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Careers - A head start for new workers

Are you drawn to overtones or fundamentals? Are you 'ideational' or sensible? If you care about the answers to these queries, you are probably sitting a psychometric test as part of an application for a job.

Psychometric tests can be designed to investigate four areas of a person’s make-up: aptitude; interests and values; personality; and team roles. They are designed to discover their capacity to perform in varying situations and with other team members. The Keirsey test, which is employed by many US companies, assigns characteristics such as ‘idealist’, ‘guardian’ or ‘artisan’ to potential job applicants and assesses how well they would fit into a particular company environment.

As kooky and way-out as such tests may at first seem, psychometrics is a growing part of the recruitment process in the UK. Latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Annual Recruitment Survey suggest that 54% of recruitment professionals employ general ability tests, 45% employ literacy and numeracy tests, and 41% use personality questionnaires.

Specialist career consultants such as Hogg Robinson Skillbase routinely apply psychometrics as a part of the recruitment process. Margaret Martin, managing counsellor for Skillbase, says: “Tests have to be used in conjunction with interviews. Sometimes candidates are extremely good at being interviewed, but they might not have all the skills required. For example, if a job requires you to be very numerate, a candidate may claim to be so, but only tests will check out the truth of such aspects.”

Test of abilities, such as numeracy and literacy, are particularly widespread when recruiting graduate trainees and young professionals. Personality testing comes into its own when boardroom and senior management positions are at stake. “You can take things like numeracy as read when hiring senior people. But personality testing is useful to establish whether a candidate will get on with other board members,” says Martin.

Moreover, psychometric testing is becoming more readily available to businesses by shedding the flipchart and cheap-suited image of yesteryear as it becomes available online – on the internet and on intranets.

CIPD figures reveal that 12% of HR professionals offer some sort of self-selection questionnaire on their company website, and a few (3%) administer psychometric tests directly via the internet.

“There are a number of companies starting to develop online tests,” says Martin. “We work with companies such as Thomas, which has a test called PPA, and we carry that on our current web-based career management system.

We started using online tests for people who had been made redundant, through recruitment companies online and the DSS. But we are finding now that business actually wants a product for current employees and self-assessment through company intranets,” she says.

One barrier to the widespread of use of psychometrics via the internet is the lack of control in web-based products. Imogen Daniels, advisor at CIPD feels that, although e-recruitment benefits from psychometrics, you have to consider how appropriate it is for your business. “Recruiters have voiced concerns about security and confidentiality and also about the lack of qualified testers to explain how online testing should applied,” she says. “And some messages are lost in electronic communication. You need face-to-face contact.”

The numbers of unaccredited tests, and the lack of qualified administrators is another concern. “Psychometric testing has a role to play in the recruitment process, but with the obvious caveat that it is administrated properly and undertaken by professionals,” says Daniels.

Skillbase’s Martin holds level A and B British Psychological Society qualifications. This means she can run ability tests and personality profiles.

But she is worried about the growth in rogue psychometrics. “Although the BPS tries to keep tabs, there are an increasing number of psychometrics entering the marketplace. The problems come when you try to find out how they’re validated,” she says.

For further information contact CIPD ( or the British Psychological Society (

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