11 Problems with Psychometric Tests

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Just as any other great inventions of mankind, Psychometric Tests, also known as Aptitude Tests, often used in recruitment for early career roles, also have their disadvantages. This article outlines 11 potential drawbacks, so that you, whether a candidate or an employer, can be aware and make the most of their strengths.

Biases towards those who are familiar with the tests

Psychometric Tests are heavily in favour of those who have taken them before and are familiar with how they are scored. These might be from past experiences like school examinations, previous job applications or simply from regular practices. Anyone can certainly practice more often, however, that might just defeat the purpose of taking the tests altogether, especially in recruitment, which is to get the most truthful, objective picture of one’s current skills and innate traits.

Biases towards test-taking skills

Similar to the previous point, those with more experiences in test-taking as a skill, be it from educational or career background, are more likely to ace Psychometric Tests. With less effort and more confidence in their performance in exam conditions, they are one step ahead at getting selected to the next stage of the recruitment process, regardless of their suitability for the job. Therefore, the current designs of Psychometric Tests might actually cost employers great candidates right from the get go, for this reason.

Biases against some disabilities

Psychometric Tests, or Aptitude Tests, are usually completed online via a portal or with pen and paper at test centres. However, for most tests, whatever skills they assess, are only designed for those with no disability. Although employers do offer alternatives to ensure equal opportunities for everyone, this still means many candidates will still have difficulties with the general process, or the final results might be less consistent.

Limitations in terms of what can be assessed

Most commonly used Aptitude Tests include Numerical Reasoning Tests, Verbal Reasoning Tests, Diagrammatic Reasoning Tests or Situational Judgement Tests. As their names suggest, they measure, to a certain extent, one’s numeracy and literacy skills, logical thinking and behaviour in the workplace. However, creativity, communication, leadership skill and personality, extremely crucial characteristics of a valuable employee, cannot be assessed within a few standardised questions.

Limitations regarding its formatting

Despite having a number of variations in test formatting, most Psychometric Tests follow a structural formula: information, question and then response. This makes them accessible to a wider pool of candidates, but sometimes, being more playful and innovative with the structure of the tests, depending on industries and roles, might offer unexpectedly important insights, for instance, employers would receive not only candidate’s answers, but also observations of how they get to those responses.

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Limitations in its cultural reflections

Every country has a different expectations and approach to education, employment and tests or examinations in general. Some value certain skills and fields of knowledge over others, and have reinforced those throughout all levels of their education systems and cultural heritages. Therefore, in the time of globalisation, Psychometric Tests, despite being able to find those with exceptionally high scores in some aspects, might counter-intuitively hinder diversity, one of the keys to growth in organisations.

Limitations in attempting to measure human’s complexity

Humans are complex, and are way beyond numeracy and literacy skills, or how they say they would react to certain workplace situations in the types of Aptitude Tests mentioned earlier. These can be quickly learnt or drastically improved to adapt to new professional environments. It is the unquantifiable like personality, values and intelligence (there are multiple types of intelligence besides mathematical and linguistic ones) that determines the best fit for a position and for a team dynamic.

Irrelevance in some industries or job functions

Due to the limited number of skills, abilities and knowledge Psychometric Tests can assess, they become irrelevant in many industries and in fact, in many job functions within the industries that they are created for. As outlined in earlier points, in sectors or job roles where ‘softer human skills’ are required, or where works are highly collaborative and reliant on strong team dynamics, like the creative and media industries, this method of assessment might not be of much help in sourcing talents.

Irrelevance to many employers

Psychometric Tests are most often seen at the early stages of job applications for roles in larger companies, as they are deemed to be ‘efficient’ in screening the huge pool of applicants. However, this is debatable, as efficiency implies achieving both accuracy and speed, but besides making things quicker, Aptitude Tests inevitably cannot reflect one’s full potential and therefore, many smaller or medium-sized businesses still choose to meet candidates in person whenever possible.

Irrelevance to society’s development

Automation is on the rise, and technologies are growing more and more clever everyday, slowly replacing people, partially or sometimes entirely. Numeracy as well as literacy skills and with the invention of artificial intelligence, problem solving and decision making, can all be performed by machines in one way or another. Psychometric Tests, or Aptitude Tests, and what they aim to assess, are mostly no longer relevant in this day and age; thus, larger and more established employers might need to consider updating their hiring strategy so they are not left behind.

Irrelevance in modern workplaces

Much like dating, finding new team members in modern workplaces is no longer about hierarchy and candidates having to prove their worth to an organisation, but it is about the employer and potential employees getting to know each other as equals. Without these barriers between a company hiring and their pool of talents, better matches are found, better teams are built and therefore, better businesses are developed. This cannot be achieved solely by Psychometric Tests, or sometimes, even at all, as there is no human interaction here; and what is recruitment – a people centric process – without a personal touch to it?