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5 Things to Consider When Selecting a Talent Assessment

May 11 / Renu Gundala
Candidate talent assessments can help you make an informed recruitment decision and hire with confidence. Pre-hire testing allows recruiters to gain an understanding of a candidate's potential, including their skills, abilities and personality traits - details that go far beyond a CV.

But with countless tests available (including psychometric tests, technical/skills tests and behavioural assessments/work sample exercises), you may be overwhelmed by the number of choices. It is not only important to select the right test so you can find the top talent with which to fill a vacancy in your organisation, but by picking the wrong test you risk creating biases in the hiring process or a negative candidate experience which can reflect poorly on your company’s brand.

Here are five things you should consider when selecting a talent assessment to help you make an informed decision about which tools you include in your recruitment process.

1. The right test for the right purpose

To effectively utilise testing, you need to look at what skills or behaviours each test assesses, how these are measured and how they match to the position you are recruiting for. Ask yourself: does the test you have selected assess the skills you’re looking for? Is it designed to be used as a standalone process to screen applications or to complement interviews? Is the test meant to be used beyond the recruitment stage of the hiring process; for example, for onboarding?

On the flip side, you need to consider what areas a tool does not test for. Not all tests provide the same data!

One way to narrow down your options is to define what attributes you are looking for in a candidate and select a testing tool that measures those skills or behaviours, or search by job function and industry sector. For example, if you are looking to hire a web designer, you may wish to use a technical and skills test to understand their knowledge of application development and coding languages.

You also need to select a test of the right duration depending on what stage of the recruitment process it will be used. A 10-minute test could be used to initially screen candidates but save an hour-long test in conjunction with interviews for the final shortlist of top talent.

2. Unintended Consequences

If you are striving for a diverse pool of candidates, you need to address adverse impact: unfair or biased procedures in the selection process. Adverse impact is often an unintended consequence of talent assessments. For each test option, you should look at whether the test creates biases or if it could lead to potentially discriminatory practices if you choose not to select it.

On Talent Grader’s website, we include a field that asks test providers to provide information on ‘Measures put in place to remove or reduce biases’. This allows you to make an informed decision and select a tool that prioritises the removal of biases and helps you deliver an objective and inclusive selection process.

3. The Candidate Experience

Look at the testing process from the point of view of the candidate. You need to consider how inclusive and accessible the test is. For example, are you removing barriers for neurodiverse candidates by offering reasonable adjustments to your test of choice where required? The test is also likely being conducted remotely on a computer. Is there an option for candidates to adjust the screen contrast or text size to make it a comfortable testing experience? These kinds of adjustments help you provide a best experience for your candidates so they can attempt the tests to the best of their ability.

To create a fair and inclusive process, you should provide all candidates the opportunity to confidentially disclose any disabilities at all stages of the recruitment process. When carrying out pre-hire testing, communicate to all candidates clearly and well in advance of the test what it will be assessing, its relevance to the vacancy in question, duration, answer format and technical requirements for using the given testing platform. This helps candidates with disability to request any adjustments to the assessment process.

4. Data Protection

Candidates’ data protection is crucial for employers. Explore with the test providers how they store and handle test taker’s data, so you can ensure compliance. On Talent Grader’s website, our test publishers or technology providers specify this information so you can easily access this to assess compliance or explore any changes you may need e.g. data retention.

Whilst I recommend you consider the above four key points for any kind of assessment, the following advice on reliability and validity applies to psychometric tests specifically.

5. Pick a Reliable and Valid Psychometric Test

There are many different types of psychometric tests available that measure different personality traits and candidate attributes. The two main types of psychometric tests are ability tests, which assess how well a candidate does something, and personality tests, which look at how an individual might respond to a situation. Click here to learn more about the types of psychometric tests.

When selecting a psychometric test, you need to make sure you are picking a reliable and valid option. When it comes to a quality assessment, the test should have a reliability coefficient of over 0.7, which is the industry benchmark set by professional bodies.

You should be able to check a test’s validity e.g., by comparing the tool with others on the market to ensure it is actually measuring what it claims. There are many types of validation studies and it is important to look at this evidence in technical manual of the test concerned. If the test provider will not give you access to the technical manual or not interested in explaining the technical information contained in their technical manual, that is a sign the tool may not be legitimate.

