the service, as small companies can benefit in exactly the same way, and have the same requirement to reduce the risk of bad hires and appoint people who are a good fit with the role. Having said that, there are some dubious tests on the market and assessments can be utilised in an unscientific manner. Always use a credible provider of assessments, making sure that the shape of the battery, the selection of tools and the presentation of results are handled in a credible manner.
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