Ask anyone over the age of forty what psychometric testing is and where they first learned about it, and you’re likely to get a handful of answers about IQ tests in schools. People under 40, however, will likely have a different answer: “Isn’t that the test I took when filling out an application for Best Buy or McDonald’s?”
This difference in perception across ages is due largely to a realization that occurred around the end of the last millennium – IQ tests, long the standard bearer for psychometric testing, is a very poor predictor of success. In fact, many recent studies have only cemented this idea, showing that people with a high IQ are no more or less likely to succeed than people with an average IQ. Instead, psychologists began focusing on emotional and practical intelligence, which proved to be much more accurate. Companies, especially ones with many low-skill and high-turnover employees, took notice, and anyone applying for a part-time summer job was suddenly introduced to psychometric testing.
Of course, there’s a world of difference between hiring a 17 year old to man a cash register and hiring a veteran industry professional to lead a division. As it turns out, though, the factors that cause people to succeed in those positions are very similar. Here are five lessons that we’ve learned through decades of helping companies implement these processes and how they can help in hiring and managing executive level employees.
1. Pre-interview Psychometric Assessments Save Money.
In fact, they can save a lot of money. When McDonald’s UK introduced psychometric testing to their application process, the company managed to save over a million pounds in annual hiring costs. The savings came mostly from restaurant managers not having to take time to interview applicants who were obviously a poor match. Now, granted, McDonald’s Northern Europe gets thousands of applications in every week, but then again, they also pay their restaurant managers much less than the kind of people that generally conduct interviews for senior management positions.
2. Psychometric Testing Should Be Hard…But Not Frustrating.
The best and the brightest in a field know what they, and their time is worth. To that end, they often dislike jumping through what are perceived to be arbitrary hoops. One need only go through social answers site Quora to find countless answer threads from high-level employees decrying the pointless and demeaning tasks that some companies make them perform during interviews. To avoid scaring off potential hires, and especially to avoid a social media PR nightmare, psychometric testing should be just thorough enough to fully evaluate a candidate, but not so long as to seem daunting and unnecessary.
3. The Right Psychometric Assessment Should Be Used.
Psychometrics is a living science – it grows and changes every year. Tests and assessments that were once the pinnacle of emotional IQ evaluation may have been supplanted by more rigorous and useful ones since you last looked at your hiring process. The IQ test is an excellent example – once it was in steady rotation in schools and workplaces as a way to identify the best candidates. These days, scientists know that it doesn’t really do that all that well, and have shifted focus to psychometric testing that evaluates emotional and practical intelligence.
4. Psychometric Testing Should Be Done Early In The Process.
One of the gravest pitfalls in using psychometric testing for hiring is waiting until too late in the process to have the candidate take the assessment. Testing early in the process allows HR to save a lot of time by weeding out bad candidates before they’re brought in for interviews (see above). It also allows the psychometric testing to be taken more seriously by the people doing the hiring – a few rounds of interviews can bias hiring managers towards employees, which can then lead them to disregard or downplay the results of psychometric testing. Candidates that are loved but that test poorly can be brought in, while candidates that are disliked but that test highly can be turned away. Either way, these biases can prove costly.
5. Psychometric Testing Is Not A One-Time Deal.
So you’ve tested all your applicants, hired the one that fit the best, and now you’re done, right? Not so fast. One of the great strengths of psychometric testing is that it not only tells you if a potential candidate is “good” or “bad”, it tells you why, too. Even the best candidates have weaknesses, and a good psychometric testing process will help you learn and understand them. This, in turn, gives you the opportunity to work with new hires to help them overcome those weaknesses and turn them into opportunities for growth. But without follow-up testing, you won’t ever know if the plan is working. Since one of the hallmarks of great employees is their growth in the company, it’s important to re-evaluate on a regular basis, to see if that growth is really happening, or if perhaps another round of hiring may be in order.