The Beginner’s Guide to Psychometric Tests

Written by Sheu Quen

9 minute read

Ever hired someone who seemed like the perfect fit, only to regret it later? It’s a scenario all too familiar in the corporate world, but there’s a secret weapon to assist with hiring the right people for the right roles: psychometric testing. 

Far from being just another HR trend, psychometric tests offer a scientific approach to uncover the deeper behavioural traits and cognitive abilities of candidates—details often overlooked by resumes and traditional interviews. 

The Answer to Your Hiring Hurdles

A candidate you hired looked perfect in every way – Riley has an impressive resume, speaks with confidence, is charming, you know, they’re the whole package. But as soon as Riley steps into the role, disaster strikes. Oh no! Turns out, their skills were overstated, and their personality clashes with the team. 

If this sounds like you, fret not, there’s a way around this. It’s called psychometric tests

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. Incorporating psychometric tests can significantly reduce this risk by ensuring a more accurate match between the candidate’s abilities and personality, as well as the job requirements and company culture. 

The efficacy of psychometric testing is evidenced by its impact on various organisational metrics, including employee turnover rates, workplace efficiency, interpersonal relations, employee engagement, and motivation. (Minhaaj Rehman, 2012. Use of Psychometric Tests in The Process of Recruitment in Human Resource Management).

What are Psychometric Tests?

Psychometric tests are windows into your candidate’s mind – offering valuable insights beyond what a traditional interview or their impressive resume can reveal. They provide an objective and unbiased assessment of a candidate’s personality, behaviours, motivation, competencies, and intellectual abilities. 

Quite an ambitious goal, don’t you think? But it’s necessary when applied in recruitment. 

Understanding the Role of Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests operate on the principle of standardised measurement. They’re designed to be fair and unbiased, ensuring every candidate is evaluated on a level playing field. Here is a breakdown of when and where these tests are typically used: 

Pre-Selection Stage

In this stage, psychometric tests help in filtering the large volumes of applicants by identifying those who possess the basic cognitive abilities, technical skills, and personality traits necessary for the role. This stage involves general aptitude tests and personality questionnaires to ensure candidates meet the baseline requirements for the job. 

In-Depth Selection Stage

After the initial screening, psychometric tests are used to assess shortlisted candidates. These tests delve deeper into the candidates’ abilities, such as their reasoning skills, emotional intelligence, and specific competencies relevant to the job.  

This stage might involve more specialised tests tailored to the role, such as situational judgment tests (SJTs) or role-specific skill assessments, to predict how well candidates will perform in the job and fit into the company culture. 

Final Interview Stage

In this stage, psychometric test results are combined with interview observations and other assessment methods to make the final hiring decision. The insights can guide interviewers on which areas to probe further, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the candidate’s strengths and potential areas for development. 

Do Psychometric Tests Really Work?

The short answer? Yes, they do. Psychometric testing is a road most travelled for you and your HR teams.  

Reason 1: They assist you in hiring the right people for the right roles. 

A Harris Poll survey conducted online within the U.S. on behalf of CareerBuilder threw up some eye-opening stats: nearly three out of four employers have felt the burn of a bad hiring decision. We’re talking an average of nearly $15,000 for a bad hire, and if you lose someone who’s a great fit, that number doubles to almost $30,000. 

Reason 2: It’s not just for you, it’s for your employees as well. 

About two-thirds of workers have found themselves in a job that just didn’t click, with half of them heading for the exit within six months. It’s a tricky balance, but it’s clear that getting the hiring right matters a lot to everyone involved. 

Reason 3: You feel more confident using psychometrics. 

Employers have also admitted to feeling more confident when choosing candidates. One study even found that 75% of The Times’ Top 100 Companies were using psychometric tests alongside other tried and tested recruitment methods and tools! 

Reason 4: They help you figure out who has the skills and personality to excel. 

According to a meta-analysis of 85 studies conducted by Schmidt and Hunter, psychometric tests are among the most effective tools for predicting job performance. This means you can focus on bringing in the best without having to sift through a mountain of maybe’s. 

In a nutshell, these tests aren’t just about hiring; it’s also about making your current team even better by identifying where they can grow. 

A Closer Look at How Psychometric Tests Work

Now that you understand how important psychometric tests are, here’s an overview of how these tests work, including their timeline, question types, and the results you can expect. 


The duration varies depending on the type and depth of assessment required. Generally, they range from 15 minutes to an hour to complete. Tests that assess cognitive abilities or specific skills might be shorter, while comprehensive personality tests could take longer.  

Types of Questions 

Psychometric tests include a variety of question types, each designed to assess different aspects of a candidate’s abilities and personality: 

Cognitive Ability TestsThese tests aim to evaluate a candidate’s ability to process information, solve problems, and understand complex concepts. These tests come with a time limit that helps to evaluate how fast and accurate one can process the information and make decisions. 
Personality Questionnaires Personality assessments include statements where candidates indicate their level of agreement or disagreement, assessing traits like conscientiousness, extroversion, openness to experience, and emotional stability. 
Situational Judgment Tests (SJTs) These present candidates with hypothetical, job-related scenarios, asking them to choose the most effective course of action. SJTs assess a candidate’s judgment, problem-solving skills, and alignment with the company’s values. 

