Should we trust pyschological recruitment tests?

If you have applied for jobs, there’s a very high probability that you will have gone through personality tests of some sort.  They range from the quick and (probably) fairly dirty, to the ones where you have to answer sometimes several hundred questions.  Would you rather be a Bishop or a professional tennis player?  Do you feel unsure of yourself in social situations often / sometimes / never?  How many times a week do you shoplift small electrical items?

You know the sort of thing.

But how far should organisations trust these tests when they make recruitment decisions? Should they play a major part in those key selection decisions?

Here are a couple of warning notes for those who do place a lot of store in such tests.... (continued - read the full article here on our Spend Matters search4 procurement jobs website!)

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Voices (7)

  1. life:

    I’m doing some work for a large organisation looking to improve procurement and contract management. It currently has over 200 people involved. Where performance is/is considered to be sub optimal this is perceived to be a training issue, or a systemic failure in terms of reporting / performance management.

    There’s obviously a lot more relevant detail on this but however isn’t it the case, though, that any organisation on the planet that has an operational function other than the giving of professional procurement advice, would need to be truly enormous to house this sort of competency? The requirement and competence to match it is are both just spread too thin, and unless recruitment is incredibly focussed (and is at the expense of other I’m sure at least equally deserving disciplines necessary for organisational success) and over a very prolonged period, there will never be enough people with the necessary skills AND personal attributes ( including psycological) to fuel such arrangements. The system must be defined differently, structurally or using IT, to deliver what is required with less talent.

    And, what if these tests actually DO work? What if, say, in a few year’s time the much vaunted ability to scan brain activity develops sufficient that Belbin or new similar tests can absolutely detect ability and aptitude unequivocally? This apparently is the reality we look forward to. Will we all discover that actually what we thought were great procurement people turn out to be rubbish? Will market forces determine the establishment of some sort of massively remunerated super elite that is pursued relentlessly around the globe? Or is it just as likely that actually we’d stick with something like we have today, where human beings are recruited – and prosper or fail – for all sorts of reasons other than merely the propensity to do well.

  2. Ben Glynn:

    very good “b&t”! But my question is: “Would you rather be a Bishop or a professional tennis player?”

  3. mark greenhouse:

    Surely it depends how you use them to build your teams.

    I worked at a business that used these as part of their selection process. I worked with teams who achieved some excellent results in terms of changing behaviours and performance – things others had tried and either given up with or failed. There was always a nagging doubt something wasn’t right.

    Two years after starting whilst on a management development course with my peers, they re-ran the tests, guess what? I wasn’t the profile they wanted. I was so far different it was unreal. I was the only “I” out of 16 managers and I wasn’t a small “I” as I was the far end of the scale, no-one else came close.

    How did I get through the rigorous selection process (3 interviews, team exercises, verbal, numerical reasoning, psychological tests) – they were so happy with my “fit” they didn’t bother marking my original psychological tests.

    They didn’t want people who would try new things, they didn’t want challenge to their methods, it was a really great lesson for me. They wouldn’t have recruited me IF they’d have marked their own tests.

    I’m not sure the question is do they work? it’s more like what decisions will we make once we know this? how will we handle the individual? what can they bring to our organisation?

    Will we allow them to develop, flourish or just conform?

    1. bitter and twisted:


      do you mean , you were quite successful for 2 years, but felt out of place?

  4. bitter and twisted:

    The verbal/numerical reasoning tests have some validity, but surely are more appropriate for junior roles for inexperienced candidates where you dont have much else to go on.

    Personality tests are pseudocientific bullshit that belong in the same garbage bin as proven rubbish like graphology. Their only use is alerting candidates that the company has an HR department run by idiots.

  5. Gail Pyrah:

    Whilst I agree with some of the points raised in this particular article, I have to come out on the side of psychometrics as an aid to the recruitment process providing that they are used as just that. I trained and qualified in their use many years ago and there are some good tests on the market. Sadly, too many organisations use them to pass or fail a candidate instead of using them as part of the bigger picture. They can provide lots of valuable, objective data, particularly if the tests have been designed by appropriately qualified psychologists. The information provided from the tests should be used to question candidates in more detail, particularly if concerns have been highlighted. They can also provide useful data for developmental purposes going forward. They are simply an additional tool and should be used as such!

  6. Ben Glynn:

    I believe that such tests do add value to the recruitment process and are useful as a pointer/ guide to a candidate’s capabilities when used IN CONJUNCTION with the interview process and for future training and development plans. We hear all too often from candidates that organisations use them as a preliminary “pass or fail” test; something I don’t agree with. Companies that do this can miss out on some excellent candidates. A degree educated candidate who also has an MBA told me recently that he had applied to a company that shall remain nameless but they ‘failed’ him because he didn’t reach the bar in terms of the verbal and numerical tests, even though he has more than 10 years highly successful experience in a managerial procurement role. Has the company missed out?

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