For the best recruitment results, Talent Grader recommends a combination of the following test types that are valid and reliable for your use: numerical reasoning tests, logical reasoning tests, situational judgement tests, verbal reasoning tests, and personality assessments. Based on the type of recruitment, you could combine a psychometric test with a behavioural assessment (also known as a work sample exercise) or a technical or skills test.

Find the Right Test with Talent Grader

We make every effort to present all the information about available test options to help you make an informed decision. Pop over to our website and take up a free trial of psychometric tests, technical and skills tests, or talent assessment technology, such as video interview platforms.

Don’t forget to share feedback on your experience! If you need help in choosing the right assessments, please contact us, we will be delighted to help.
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Benefits of Online Assessment Tools For Recruitment

April 19 / Renu Gundala
The future of pre-employment testing is evolving, as companies and hiring managers are shifting towards online assessment tools for recruitment. This shift has only been accelerated by the Covid-19 outbreak which forced us all to work from home and reassess how we conduct business

Some companies have even committed to being fully remote in a post-pandemic world, which reinforces the need for new recruitment methods which embrace this new way of working. Whether your company is back in the office or fully remote, there are a number of benefits of using online assessment tools for recruitment. Ultimately, they are an efficient and effective way to reduce a pool of candidates down to a select few, to ensure that you make the right hiring decision without having to see every applicant. We will explore all of these benefits in more detail below.

Browse the Talent Grader website to easily find and compare online assessment tools for recruitment. You’ll find a wide range of helpful tools which can be used to enhance your hiring processes. 

Why use online assessment tools for recruitment? 

Online assessment tools are the quickest and most convenient way to improve your recruitment process. They make life easier for hiring managers, interviewers, and candidates alike. Recruiters only have to send out the link to the appropriate online assessment, for the candidate to carry out in the comfort of their own home. In certain cases, these tests can still be live monitored by the interviewer/recruiter if this is required. 

In order to scale up, your company needs the best employees, but talent acquisition requires a significant amount of time and resources. This problem can be solved with having the right online assessment tools for your recruitment process. 

Here are some of the key benefits of using online assessment tools: 

Save Time: Time is money, and online assessment tools for recruitment can help you save both. You’ll get decisions made quicker, as recruiting managers will be able to select the best candidates early on. And the quicker you fill your vacancies, the more productive your company will run. All in all a quicker recruitment process is beneficial for all involved. 

Ready-to-use Assessments: With each role, there are certain skills required in order for a candidate to be able to carry it out successfully. To screen candidates for these skills/attributes, you need a fast solution rather than interviewing every single one. Irrespective of how many candidates apply, you can quickly and reliably measure a candidate's skill with online assessment tools for recruitment, before they reach the stage of an interview. 

Great Candidate Experience: Providing a positive experience for candidates is an important but often overlooked side of recruitment. In order to hire and attract the best, you need to make sure that your processes are convenient for them, as well as your own staff. With their convenience and effectiveness, online assessment tools for recruitment and selection will help to enhance the perception of your company. Subsequently more people will apply in future if word of mouth starts to spread.

Reduce Employee Turnover: High employee turnover is not something you typically want in your business. When people are always leaving, it has an impact on employee morale and productivity and eventually on the company's products and services. As we’ve discussed hiring takes time and resources, so the less you have to do it the better. By making sure you pick the right people, online assessments for recruitment can help you reduce employee turnover in the long term.

Unbiased: Online recruitment assessment tools are free from human biases, judgements and errors. By removing biases you can increase diversity in selection and ensure that you objectively get the very best candidate for the role. 

Browse Online Assessment Tools For Recruitment

On Talent Grader you can find a wealth of online assessment tools which can be used as part of your recruitment process. From talent assessments, to technical skills tests, to personality questionnaires, you can search for the right tools for your business to succeed. 

You can find and compare tools, see reviews from other users and access free trials before you buy, so you can rest assured that you are making the right choice.
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What are the best psychometric tests for recruitment?

April 19 / Renu Gundala
Psychometric tests are becoming increasingly more popular and are revolutionising the way that companies recruit new talent. It is estimated that over 75% of the top 100 companies in the UK now use psychometric testing as part of their selection process, due to the many benefits that these diverse assessments can provide. 

