Psychometric assessment or testing is frequently used early on in the job selection process (in conjunction with the job interview) with its key aim of providing the employer with a profile of the candidate and how they would fit into the workplace. Research has shown that traditional interviews do not work so employers are incorporating assessment to tighten up their recruitment. Psychometric testing is used to assess applicants applying for positions across many levels from entry level graduate positions as high up as senior management or executive roles in both government and private sectors. It can be administered in the more traditional paper-based manner and as a series of online tests. Psychometric testing falls into two categories – aptitude/ability tests and personality inventories. Aptitude tests measure mental reasoning capabilities which can include numerical reasoning; verbal reasoning; comprehension/grammar; abstract, mechanical or spatial; information checking; and IQ. Depending on how you rank (or grade) on aptitude tests can determine whether you are more suitable for a certain type of role. Personality inventories reveal interests, motivations, emotional intelligence, values, attitudes and so forth. There is no right or wrong answer on personality inventories; responses are used primarily as a guide to determine suitability for the position and whether you are a good fit for the organisation.

The question is: is psychometric testing effective as part of the job selection process in sourcing the right candidate for the job? General consensus is yes. However, there are exceptions and let me share this experience with you. A good friend of mine was looking to change career direction from education to pharmaceutical sales. I developed her resume and she was subsequently called into interviews with three large global pharmaceutical companies in the capacity of a pharmaceutical sales representative in the Brisbane area. The process was lengthy (three hours all up), structured  and in three parts consisting of undergoing two behavioural-based interviews; conducting a 10 minute sales pitch; and completing 20-30 minutes of paper-based psychometric testing. She was subsequently placed in the top 3 final candidates, and was the second favoured applicant for one of the positions. Another applicant was offered (and accepted) this position, however, she only lasted four months in the role. My friend was contacted again by the recruitment agency (handling all the recruitment for this particular pharmaceutical company) to be offered the position as she was the second most preferred applicant. The first question she asked the recruiter was why the offer? Apparently, from the outset, the lady that accepted the position was confrontational and did not bond or get on well with staff and fellow team members. The very important question here is why was this not determined during the interview process orwith the psychometric testing? Surely this personality trait would have revealed itself in some form. When I assessed and analysed this particular situation, I wondered whether the interviewers actually assessed whether there was a rapport established with this candidate. Initial rapport says a lot and sells. I swear by this when interviewing. Unfortunately rapport is not something that can be ‘put into a box’ so to speak and assessed in a structured format; it’s either there or not, but must not be overlooked.

A certain recruiter who has been many years in the profession and HR industry and deals with high paying senior managers and executives recently revealed the need to change the manner in which the selection process and interviews are conducted. He believes they should steer away from a structured environment to a less formal one, initially at least. Specifically, he believes that when one initially ‘interviews’ a prospective candidate, it should be done in an informal and relaxed setting and manner, over a coffee away from an office environment and doing away with structured behavioural questioning! He also suggests that these type of meetings should take place more than once. The first step is in establishing rapport and getting to know the applicant and building from that. Conversation is free flowing and the quality of information that is imparted in this manner can reveal a lot about a prospective employee, both work and non-work related. I like this style ‘interviewing’, it’s my style and the way I like to get to know who I could potentially be working with.


Annie Cerone