"Psych" stands for psychometric or psychological appraisal, and measures various aspects of a person’s character make-up. Generally, they are not enough in isolation. It really comes back to the whole process of hiring someone. The best way to describe the ideal is to think in “3D”. Consider the three general dimensions that make up a person – that is skills, personality and competency, and look to evaluate those dimensions effectively.
The key element is first to understand the requirements of the job. Any evaluation ideally needs to be done against a set of criteria or a benchmark – otherwise you may not recognise the right person. Secondly, a structured, competency based interview (asking for specific examples of relevant behaviour in previous jobs) is acknowledged as having the broadest “validity” or usefulness in the selection process.
There are tests for aptitude – i.e. how people are likely to perform, intelligence – critical reasoning and thinking, and personality – measuring characteristics and tendencies. Some of these tests take a long time to conduct, require a psychologist to administer them and are therefore not cheap. The tests should really only be used as a part of the overall process – they can be “coloured” – particularly the personality ones, if the candidate is smart and knows what the job requires they can actually bend their answers to suit. Having had an interview they have probably got an idea of the personality required and will adopt those traits more than usual. Although most tests can actually detect that, it is not failsafe. So to be really effective the tests must be used in conjunction with interviews and other checking mechanisms.
Apart from the one on one interview (which, if it is well run and planned, will tell you more than almost anything else) there is also:
- Screening of potential applicants – a lot of employer time can be wasted by not adequately screening out the unsuitables. Again, if the criteria are not clearly set out up front, the temptation might be to invite everyone who applies for interview, which can be a waste of time for all parties.
- Assessment centres – usually used in a junior management or high volume recruitment campaign, involving role plays, group activities and assessment as well as interviews. These can also combine a testing element and are ideal for getting the economies of scale.
- Background checking – many prospective employers are impressed with written references and are too busy to check further. All you can expect from a written reference is to confirm previous employment – don’t rely on references alone to give you a personality report. Professional qualifications can be verified by contacting the university to verify a degree or, or the association issuing professional qualifications.
- Skills testing – there are a range of literacy, numeracy, coding and data entry tests available on the market to ensure prospective candidates meet your technical skill requirements.
The ideal situation in which to conduct further testing would be when you are fairly sure of a candidate’s suitability having interviewed them. Alone, tests are less than sufficient data on which to base a recruitment decision – remembering the 3D approach, they are only one dimensional. However, If you use the tests in combination with all the other tools, or to confirm your thoughts and to establish how best to manage the candidate once on board, they can be an invaluable aid to long term recruitment success.