When it comes to selecting which are the best psychometric tests to use as part of your recruitment process, it will ultimately depend on the industry or the job role that you are hiring for. They take various forms (numerical, mechanical, logical, verbal, etc), typically broken down into two distinct types - tests of ability and personality assessments. Ability tests assess how well a person does something whereas a personality questionnaire assesses how they do it.

Below, we’ll be exploring the top psychometric assessments for recruitment and the benefits of each. To find and compare these tests in more detail based on the areas you want to assess, browse the Talent Grader platform. 

Why are psychometric tests used for recruitment? 

Psychometric tests are used to provide insight into a candidates cognitive ability and indicates their potential to excel within a certain role and company. Typically carried out online, they are an effective way to streamline the recruitment process and reveal top applicants efficiently. 

By measuring traits such as aptitude, communication style, and emotional intelligence in a candidate upfront, hiring managers can develop a much clearer picture of how a candidate will perform. This goes beyond just assessing the person based on their employment history and academic achievements. 

In the current climate where employers are receiving an extremely high number of applications for new roles, psychometric tests are an excellent way to quickly filter through candidates. Hiring managers can confidently whittle the selection pool down to the top 5-10% of applicants, to invite them to further stage interviews. 

A strong correlation has been found between a high score in a psychometric or aptitude test, and subsequent high performing candidates. This indicates that they are reliable indicators of the potential competence and suitability of applicants. 

psychometric tests recruitment

Best Psychometric Tests For Recruitment 

As discussed above, there are different types of psychometric tests which measure different personality traits and candidate attributes including intelligence, critical reasoning, motivation and more. Below we’ve put together a list of the best psychometric tests for recruiters to use during the hiring process. Based on the company and the role that you are hiring for, you may use one of, or a combination of the tests featured below. 

Numerical Reasoning Tests

A numerical reasoning test is used to measure a candidate’s ability to accurately interpret and analyse data, and to draw logical conclusions efficiently. The individual taking the test will typically be presented with data in the form of graphs and tables in order to draw these conclusions. 

Numerical reasoning tests don’t necessarily include complex mathematical equations, instead they are designed to determine a candidate's ability to interpret numerical data. They will require knowledge of some basic mathematical concepts such as ratios, percentages, identifying number sequences, data interpretation, financial analysis and currency conversion. 

Use the Talent Grader online platform to easily search for and compare numerical reasoning tests for recruitment.

Logical Reasoning Tests 

A logical reasoning test measures an individual's ability to efficiently analyse information, problem-solve, draw meaningful conclusions and respond in a coherent and logical manner. Different types of logical reasoning tests are used to assess a candidate’s inductive and deductive reasoning abilities.

The way they work is by presenting an applicant with a series of written passages and/or non-verbal content such as images. Candidates will typically then need to identify the next figure in the sequence, from a selection of possibilities.

Use the Talent Grader online platform to easily search for and compare logical reasoning tests for recruitment.

Situational Judgement Tests

Situational judgement tests assess how a person might react when different types of problems arise in the workplace. Based on some common scenarios which are likely to occur, it paints a picture of what type of employee that candidate would be, and whether this fits in with your company ethos. 

In a situational judgement test, a candidate may be given a series of scenarios and possible responses to those scenarios. They will then be asked to rate each response from ‘strongly desirable’ to ‘strongly undesirable’. Based on this, hiring managers will be able to see what types of responses that candidate thinks is appropriate, and how they themselves might react when faced with that issue. 

Use the Talent Grader online platform to easily search for and compare situational judgement tests for recruitment.

Verbal Reasoning Tests

Verbal reasoning tests measure a person's ability to understand and comprehend written passages. Somebody who performs well on this test won’t jump straight to false assumptions or misinterpret information, but comprehend the meaning of the passage and reach a reasoned and logical conclusion. 

There are different types of verbal reasoning tests which focus on different areas, and range in levels of difficulty. In a typical test, a candidate will be presented with a series of statements which make certain inferences. They’ll then be asked to say whether each statement is ‘true’, ‘false’, or ‘cannot say’.

Use the Talent Grader online platform to easily search for and compare verbal reasoning tests for recruitment.

