7 psychometric testing myths

7 psychometric testing myths stopping you from creating high-performing teams

Is your organisation one of the 100’s across the UK that uses psychometric testing or talent assessment tools to help hire, develop and promote the right people?

Or are you still sceptical about using a ‘tool’ to help you make decisions about your employees?

If you are sceptical, you’re certainly not alone.

But would it help you to know that over 70% of the Times 100 companies in the UK are currently using some kind of psychometric test, talent assessment, or talent analytics tool, to improve the way they manage the people in their business?

In fact, according to Bersin, 70% of organisations across the world are using assessments to measure skills, behaviours, cognitive ability and other workforce data.

Yet, despite this, and the fact that psychometric testing and personality profiling tests have been used successfully in major organisations since the 1940’s to:

  • Attract and hire the most suitable people for a given role
  • Put together highly-effective, behaviourally diverse teams
  • Benchmark and measure success criteria for high-level positions
  • Develop people according to their strengths and natural abilities
  • Improve management and leadership capabilities with reliable data

…there still remains huge concerns from HR professionals and managers, about the credibility, reliability, and practical application of psychometric testing.

Do You Believe The Psychometric Testing Myths?

Of course, there’s a huge amount of information available across the Internet on the use of psychometric tools and assessments in business.

Yet, as with so many things, a lot of this information is incorrect and outdated and simply does not give a true picture of the value of using science-based assessment tools to predict human behaviour and make more informed people decisions within an organisation.

Unfortunately, it’s this misinformation about psychometrics in business which can often hold HR managers and business owners back from taking advantage of these kinds of tools.

As a result, many HR professionals and senior managers struggle to ‘buy in’ to the concept of using psychometric assessment data to supplement their own judgment when it comes to managing their people and developing their teams more effectively.

In fact, according to a survey carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 55% of respondents are sceptical about whether the use of talent analytics can make a tangible difference to the HR function.

So what’s the reason behind this scepticism?

Why are there so many smart HR professionals and senior managers who still can’t see the value in supplementing their own judgment with evidence-based assessment tools?

Well, the answer could lie in the many myths and untruths that surround psychometric testing and the use of personality assessments in business.

The thing about myths is that no one really knows whether they are true or not.

Myths are repeated and told again and again and passed from person to person, with very little regard for whether or not they contain actual facts or simply made up legends.

“We all see the little tests that are published occasionally in the Sunday magazine sections. The results don’t seem to have much meaning… and actually they don’t. These tests are toys. They make interesting conversation . . . but they are not to be confused with the many carefully developed tests that are available to business today.” – Arnold Daniels, Creator of Predictive Index

So let’s bust a few of them right now:

7 Psychometric Testing Myths…Busted!

1.     “The Results Are Unreliable & Usually Generalised”

Contrary to what many people think about psychometric tests, they are proven to be far more reliable and valid for recruitment, development, and promotion decisions, than human judgement.

What we don’t often realise, is that our own subjective opinions are based on deep-seated cognitive biases, and that these biases massively distort our view of other people.

On the other hand, a good psychometric tool is carefully tested, standardised, and then scrutinised for its validity and reliability in assessing the criteria it’s supposed to.

In the UK, reliable psychometric assessment tools are scrutinised by the BPA, and by the APA with tools of American origin.

The fact is, creators of psychometric tools use sophisticated scientific methods to search for test bias and eliminate it – which is far more than the average human being does with their own opinions, viewpoints and perceptions!

As far as generalisations go, we also need to remember that the human mind is far, far more skilled at generalising what it sees than any tried and tested psychometric tool.

What’s important here is that you understand exactly WHAT the tool is measuring and HOW you can best interpret those results to supplement your own judgment.

2.     “They Pigeonhole People Unnecessarily”

It’s certainly true that there are many psychometric tests and personality assessments on the market that are based around allocating one very specific label, type, or even colour to a person, based on their results.

That’s the nature of typology based psychometric tools.

It’s no wonder then, that people often feel pigeonholed and “put into a box” when they hear that the infinitely complex nature of their personality has been squashed down into one small, simple descriptor…it simply can’t be done!

Yet, not all psychometric tools are typology based. In fact, those tools which work on ‘behavioural preferences’ as opposed to ‘fixed typologies’, are often far better at giving a deeper, more accurate picture of a person.

On top of that, it’s vital to remember that psychometric tools really only give an insight into a very small aspects of the human personality, and that the ‘pigeonholing effect’ often comes from the human interpretation of the results, as opposed to being caused by the tool itself.

3.     “They Take A Long Time For Candidates To Complete”

Anyone who has applied for a number of jobs in the past has most certainly experienced taking a clunky, long-winded, and time-consuming psychometric assessment…and has probably hated it.

You know the kinds of tests we’re talking about… 10 pages of questions, repetitious multiple-choice answers, and an hour and a half of your life that you will never get back.

Yet the truth is, not all psychometric tests and personality assessments are like this.

