Do Psychometrics make recruitment processes better?

By Celia Grand-Pierre

Coming back to England and as part of my Masters Degree in International Human Resource Management, I wrote my dissertation on Psychometrics and Personality tests. Even though my subject was very specific to recruitment agencies, their use is widespread amongst companies in general. I collected Research and data from 22 recruitment companies. You might be surprised that all firms are using those tests internally (to recruit their own people) and/or externally (on behalf of their Clients). However, they weren’t satisfied with the results (18 agencies out of 22 according to survey responses)… but they still use them without making any changes.

Most of the blogs I will be sharing with you will deal with these types of tests – what they involve, how retail companies are using them and in particular, are they really being used appropriately? If not, what are the alternatives to this ‘fashionable’ process?

Indeed they are more than ever, a fashionable way to select the ‘best’ talent to perform a job. However, are they really making recruitment processes any better?

What are they?

Psychometric tests “…have the goal of assessing various cognitive abilities from numeracy and literacy skills to spatial awareness and more”.

Personality tests are “…intended to highlight specific personality traits that could indicate suitability for specific roles. These can come in the form of personality questionnaires, leadership tests, motivation tests and situational judgement tests”

So why do companies use these tests (specifically numeracy and literacy tests)?

There are three major reasons:

    • To measure the aptitude and ability of candidates on specific tasks
    • To understand the personality and behaviours of candidates to analyse the possible fit with the company
  • To filter a talent pool due to increased competition and number of applicants


Are they currently reliable?

Those tests have now been used for many years and in my opinion, they are not currently used at their best.

  • Using numeracy and verbal testing as PART of a process can reinforce decision making.
  • They should NOT be used as a filter in order to attract the best candidate. There is still no evidence that a candidate who scores well at these ability tests are better at their job than a candidate having a bad score.
  • Similarly, Personality tests are reliable depending on their context. Using them as a first stage of a recruitment process could be risky and companies could miss out on some talent.

The danger of using tests at the first stage of selection:

One of my friends recently applied to a vacancy with a large corporate in the UK. What was the first stage of the process? A numerical and verbal assessment which she had to perform within 48 hours of applying. “Well that was fast!” she thought. “They are probably doing that in order to check the motivation of the candidate and to see how quickly I can react”.

To be fair, for some companies this could be a reasonable way of thinking as thousands of applicants are hard to deal with.

However, filtering candidates and applying tests as the first stage of any process is not about attracting the ‘best’ candidates, but about reducing the talent pool. There are plenty of fish in the sea. However, by doing this, are we not missing out on ‘good’ potential candidates? After all, some candidates struggle with these tests, for a variety of reasons (another blog for the future!).

In my next blog, I will discuss the different approaches employed by companies when utilising personality tests to select candidates based on cultural fit.


4 thoughts on “Do Psychometrics make recruitment processes better?”

  1. Hold on while put myself back on my chair…

    “They should NOT be used as a filter in order to attract the best candidate. There is still no evidence that a candidate who scores well at these ability tests are better at their job than a candidate having a bad score.”

    This statement an incredibly bold claim to make and flies in the face of more than 85 years of research in this area!

    See Schmidt, F. & Hunter, J. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology:
    Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2),

    1. Good morning Andrew,

      Thank you for your directness and I understand where you are coming from with your comment. I understand AND agree that there are evidence proving the validity of those tests otherwise they would not be used for any processes. However, I think we need to take a step back from what has been written almost 20 years ago into the right context as even though still reliable in a certain context, how could we be sure that a candidate performing well on those tests will be the best at his job and vice versa? A lot has changed since the Schmidt & Hunter’s research as well as the world of retail and recruitment and we need to take it into account if we don’t want a good candidate to be missed.

      Reading my sentence again I agree I could have used better words to make myself clearer (my French mother tongue probably came back but not an excuse). Nowadays, do we have evidence that an Area Manager performing very well at those test will be better at his job than someone performing badly? By using those tests for certain jobs as a first stage, good performers will be missed without a doubt.

      Apologies for the delay of my reply and I hope I have made myself clearer, if not please do not hesitate to reply.

      Have a good day Andrew,


  2. Hi Celia,
    I think you need to invest more time with the research regarding psychometrics, their validity and their application, Some of your statements are not quite correct. Happy to share some references if that would be useful.
    Crispin Garden-Webster

    1. Hi Crispin,

      Thank you for your comment as it is always appreciated and blogs are aimed to create some sort of debate.

      The main point of this blog was not around the validity of those tests as otherwise they wouldn’t be used in any processes.

      My point was about the right timing of using those test. The trend of psychometrics and how often they are now used have gone beyond their validity for some companies. By using them to reduce the talent pool there will be good candidates missing an opportunity and sometimes better candidate at performing the actual job itself.

      As I said, I do believe they are of good use for companies especially when there could be thousands of applicants. However, I do believe that good candidates could be missed by using it at the first stage of a recruitment process.



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