Personality Assessments

Personality Assessments measure a candidate’s typical or characteristic ways of thinking or behaving. They vary greatly in the number and range of constructs they measure, though the majority will assess aspects of the ‘big five’ personality characteristics: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. 

Recruiters use personality assessments to compare potential employees’ scores against the job requirements, to see if they would be suitable for that role and company. Unlike with numerical tests, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to personality assessments. They give an indication of that individual's personality and they react with other people, so no two people will ever be exactly the same. 

In a typical personality test (or questionnaire), a candidate will essentially be asked to rate themselves, based on a number of given statements. For example they might be asked to what degree they agree with the statement: “I enjoy meeting new people”. 

Use the Talent Grader online platform to easily search for and compare personality assessments for recruitment.
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Why cognitive ability matters

October 28 / Angus McDonald
“If you could use just one type of assessment when evaluating candidates, what would you use?”  This is a question I often ask training course delegates as a way of starting a conversation about the effectiveness of different selection methods.  By far the most common response is ‘an interview’.  My answer: ‘a test of cognitive ability’.  Delegates are often uncomfortable with this idea despite the training courses they are on showing just how effective psychometric tests of cognitive ability are.

The evidence

Here’s a brief summary of the evidence that supports cognitive ability.  In a recent comparison of 31 methods of predictive job performance, cognitive ability was by far the best predictor of both job performance and job-related training outcomes[1].  It has been known for some time that the more complex a job the better cognitive ability predicts performance, but even for unskilled jobs it still has substantial predictive validity[2].  The effect of ability on job performance also appears to be linear[3].  This contradicts the view that it’s important, but only up to a point, after which we need to look for other factors – such as emotional intelligence or ‘fit’ – to identify superior performance.  Whilst not discounting the potential of other factors to add to our understanding, on average, the better someone scores on a test of cognitive ability, the better they will do in the job.

How organisations can measure cognitive ability

Most tests of cognitive ability involve problem solving, either through tests of verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning or abstract / non-verbal reasoning.  The complexity of problems vary from the very challenging through to simple tasks that almost anyone can get right, meaning performance depends on speed of working.  Each task assesses something unique, though performance on all tests are substantially influenced by ‘g’ or a general ability factor[4].  General ability underpins our ability to learn.  Research on children shows this association between ability and subsequent learning[5], and is a key justification for using academic selection tests.  Similarly, in work contexts, cognitive ability predicts both the rate of job knowledge acquisition and the depth of learning[6].

So, where’s the catch?

Understanding about a candidate’s cognitive ability tells us a lot about their potential, but a few words of caution are necessary.  Tests based on verbal and numerical content may be seen as work-relevant (‘face valid’) by candidates, though non-verbal or abstract tasks less so.  If used, the relevance of such tests needs to be clearly explained to ensure candidates are engaged.  Completing cognitive tests can be demanding, resulting in higher levels of candidate drop-off compared to other types of assessment.  User experience is not always great, though some cognitive tests are now using elements of gamification as a way of enhancing experience.  They can also be practiced, so it’s important to consider how candidates are prepared for these tests to ensure all have an equal opportunity to show their abilities.  Many test publishers provide practice materials as a way of reducing the effect of prior experience.
Perhaps the biggest concern when using tests of cognitive ability is the risk of adverse impact, where one group of test takers performs, on average, better than another.  Diversity is one of key targets for many organisations, so any assessment that threatens this can be a barrier to use.  Establishing the validity of an assessment for a role means its use in selection is justified, but to many recruiting a diverse workforce is of equal if not greater importance.  The causes of group differences on cognitive ability measures are complex and not fully understood, though rarely due to obvious test bias.  As there is no simple way of compensating for group score differences, cognitive tests should be applied only after careful consideration as to how scores from them will be used in decision-making.

