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Using aptitude tests in recruitment
Aptitude testing is one of the most proven ways to increase your hiring success rates.
The Civil Service, the Armed Forces and many 'blue-chip' companies routinely use them during rigorous selection procedures.
What is aptitude testing?
Aptitude testing takes many forms. It is the generic name given to any assessment which tests ability in a given task. This could be something general, such as maths or scheduling proficiency, or it could be something specific to the skill set needed for a particular job.
Most employers will use some form of aptitude testing during the recruitment process. However, not everyone refers to 'aptitude testing'. You might choose to say, 'there will be a series of tests before the interview,' refer to 'knowledge tests' or 'taking a psychometric test'.
Benefits of aptitude testing candidates
Aptitude testing is designed to show strengths and weaknesses. Because all candidates will take the same test, it is easy to perform trend analysis on the results to see how closely each person matches the company's 'ideal employee'.
In many tests, the questions are deliberately designed to be challenging. This is intentional, as the whole point of aptitude testing is to test the candidates on a wide variety of life skills not directly related to the workplace at first sight. These include mathematical and ethical problem-solving, teamwork, logical testing, comprehension, and composition abilities.
However, when taken as a whole, the combination of interview and aptitude testing offers an in-depth perception of how a candidate is likely to behave and whether they will be a good match for your organisation.
The chosen selection of tests must be relevant to the available vacancy so that the results can be correctly interpreted. These days there are many specialist test providers who operate tailored tests available online. This means you can ask your candidates to sit the tests in advance and have the results available during the interview. This approach helps you gain a better overall understanding of your candidates before they even reach the interview room, and it also saves time for both sides on the day.
The downside is that many applicants become flustered and overly concerned with these tests, spending too long worrying about the 'right' answer to the multiple-choice questions where there is no obvious right or wrong response.
Types of aptitude testing
There are many different types of aptitude tests to suit every specialist field. These are generally divided into nine categories designed to test judgement and reasoning:
- Workplace situations to test team working and reaction
- In-tray exercises to test prioritisation
- Numerical reasoning to test a candidate's ability with numbers
- Diagrammatic reasoning tests their logical skills
- Verbal reasoning to test understanding - these are often multiple-choice questions
- Error checking tests show comprehension and ability to spot factual information from fake
- Spatial awareness tests offer a chance to test applicants on their mental manipulation of images.
- Personality tests have 'no right or wrong answer' but are still cunningly designed to highlight the required personality traits to succeed
- Cognitive ability tests cover anything else not already tested
The questions are in a variety of formats designed to test a candidate's all-round abilities. There are sample questions and tests available online, but you should assume no prior knowledge on the part of the candidate.
The tests, which are usually timed for every question, can be taken on paper or electronically. Sometimes they are completed in a 'classroom environment' and sometimes from home. They often feature multiple-choice questions or options with no hard and fast 'correct' answer. Sometimes, this catches the applicant out, for an aptitude test is not a quiz show.
How to help put candidates at ease
In our extensive experience helping our clients introduce psychometrics into their recruitment process, we have found that communication and support are imperative.
Candidates should be fully informed of why they are taking the test that you have requested, what you are going to use the data for, how it will be shared amongst your peers, how this information is going to be stored in the future and how it could be used for their personal development.
All candidates should be talked through the process, be given access to help and advice sheets and ideally have the opportunity to undertake some test questions. It is imperative to reiterate that 'understanding what's required is not part of the test', so invite them to ask questions to help put them at ease.
Put their minds at ease by reiterating that most tests are quite simple; there are just many questions in a short space of time. The most common psychometric aptitude test in the UK are designed at an English and Maths level of a Key Stage 2 student in the UK (or aged between 8 and 11 years old).
It is also essential to encourage the candidates to do their best and not be despondent if they only answer a few questions in the time allowed. Most tests look for both speed and accuracy, so an applicant who answers just ten questions but all of them correctly will score higher than one that answered twenty but only ten correctly. Make sense?
Finally, your test provider will provide advice on how to check whether candidates have any learning difficulties that could impair their performance. They'll also talk you through the additional provisions you should take to ensure that your process is fair. For instance, this could be providing access to a calculator in numerical reasoning or additional time in verbal reasoning.
How aptitude tests are evaluated
Evaluation of the overall score in a series of aptitude tests is usually by percentage. Every answer has a score, and the results can then be compared with an 'ideal' score against others sitting the same set of tests.
Specialist providers will use words and phrases such as 'raw score', 'bell curve', 'mean and standard deviation'. Put simply; these are ways of evaluating answers which show how close to the average answer your candidate has scored. The closer to the average (or to the scores of your current best-performing employees) the scores are, the better unless you're looking for someone to shake up the team and inject a different viewpoint.
Aptitude tests may not be popular with applicants but, suitably produced and administered, they are still one of the best ways of 'getting under the skin' of your candidates to find out their core skills, natural abilities, development areas and their propensity to be trained.
The golden rules of aptitude testing
The aptitude tests that you use must be designed for the type of staff you are looking to hire, and the validation data that supports the science behind the test is relevant to the country where you are hiring.
Although costly, we strongly recommend that you use an established psychometric provider that has been trained to administer the psychometric tools that they offer. To protect yourself, you should ask to see the validation data that created the test before you introduce it into your recruitment process. If this cannot be provided, it could be no better than the provider's opinion, or at best a 'Cosmo poll'.
Psychometric Aptitude Testing isn't cheap, and you should expect to pay anything from £100 to £500 per applicant for highly validated psychometric products. However, the benefits of using a recognised provider are huge as; if the facilitator is suitably qualified and the tests are administered correctly, you will be protected against any potential discrimination claims.
Aaron Wallis works with the leading psychometric providers in the UK and is qualified to administer the majority of commercially available psychometrics. If you'd like to chat it through or for more information, contact Rob Scott on 01908 061400.
Published: 1st January 2022
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by Rob Scott
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