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The Benefits of Psychometrics and Skills Testing in Recruitment

Sales recruitment isn't cheap, yet it's been calculated that a 'wrong hire' costs between 1.75 and 3.75 times the price of the employee's annual salary.  

Poorly made selection decisions can result in lost opportunity, further recruitment costs, extended training and redeployment costs, reduced profile, loss of competitive advantage, damage to image reputation and corporate branding and most importantly, the impact on your other team players.  

Often the 'wrong hire' is caused by a failure in the recruitment process, so it is imperative that you use all of the tools at your disposal to plan and get it right the first time.

Current State of Play

The number of people qualified to administer psychometrics continues to grow as more people obtain certification of competence and qualifications such as the British Psychological Society Level 'A' and Level 'B'.

The availability and accessibility of tests on the Internet and through software have increased absurdly over the past few decades. People can now easily be tested anywhere in the world - however, there are a series of issues that must be considered:

    • Employers might only consider applicants that have achieved the highest test scores, although those with greater modest abilities may be more appropriate for the job.

    • There is a risk of cheating using online testing whereby the candidate selects another to undertake the test, or indeed use iPhones, blackberry or the Internet to aid their case (though the major test providers having researched this feel that it is as low as 5%).

    • Confidentiality around the test results must be paramount and must not be used for any other purpose and, indeed, should be held securely to conform to data protection legislation.

    • Psychometrics should be undertaken in the 'mother tongue' of the person taking the test.

'Fundamental' Part of Recruitment

Psychometric, numerical and verbal reasoning testing is an exceptionally useful aid for recruitment that is increasingly seen as an advantageous way of getting a good 'corporate fit' with new recruits.

Good testing should have standardized methods of administration and scoring so results can be quantified and compared with what others have achieved under the same conditions on the same tests (known as norm groups).

Personality Questionnaires: To Measure or Not to Measure, that is the question?

In theory, psychometric questionnaires or personality questionnaires should be used as a pre-interview measure to help you as an employer to be able to highlight focal points that the candidate should be questioned on during the interview. They can even help to offer trigger questions to be used in a follow-up interview - e.g. someone may appear to be a good networker, but their attention to detail might appear to be lacking. As the interviewer, this gives you an area on which to focus your interview questions upon.

In contrast (depending on the nature of the sales vacancy that you are looking to fill), some employers have a greater preference upon going through the first interview process initially and then using the psychometric questionnaire to confirm their impressions and perceptions and to plan and prepare questions before the second interview.

The combination of competency-based interviews and objective assessment techniques (such as personality or psychometric questionnaires) is often the best way of predicting an individual's suitability for a job. However, it should never be forgotten that traditional 'tried and tested' recruitment tools such as interviewing and probing the candidate, talking to references, intuition, and 'gut feeling' are still as valid and important as psychometric methods.

Some may further argue that testing before interviewing can result in a biased judgement by the interviewer. It can be validly argued that taking a personality questionnaire at the end of the process, where it influences a hiring decision, is not recommended use.  

Therefore, personality questionnaires should be used as part of the recruitment process and not the recruitment process!

European Union Legislation

The influence of European Union Legislation could possibly increase the implications and outcomes that are yet unclear. Currently, membership of the European community allows free movement of labour within the Union. If workers from other EU countries with a different mother tongue or educational standard are required to take tests, this may be viewed as a barrier to the free movement of labour within the EU.

Proof Of Achievements And Goals, Aren't These Of Greater Value?

Some individuals' ability to perform well under pressure during testing is significantly reduced, where test scores do not hold true or match up to their full capabilities. Naturally, we all have personal strengths and weaknesses, and testing procedures cannot often measure these.

However, a greater understanding of the candidate may be determined more competently through analysis and reflection of the candidate's previous sales achievements and accomplishments.

Testing Means Nothing Without The Personal Touch

Yes, whilst psychometrics have a valuable role to play, they are most effective when used in conjunction with a competency and biographical interview alongside other exercises to give you a greater insight into the characteristics of the candidate - case studies, team exercises, in-box exercises, etc.