Concluding thoughts

The ability of cognitive tests to predict work performance and learning is now established.  As work changes at an ever-increasing rate, recruiting people with the potential to learn and adapt to these changes is essential.  Though easy to use and an effective screening tool, especially in large-scale recruitment, we need to be mindful of how cognitive tests are used if we want to create a more diverse workforce. Look out for our next blog where we will talk about what you can do to reduce adverse impact of cognitive ability tests.
Would you like to see the range of cognitive ability tests we are promoting? Click here.
[1] Schmidt, Oh and Shaffer, (2006). The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings. [2] Salgado and Moscoso, (2019). Meta-Analysis of the Validity of General Mental Ability for Five Performance Criteria: Hunter and Hunter (1984) Revisited. [3] Coward and Sackett, (1990). Linearity in ability-performance relationships: a reconfirmation. [4] Carroll, (1993) Human Cognitive Abilities. [5] Deary, Strand, Smith and Fernandes, (2007) Intelligence and Educational Achievement. [6] Hunter and Schmidt (1996). Intelligence and job performance: Economic and social implications.
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Removing Barriers for Recruiting Neurodiverse Talent

October 27 / Grace Johnson
There is a lot of talk at the moment around employment and recruitment. With organisations still grappling with the devastating impact of Covid-19, the media is flooded with talk of hundreds of applications for singular roles, large numbers of redundancies and general market uncertainty. And with the government furlough scheme due to end in October and the latest restrictions reinstated by the government, these themes are predicted to take precedence in the media well until the end of 2020.
Competing in today’s employment market is a gargantuan challenge for anyone, but imagine if you had neurodiversity barriers too?
I work for the Work and Health Programme (WHP) at Activate Learning in Oxfordshire. The Work and Health Programme is a pioneering DWP programme with the sole aim of providing specialist and holistic employment support to a variety of individuals, most of whom have a mental or physical disability.
My Work and Heath Programme colleagues and I relied heavily on socially responsible and inclusive employers pre-Covid-19 and with the job market becoming even more competitive, we need them now more than ever.
7.7m working age people in the UK have a disability and they are attempting atypical recruitment processes alongside every other non-disabled applicant in the UK. So how can employers and recruiters ensure they are accessing ALL talent? The point of difference could be your recruitment process.
But in order to first understand how adapting the recruitment process can help, we need to understand the current situation first.
I contacted one of my WHP participants, who has an autism diagnosis and asked them if they could share some of their experience of atypical recruitment processes;
“I applied for a clinical job which claimed to be willing to make adjustments for my disability. On the day of the interview I discovered that this included a test and an hour of completing tasks which were similar to those I would be expected to do. I failed at interview because I explained that it was not possible to complete some tasks appropriately without any understanding of the company policy and procedures as there were many appropriate legal approaches to the problem posed.
I could complete it according to my preferred method but could not guess at what the company would prefer in each case. I was given no support or adjustment and was assessed as requiring too much direction to be able to work independently. The interview process meant that a potentially ideal candidate was lost to the company. While I do not know for certain that my diagnosis was a problem, I suspect that it was.”
“I think it's about 16% of diagnosed autistics who are in full time work (I'm one of the 84% who aren't.) Most of my job interviews were prior to my diagnosis so there was no option to disclose. Certainly, I knew that I needed to be very guarded about the truth about my communication challenges or I would not stand a chance at employment. That left me being judged on half-truths and my interview skills. Attributes which are of little importance in the job itself.”
So how can we change and adapt recruitment processes to ensure that ALL candidates feel they can be their full selves, whilst allowing employers to access their talent?
Some of the easiest ways you or your organisation can ensure you are creating a fair and inclusive process are;
  • Ensuring 'essential' job requirements are absolutely essential
  • Encouraging applicants to disclose their disabilities, by including disclosure opportunities at all stages of the recruitment process
  • Ensuring in-house designed assessments (if used) are valid and provide all the information necessary to complete the task at hand
  • Considering relevant, valid and reliable psychometric or other similar well-designed tests as part of your recruitment process and offering reasonable adjustments where required
  • Communicating well in advance what a selection test will assess and its duration, whilst ensuring it is completely relevant to the job
  • Offering flexible working and reasonable adjustments and stipulating this within all advertising material; ensuring that this is a sincere, embedded facet of your working culture
  • Implementing a Disability Confident Policy (you can find out more about Disability Confident here)
  • Actively seeking out applicants who may self-deselect or rule themselves out for opportunities, but who would be an asset to your organisation
  • Seeking out organisations that are already Disability Confident such as Activate Learning. Learn more about their project such as Removing Barriers Rebuilding Lives and Skills Support for the Unemployed (SSU).
  A well-designed talent assessment tool gives all the information a candidate needs to complete the task at hand fully and improves their engagement in the selection process. If you are looking for assessments to make reliable hiring decisions and provide your candidates with constructive and objective feedback, we would be delighted to help. Contact us at  support@talentgrader.com.
We are launching a dedicated platform, Talent Grader,  with all the talent assessment tools and technologies on 3rd November 2020.
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Adverse impact: Addressing risks of bias in job selection

