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Is psychometric testing still fit for purpose?

Thousands of HR leaders rely on personality tools to bring objectivity to their decisions. But does the science support their case or undermine it?


People Management | February 22, 2018



The CIO article, “Is psychometric testing still fit for purpose?" quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Anna Penfold and Senior Leadership Specialist Fiona Knight about the usefulness of data as a tool in making objective judgments. The article is excerpted below.

“He did very well in the psychometric tests.” The reason given for handing former Co-operative Bank chairman Paul Flowers his role ahead of more experienced candidates will be forever etched in the minds of those who heard it explained to MPs on the treasury select committee.

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Other data suggests that more than 75 per cent of The Times Best Companies to Work For and 80 per cent of Fortune 500 firms use them. “As a means of supporting talent development, their use is only going to grow,” predicts Anna Penfold of executive search company Russell Reynolds.  

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With unstructured interviews in particular being a notoriously unreliable predictor of success in a role, adding tests to the recruitment process can bring badly needed objectivity. As Fiona Knight, senior leadership specialist from Russell Reynolds’ leadership assessment and succession practice, says: “We are in the business of judging people, so using data is one way of strengthening the objectivity of that judgement.”

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Different tests have different purposes, and they must only be used as part of a suite of tools and HR practices. “Psychometrics need to be context-dependent,” says Knight. “No single tool should be used in isolation. It’s not about either/or. It’s over and above.” 

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“Psychometrics is not an exact science, it’s a social one,” says Knight. “It gives you evidence, but you have to look at other areas too. It can pull you back to your objectivity and strengthen your decision, but it can’t make the decision for you.” 

To read the full article, click here.

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Is psychometric testing still fit for purpose?