In fact, some of the most widely used personality and behavioural assessment tools take less than five minutes to complete…

…Usually because they are not based on answering reams and reams of questions, but are actually ‘stimulus-response’ assessments, which are far quicker to complete, and far less cumbersome for candidates and employees.

The great thing about these kinds of psychometric assessments, is that they are relatively friction free and surprisingly ‘easy’ for the person taking them, and this can actually positively contribute to the application experience.

4.      “You Have To Be A Trained Psychologist To Use Them”

Nowadays, this is simply untrue…you do NOT have to be a trained psychologist to get huge value from using psychometrics within your business!

Most modern psychometric assessment providers offer either personal consultations to interpret results for you, or offer certification training programs in which you are trained to learn and master the methodology and the science behind the tool.

During these training programs, you learn the skills and the knowledge that you need to be able to interpret the results of a psychometric assessment with confidence and with expertise…

…And you certainly don’t need a degree in psychology to be able to do this!

On top of that, any modern company that provides psychometric assessment tools, should be able to provide you with an online system, which administers and evaluates the assessment for you.

5.     “Assessments Are Easily Manipulated”

There’s no doubt that some psychometric tools are more prone to being manipulated by the person being assessed, yet most aren’t.

In some cases, it’s entirely possible to ‘skew’ the results of an assessment (just don’t tell the truth), yet it is rarely possible to manipulate a psychometric in order to ‘define’ a specific outcome or result.

With some personality assessments, it is possible that candidates will attempt to give an unrealistically positive impression of themselves, by giving answers or choosing options which they believe will lead to their desired outcome…

…But if the tool is fit for purpose, then there will be mechanisms within the assessment that can recognise this attempt at manipulation.

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6.     “Psychometric Tools Aren’t Worth The Investment”

This is one of the big complaints about using psychometric assessments in business… Yet it usually comes from those people who do not realise the huge costs that are involved in making people management decisions.

The cost of hiring the wrong person for your business can often be up to 5 times that person’s annual salary.

The cost of losing valuable employees (usually because you were not able to give them what they needed to be successful) is also astronomical in terms of lost productivity, lost revenue, damaged reputation, and a drop in team morale.

So then the question must be asked… How much would we pay to prevent this wastage from ever happening? Because this is exactly what psychometric assessments and the data from those tools can do for your business.

Whether the assessment you choose is done on a ‘pay-per-use’ basis, or whether it is based on an annual licence fee…these costs are seldom as high as losing and then replacing one of your top performers, or having to constantly battle with the costs involved in perpetual staff turnover.

7.     “They Are Only Useful For Recruitment & Selection”

This is a golden oldie, and it still rings true for many HR departments. Traditionally, psychometric testing may well be used solely for recruitment and selection, yet things have changed drastically within modern organisations in this respect.

And it’s this myth which hampers the use of talent assessment data and psychometric data by senior managers and business owners, because they assume that this is the realm of HR only.

The fact is, though, that the information gained from a personality assessment, a behavioural assessment, or a competency assessment, has huge value when it comes to developing talent, building highly effective teams, and reducing employee turnover and creating a more productive working environment for each individual.

You see, although psychometric insights are hugely important when selecting new employees, they can also be funnelled down to managers who can then use these insights for onboarding, team development, performance management and conflict resolution.

In fact, by limiting the use of psychometric data to recruitment and selection only, your organisation could be missing the opportunity to build a more productive and engaged workforce on the back of the valuable insights that psychometric tools can bring.

Why use psychometric testing in business?

So now that we’ve busted some of the most common psychometric testing myths, it should be a little clearer to you that these tools have the potential to drastically improve the way that you manage your people and teams.

Put simply, psychometric assessments help you to come as close as possible to getting each of your employees into the job which he/she can do best…

…and then to fully utilise their natural potential to achieve success within their role.

With the current trend moving towards greater usage of big data within human resources, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the organisations who collect and then leverage information from psychometric tests and talent assessments have far more success in developing their employees and retaining their top performers for longer.

Just ask Google.

So why allow a few unsubstantiated myths hold you back from taking advantage of these powerful tools?

Is it the name “psychometric” that puts you off?

Have you had bad experiences with these tools in the past?

Please share your thoughts and experiences on the comments section below this article, and let us know if you have any other “psychometric testing myths” that you’d like us to bust!

1 Comment

  • GW

    December 6, 2015

    I have confidence that psychometric tests are valid and helpful. I have used them to assess myself and others and found them to be quite consistent even between different types of tests. They each give us a look into ourselves from different windows.

    The tests give us insights into how we understand our world and react to it. The danger is that people take a test and find out what they do well and think they are not capable of doing the things in which they scored low. What I have learned is that the tests help us understand how we have learned to go about our daily lives. Because we have grown comfortable in those ways, we tend to do them over and over again. It’s not that we cannot do otherwise; we would simply rather do what is comfortable and known.

    I realize I am not locked into the label the test has put on me. I can now decide if I want to work on other ways of understanding and experiencing my world. In other words, learning and growing.