October 09 / Andrew Clements
One of the critical roles played by Human Resources professionals is to ensure that organisations are compliant with employment legislation, such as the case of recruitment.  Readers of this post will likely have at the least a broad understanding of legislation relating to equality at work (e.g. the Equality Act (2010) in the UK), and some may have a high level of expertise.  Beyond this, readers are likely to have values linked to promoting diversity and inclusion.  In other words, I assume readers would not deliberately discriminate against people of different ethnicities, gender identities, religious beliefs, etc.  The emphasis is on the deliberate, but this is not going to be a post about unconscious bias.  Rather, I refer to indirect discrimination, which occurs when a policy or process of some kind is applied equally, but leads to unequal outcomes for people based on protected characteristics, and is not a proportionate means for pursuing a legitimate outcome.  In other words, I want to discuss the unintended consequences of decisions that we take, known as “adverse impact.”  Adverse impact applies when, for example, we use a selection tool that discriminates against people of colour, women, individuals who are neurodiverse, and so on.  This has legal and ethical implications; from a legal perspective it is important to consider what is defensible, from an ethical perspective we should be seeking to remove unfair discrimination (based on personal characteristics rather than ability to do the job) wherever we find it.  Drawing on the research evidence helps us both legally and ethically.

It is important to consider adverse impact before making decisions.  Without a background in individual differences (a core component of psychology courses) or having read about research on recruitment and selection, it can be all too easy to make decisions that will have undesirable outcomes.  For example, intelligence (or cognitive ability as psychologists tend to call it) is one of the best predictors of job performance (Morgeson, Delaney-Klinger, & Hemingway, 2005; Salgado & Moscoso, 2019; Schmidt & Hunter, 1998).  It reflects our ability to take in information, store it, retrieve it, and use it.  People with more of it therefore learn quicker and can do more with what they learn.  It therefore seems an obvious choice for selection.  Readers are probably waiting for the “but”…  The downside is that cognitive ability tests create adverse impact based on ethnicity (Schmidt, 2002) and age (Klein, Dilchert, Ones, & Dages, 2015).  In the latter case, “fluid intelligence”, reflecting our ability to learn new things and solve new problems, declines over the adult lifespan – hence jokes about asking children to teach us how to use gadgets.  In the case of ethnicity it suffices to say that there continue to be debates as to the causes for differences, which are likely to include socioeconomic factors.

When we know about a problem, there are some points to consider.  Firstly, is this legally defensible as a proportionate way of pursuing a legitimate goal?  Continuing with the case of intelligence, it is legitimate to seek to hire the best – and no one in the diversity field is arguing otherwise.  However, we can consider whether high levels of intelligence are really essential.  Research shows that intelligence has a greater impact on performance when jobs are complex (Bertua, Anderson, & Salgado, 2005).  When hiring for a simple job we can therefore simply do without the intelligence test, because it is unnecessary, and at the same stroke do away with a major source of adverse impact.  However, we may be hiring for complex jobs in which our employees must grapple with new problems (maybe even problems we don’t know exist yet).  In this case an intelligence test may be defensible, but we should consider options for mitigating the risks.  There are a variety of strategies such as combining intelligence with other tools that have low risk of adverse impact, adjusting the weighting we give to the use of intelligence tests, or grouping performance on intelligence tests into bands based on the margin of error – within which we arguably cannot differentiate anyway (see Ployhart & Holtz, 2008 for more detail on strategies).  It is important to note that in the case of intelligence tests we are likely to face a trade-off between predicting performance and reducing adverse impact, as strategies that achieve the latter reduce our ability to predict performance.  However, we can at least make an informed decision about these trade-offs.

