6 simple ways to increase buy-in for psychometric testing – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part series of posts. Make sure you come back for the second instalment next week!

What do you do when you’re trying to implement psychometric tests, but you’re meeting resistance from hiring managers or people who don’t believe they’re useful?

You’ve done your homework and decided on a psychometric testing provider.

You know that introducing assessments will increase the fairness and validity of your recruitment process. You’re confident that they’ll help you identify a better calibre of candidate and get a more robust understanding of each person’s capabilities before you make the risky decision of bringing them on board.

You know that assessments will actually help you to increase the diversity of your new hires, since they’ll remove bias from the equation and focus solely on the aptitude, abilities and characteristics of each candidate and not factors that lurk below our consciousness and influence our decision-making processes.

And you’re confident that painstakingly researched and validated psychometric assessments do what it says on the packet – they will actually help you accurately and reliably identify people who are more likely to be top performers, be engaged with your organisation and its values, have the right kind of personality and behavioural preferences for the role and team they’ll be working in, and the skills needed to perform well.

So, why is it sometimes so incredibly hard to convince the rest of your organisation that assessments are not only worthwhile, but will also lead to positive outcomes and a solid ROI?

Why people don’t buy in to psychometrics?

In my experience working with hundreds of organisations to introduce more rigour and science to their recruitment process, we’ve come up against this issue many times. And it usually boils down to one of six reasons:

• They don’t believe that tests actually work – that is, do a better job of identifying the best people than they themselves can
• They don’t believe the tests will improve the quality of candidates they hire and bring about actual, tangible ROI
• They think gut instinct is as good – if not better – than a psychometric assessment
• They don’t understand how the tests actually apply to real-world situations
• They think candidates will cheat or fake their responses
• They think it’s a turn-off for candidates.

There are some very simple responses to all of these objections. Let’s take a look at each of the objections in turn and how you might address them to get the buy-in you need to improve your recruitment processes.

1. The tests don’t actually work

This one usually comes about when people have seen other poorly-developed tests online and think that the same sloppy methodology applies to all types of recruitment assessment.

The fact is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Developing a properly researched, robust and reliable psychometric testing tool takes years of development and needs to pass through an extremely stringent validation process to prove that they actually predict the kinds of outcomes they say they do.

As an example, the makers of a valid cognitive ability test must be able to demonstrate that it actually predicts a candidate’s future performance at work.

In 1999, two men called Frank Schmidt and Jack Hunter looked at over 32,000 job applicants over 85 years, across 500 different jobs.

They examined 19 different selection methods to see which ones were most accurate at predicting performance at work and found that work sample tests (actually having someone perform the job) were the best way to predict how a person would perform once they were hired. Obviously, this really isn’t practical: it takes a long time to clearly see how a person will perform and you can’t ask each and every applicant to work for free for a few weeks to accurately gauge their performance.

When they added cognitive ability tests (which are short, easy to administer, usually available online) to the mix, they found this:

Cognitive ability assessments combined with a structured interview is the simplest, fastest and most cost-effective way to predict how someone is actually going to perform once they’re hired.

This finding held true over all of their 85 years of research and still to holds up today, even after strenuous investigation.

At Revelian, we’ve conducted our own research and found that cognitive ability tests have clearly predicted not only performance but also tenure and likelihood of being promoted.

And it’s not just cognitive ability tests that have a strong predictive validity (that is, they actually predict real-world outcomes), which brings me to the next point…

2. The tests don’t bring about actual, tangible ROI

We often hear this one from the C-suite, in particular, the numbers people. And at the end of the day, this is the criteria any recruitment process needs to fulfil: is it actually going to benefit the business and bring about tangible improvements we can measure?

Our CFO wrote a great blog earlier this year about selling your HR initiatives to the C-suite, which talks about stepping into the shoes of the people you need to convince and seeing things from their perspective. In this case, it means showing clearly the kind of Return on Investment you’ll get from implementing psychometric assessments and how long it will take to pay back the investment and we’ve put together some great examples of how to do this for graduate recruitment (which applies to any recruitment exercise) and small business recruitment.

So, what kinds of ROI can you expect to see from implementing certain types of testing? Here’s a general guide to the kinds of results you can obtain by adding assessments for cognitive ability, values fit, safety, reliability, and emotional intelligence and to your recruitment process. All of these results are based on actual real-life implementations of Revelian assessments.

3. The tests are no better than ‘gut feel’

The judges on The Voice hold blind auditions for a very good reason. While they know that they’re all able to assess who has a great voice, they also know that unconscious bias will always creep in and influence their decisions.

No matter how objective and impartial we think we are, biases will always influence our decision-making process. As humans, we instinctively try to save resources and make quick decisions with minimal effort, and will always attempt to consciously take in as little information as possible to make what we feel is a valid decision.

One of the major culprits is confirmation bias – when we make an initial judgement about someone, we then look for evidence that confirms this judgement and overlook anything that doesn’t support it.

Wharton professor and author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant gives a nice example in this Huffington Post article. He tells the story of Ari, a maths major who built robots in his spare time and had applied for a sales role that Grant himself had filled the year before.

During an interview with Grant, he didn’t once make eye contact, which led Grant to conclude that he had poor social skills and wouldn’t be able to build effective relationships with clients. When Grant told his president about his observations, his president laughed at him and said ‘Who cares about eye contact? This is a phone sales job!’

Grant had fallen prey to confirmation bias. Because he believed early on that Ari would be no good at sales (or as Grant put it, he wasn’t Mini-me), he missed other clues, such as how well he built rapport, asked questions and thought creatively.

Looking at Ari from that angle, they re-assessed him and gave him the job. He performed brilliantly.

Google’s Laszlo Bock has come up with a solution. When making a new hire for Google, a large team conducts a strictly structured interview, which ensures every candidate answers the exact same questions. The interview team – made up of some people who could work with the candidate and people from other teams – take extensive notes about each candidate’s answers.

These answers are then reviewed by an impartial hiring committee, who will make the final hiring decision, without ever meeting the candidate in person. All in an effort to avoid any kind of bias from clouding their judgement and preventing them from hiring the very best people.

Psychometric assessments (well designed and valid ones, as we discussed above) also give you this completely impartial and unbiased view of each candidate. They make sure every single candidate is assessed fairly and equitably, using scientifically sound performance criteria.

Make sure you come back for Part 2 next week, when we address the next 3 objections!


By Cherie Curtis, CEO Revelian