Knowledge Centre for recruitment

Profiling for Success

To test or not to test?

This article has been sponsored.

The Challenge

When people's judgements from job interviews, references, application forms or elsewhere are put under the microscope it can be disappointing and even shocking to see the inaccuracy involved. Many interviewers are beginning to recognise quite how poor their predictions are. For these and many other reasons, psychometric tests have become increasingly popular over recent years.

There are now literally thousands of tests available to the potential user. Sadly a great number of them are not particularly good at what they purport to do. And for the unwary, the ability to distinguish between good and bad is extremely difficult.

The challenges therefore are to be able to:

  • know how to select the most appropriate test
  • administer it accurately and ethically
  • integrate the results practically and carefully
  • give feedback about the results in a way that helps the individual and is also seen to be fair.

Dangers of Psychometric Testing

As tests get used more widely the dangers of misuse will grow. Some of the criticisms of bad tests or bad usage of tests might be:

  • a poorly constructed test that doesn't really measure what it is supposed to
  • well constructed test but poorly administered so that the results are suspect
  • results taken as more accurate, definite and fixed than they really are
  • results compared with an inappropriate group which makes the performance appear better or worse than it really is
  • inadequate understanding of how different groups of people give different results on tests (e.g. male/female)

However, one of the most important areas of concern in testing is to do with ETHICS. When people invest and disclose a part of themselves in doing tests there is the question of to whom the results belong? There is a code of conduct for testers laid down by the British Psychological Society (BPS), and part of this code is that people should receive feedback on their results. Failure to provide feedback often develops very negative attitudes towards tests.

Standards of test use

In fact the BPS has now established a Register of Test Users. To get on the register you need to have had adequate training and to have been assessed as competent. You will then be issued with the BPS Certificate of Competence in Occupational Testing. This is a qualification for using Ability Tests.

You will need further training to learn to use a particular personality questionnaire.

Training to use tests

To be qualified to use tests you do not need to be a Chartered Psychologist but you do need to be fully trained. This is most commonly done through attendance at a training course, often run by a Chartered Psychologist, who will need to observe you administering tests, giving feedback, using statistical concepts and writing reports.

The following checklist may help you to establish whether the training will fulfil your needs.

1. The right course : Is there enough literature to evaluate which course you should attend before you begin?

2. Credentials : Is the course and the assessment carried out accredited by the BPS?

3. Materials : Is there a course pack and course notes? Do you get hands-on use of tests?

4. Staffing ratios : How many people are there on a typical course, and how many tutors?

5. Supervision of testing : Are there practical test administration sessions which are supervised?

6. Supervision of feedback : Is feedback of test results given under supervision from a tutor?

7. Post course supervision : Is there any continued learning and supervision after the course?

8. Test variety and evaluation : Is there a range of tests presented from different publishers; are tests critically compared and evaluated by people independent from the publisher?


Test usage has increased and their usage is likely to continue. Used well they are valuable sources of information which are not easily obtained by other methods. Used badly, tests are either unnecessary or even harmful. In selection, the right tests are at least as effective and often more effective than most other methods. In addition, the greatest growth has come in the use of personality questionnaires with the development of people in mind.

Good use is being encouraged by training to standards established by the BPS. Registered Test Users develop the skill to choose the right tests and use them appropriately. When this is done tests are valuable.

Roy Childs, Managing Director, Team Focus

Site Sponsors