Dangers to be Aware of!

Although there are a significant amount of potential benefits involved in testing, there are eight areas of concern that have been identified:

The Design

    • Online tests must be tested to ensure that it formats to the same design on the majority of system set-ups and common browsers. Often this means using low-resolution colours and small screen sizes, and the major test providers will have done this for you. 

Appropriate or not?

    • Appropriateness of the test content may be regarded as inappropriate, too complicated, or irrelevant. For instance, testing an individual's knowledge of JavaScript would probably be irrelevant for a person seeking employment in telesales for an insurance company.

Discrimination

    • The test may be unfair to some candidates due to their sex, disability, race and age. Direct discrimination is always apparent and always illegal; however, indirect discrimination is not always as clear to see. For instance, testing in Imperial Measures could indirectly discriminate against younger candidates and testing in English homonym usage could discriminate against an individual whose 'mother tongue' is not English. 

Compare It To The Rest

    • Tests may be scored incorrectly or become invalid if compared against the wrong 'norm group', for example, comparing the results for a graduate entry role on a 'management norm group' rather than a 'graduate norm group.'

Validation is Everything

    • A good test provider should be able to prove how the tests offered were designed and validated. A good personality questionnaire should be validated against at least 1,000 plus individuals from the whole range of the working population. This means that they're not cheap but don't be tempted by cheap 'cosmo polls' that will do little to increase your hiring accuracy.

Don't Stop Listing to Your Gut Feeling

    • Adding psychometrics to your recruitment process will make you a more effective recruiter with solid sales staff. However, psychometrics should form part of the decision-making process and not the decision process. You were given your gut instinct for a reason, and how many times has it served you well! Even if a candidate does brilliantly in all of your tests, if your 'gut' says 'no', then it's probably right! Adopting science into your sales recruitment process is right but don't be too blinded by the science!

To Conclude

Psychometric testing is now a fundamental part of recruitment and is used by over half of the employers in the UK. No longer a pseudo-science, highly validated psychometrics will provide a valuable insight into the potential of new employees and can lessen your hiring risk.  

It may add a few hundred pounds to your recruitment process but could save you tens of thousands of pounds together with a negative impact on your brand, ill-feeling within your team and just general angst!

Why take the risk of not adopting personality questionnaires, psychometric and skills testing into your sales recruitment process in the long run?

Aaron Wallis provide candidate personality questionnaires and psychometrics such as verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning and analytical reasoning as part of their standard recruitment process. For more information on how we can help to increase your hiring success rates, please call 01908 061400 or visit https://www.aaronwallis.co.uk/employers/

Date published: 5th March 2024

Rob Scott, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, Author Photo

About the author

Rob Scott

Rob is the Managing Director of Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment, a national recruitment agency specialising in sourcing sales and marketing staff for businesses across a broad range of commercial sectors. Before setting up Aaron Wallis, Rob spent ten years at a specialist Sales and Marketing recruitment division of a £0.5BN recruitment group, leaving in 2007 as Marketing & Sales Director to establish Aaron Wallis.
 
With over 24 years of experience in sales recruitment, Rob is a History graduate with an MBA (Merit) and a PgCert in Management Practice.  In 2007, 2009 and 2013 Rob conducted the most extensive surveys of sales professionals in the UK and is a trusted authority in the sales industry. From guiding employers through the recruitment process to helping candidates find their dream job, Rob's advice has been quoted in leading publications such as Business Insider and The Independent, as well as OnRec, which host The Online Recruitment Awards every year.

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Generally good standard of candidates. Especially liked the personality profile. Overall good value for money and will certainly use you again.

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Director, Education Support

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Managing Director, JARK Healthcare Recruitment

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Director, Waste Managed Ltd

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Sales Manager, TR Fasteners

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Rob’s knowledge of the recruitment industry and his thoughts and how to make it better for his clients have always been eye opening. I would recommend Rob to anybody who is looking for a professional, knowledgeable and flexible recruitment specialist.

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L. Knowles, Candidate

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