[cajobportal Insights] The anatomy of psychometric tests

The computer asks you how strongly you might agree or disagree with the statement

“I really like most people I meet” 

You quickly disagree and move on to dozens of further intrusions asking if you possess a vivid imagination, if you are a worrier, or if you tend to be cynical and sceptical about others’ intentions.

At different stages of the recruitment cycle, a lot of companies ask candidates to take a particular Psychometric Tests

But opinion is sharply divided on their efficacy

One school of thought believes that these tests are all about lying consistently and thus these tests can be manipulated. You only need to ensure that you don’t get caught on the metrics like “infrequency scales”

I guess, it is quite easy to spot “correct” answers. If the person taking the test knows what the employer wants, he can load the answers accordingly

Doing these tests is like doing exams. You have to know what the examiner wants and you get better with practice.

For advertising jobs, play up your creative side and for credit control, do the opposite. If you are a managers being tested for emotional intelligence, keep quiet about your inability to listen to anyone else’s opinion, your control freak tendencies and your bad temper.

Case in Point -1

So what if your potential CEO takes the famous MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and emerges as possessing the desirable ENTJ attributes of a natural born leader i.e.  Extraversion (E), Intuition (N), Thinking (T), Judgment (J).  And then goofs up on the work front.

In the year 2014, UK witnessed a major controversy when Paul Flowers rose to the Chairmanship of the Co-op Bank, inspite of an uninspiring banking career, because the Treasury Select Committee found him performing exceptionally well in the psychometric test. You had him being found wanting of the key attributes on the job front. Flowers was later forced to quit in ignominy over a £1.5 billion black hole in the Co-op’s balance sheet.

And media went berserk with headlines like “Bank chief passed the test then failed in his job” and causing people to compare psychometric testing to little more than a Victorian superstition.

Case in Point -2

In the UK, Carl Filer,  was offered a promotion by store chain B&Q, only to be sacked because he subsequently failed a psychometric personality test comprising of 50 MCQs

There are manifold examples like this and you only need a bit of Google search. There have been cases when pilots of Air India have cleared the simulator and technical exam before failing the psychometric test.


Psychologists argue that these tests cannot be used in isolation for assessment and a lot depends on the expert administering them

The fact of the matter is that if asked questions about their sense of humour, people who are genuinely funny, as rated by others, rather than themselves, tend to answer no, while people who are not funny tend to answer yes. If you take this at face value, you will have an inaccurate test.

Similarly tests should discreetly test a particular attribute e.g. assess creativity  using the statement “I take a different route to work everyday” instead of “I’m very creative”

And human beings, being the most complex than say, a fish, squirrel or robot, will always have an element of unpredictability when it comes to behavioral attributes.

Summing Up

So psychometric tests  should be one part of the selection process and an interview is essential to discuss findings and give feedback to the candidate.

They should be used with abundant caution – guess they are better suited to eliminate ‘bad hires’ than predict stars

What has been your experience?

Would love to hear from you