Expected Results 

Employers receive a detailed report of the test results, which may include: 

  • Scores and Rankings: You can compare the scores you get from psychometric tests against job benchmarks or average scores to determine suitability. 
  • Personality Profiles: These offer insights into how a candidate might fit within a team, their preferred working style, and potential areas for development. 
  • Behavioural Indicators: The results provided are indicators of how a candidate might react in specific job-related situations, offering a preview of their decision-making style and alignment with company culture. 

Remember Riley? You can use these results to make informed decisions about hiring Riley and other candidates and predict their job performance better, ultimately leading to more successful employment outcomes.  

Psychometric Tests: The Truth Behind the Myths

It is difficult to forget this line from the scene in the movie A Few Good Men starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, “You can’t handle the truth!” 

Some people might resist using psychometric tests, thinking they’re complicated and cumbersome. But when used correctly, psychometric tests are powerful tools for understanding a candidate’s strengths, gaps, and potential. It’s not about ‘handling’ the truth; it’s about understanding and using them to make better hiring decisions.

Myth 1: You say, “Psychometric tests are too expensive.” 

Honestly, not using them could really cost you. Think about it: if you’re paying someone $36,000 for their first year and they’re not the right fit, you’re basically tossing $9,000 out the window. 

That’s because, as the US Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights, hiring the wrong person could cost a company up to 30% of that employee’s first-year salary. And it’s not just about the money; the Harvard Business Review has shed light on how bad hiring decisions can lead to a whopping 80% of employee turnover

Using psychometric tests helps make sure you’re picking the right people for the job. The cost of a bad hire can be massive – ranging from 30% of their annual salary in the first year all the way up to 200 times that for top-level roles! When you look at it that way, the price of running psychometric tests seems like pocket change in comparison. 

Myth 2: You say, “All psychometric tests are the same.” 

It’s a common misconception that all psychometric tests are cut from the same cloth, but that’s far from the truth. Just like sneakers aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal, psychometric tests come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each designed to measure different facets of a candidate’s psyche and abilities. 

  • Personality tests dive into the traits and characteristics that define how a person interacts with the world around them. Think of it as getting a peek into someone’s behaviour, motivations, and preferences without having to follow them around with a notepad. 
  • Ability tests are all about measuring brainpower. These can range from verbal reasoning to numerical reasoning. They’re like the academic decathlon of the hiring process, testing how well one can think on their feet. 
  • Situational judgment tests are the choose-your-own-adventure books of the psychometric testing world. Candidates are put into hypothetical work scenarios and must make decisions that reveal their problem-solving skills and judgment. It’s a way to see how someone would fit into your team’s vibe and handle real-world challenges. 

Each test has its own purpose and strengths, and choosing the right mix can help ensure you’re not just filling a seat but bringing on someone who’ll thrive in their role and mesh well with your team’s culture. 

Myth 3: You say, “Psychometric tests are unreliable.” 

It’s crucial to understand that not all tests are created equal. The key lies in using tests that are scientifically developed and have been subjected to thorough reliability and validity testing. 

Leveraging these tools can significantly enhance the hiring process, leading to better hiring decisions and more successful teams. Rather than dismissing psychometric tests as unreliable, let’s talk about the reliability and validity that make them incredibly valuable. 

Reliability means that the tests consistently measure what they’re supposed to, time after time. 

  • Imagine taking a personality test today and again in a week. If the test is reliable, your results should be similar on both occasions, given your personality hasn’t undergone a drastic change overnight. 
  • This is achieved via standardised test development processes and rigorous statistical analysis to ensure consistency. 

Validity tackles a different question: Does the test measure what it claims to?

  • A valid psychometric test accurately assesses the traits, abilities, or skills it’s supposed to, making it a powerful predictor of job performance or fit. 
  • The validity is extensively researched, with evidence strongly supporting their effectiveness in predicting job-related outcomes. 

Why You Should Use Psychometric Tests

Are you not entertained? Sorry, we couldn’t resist quoting Maximus in the movie Gladiator. 

Psychometric tests offer a host of benefits for you as an employer. These tests provide objective insights into candidates’ abilities, personalities, and potential fit. At the same time, they streamline the recruitment process, saving time and resources while reducing turnover rates by ensuring candidates are well-suited to their roles. 

Still not convinced? Psychometric tests promote diversity and inclusion by mitigating unconscious bias and fostering fair evaluation practices.  

Unconscious biases often lurk in the shadows, shaping our decisions without us even realising it. Psychometric tests, endorsed by psychological associations, offer a clear pathway to mitigate these biases. They’re recognised as powerful tools for promoting equality in recruitment and underscores the importance of integrating these tests into hiring practices to uphold ethical standards and maximise organisational effectiveness. 

Key Takeaway

In today’s competitive job market, finding and retaining the right talent is more challenging than ever. That’s where psychometric tests come in. They leverage the power of science, data, and psychology, providing you with valuable insights into candidates’ capabilities and potential. So, the next time you’re faced with a stack of resumes, consider adding psychometric testing to your recruitment arsenal. Your future self – and your bottom line – will thank you. 

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