What I am hoping to demonstrate is that choosing a selection strategy is not a simple thing.  We need to educate ourselves about the tools that we use.  I was recently considering the use of a work sample (i.e. observing a person perform a relevant practical task) in a selection process.  They have good predictive ability (Borman & Hallam, 1991; O’Leary, Forsman, & Isaacson, 2017; Roth, Bobko, & McFarland, 2005), but research has also identified adverse impact in the use of work samples (Roth, Bobko, & McFarland, 2005).  Intuitively I had not expected this, and had I failed to review the evidence base I might not have been aware of the need to formulate a strategy for mitigating adverse impact.  Roth and colleagues observed that scholars often assumed that a work sample would show similar outcomes as actual job performance, where differences are small between people of different ethnic backgrounds.  Roth et al’s analysis supports an interpretation that some work sample tests tap cognitive ability due to the need to take in and use information, for example in-tray exercises.  They found work sample tests such as role-plays, which tap interpersonal skills, demonstrate much lower levels of adverse impact.  Thus, similar mitigation strategies might be used with work sample tests as with cognitive ability tests, starting with an evaluation of whether the test is needed.

The scenario described above is an example of the practical use of engaging with psychological literature.  However, not everyone has access to the research evidence (which is often published in academic journals) or the expertise.  If you are choosing selection tools you can take some steps to protect yourself by either gaining expertise (if you have the inclination and resources) or contracting with someone who does have the expertise.  For example, Occupational Psychologists (registered with the Health and Care Professions Council) very often have expertise in recruitment and selection techniques.

What does all this mean in practice?  We should be reviewing our practices in terms of adverse impact.  I have discussed recruitment and selection, but we can apply this lens to nearly every aspect of organisational functioning (e.g. organisational practices relating to working hours).  We also need to review decisions when we are implementing something new (e.g. making a selection process for a new job).  This will need to become a habitual part of what we do.  Racism, sexism etc. are not going to disappear quickly, or possibly ever, so we need to be sensitive to how these may occur in our structures.  New challenges may emerge, perhaps as new individual differences become known.  In other words we are going to have to create and recreate solutions, and evaluate how well they work.  We will need to scan the horizon.  For example, the use of artificial intelligence in selection poses challenges, because machine learning functions by identifying patterns without judging patterns ethically.  If our selection process discriminates against black men, and we automate the process, we now have racist automation – not what I dreamed of when reading science fiction as a child.  If we are going to do this right, we can start by recognising that it is challenging and will require effort and thought.

Dr Andrew Clements is a Lecturer in Business and Occupational Psychology at Coventry University, with interests in promoting evidence-based practice.  You can find out more about postgraduate courses teaching the application of psychology to the workplace here (for individuals with a first degree in psychology) or here (for individuals with first degrees in other subjects).  
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Psychometrics and diversity

August 05 / Angus McDonald

For thousands of years observations have been made about how people differ from each other. Now firmly a branch of psychology, often referred to as individual differences or differential psychology, the study of variations in thought, feeling and behaviour has its roots in philosophy. Ideas behind many of the most widely used psychometric assessments can therefore be traced back many thousands of years. For example, Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle wrote on the nature of intellect and Hippocrates, often regarded as the founder of modern medicine, attributed differences in personality to the balance of four humors in the body. Modern psychometric assessments may seem a long way from Greek philosophy, but there is a clear path back to differences that were first described thousands of years ago.

Individual differences and recruitment

Originally developed as methods of describing differences between people, recruiters also use psychometrics as predictive instruments. Variations in areas such as personality, cognitive ability, interests and motivation have all been linked to job performance. By using psychometric tests, we can make distinctions between applicants and identify those who are likely to perform effectively in the job, work well in a specific team or align with an organisation’s culture.

Another potential advantage of understanding differences between people, is the role this can play in diversity. Research published by McKinsey a few years ago makes a strong case for diversity. Looking at the make-up of top teams and boards, they found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity were 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above the national median for their industry. When it came to gender, those in the top quartile for diversity were 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians. If the figures are that compelling, then why, some years later, is recruiting a diverse workforce still such a challenge for many?

The diversity challenge

Recruiters increasingly rely on psychometrics as part of their decision-making process. As mentioned above, psychometric assessments are some of the most effective recruitment tools we have. They are often seen as measure of potential, due to their association with subsequent job performance. The challenge is that performance on psychometric tests is influenced by a range of background factors. Many of these factors are not randomly distributed but vary according to group membership. Such differences between groups are a significant threat to diversity. The very tools that recruiters often rely on, mean that more candidates from certain groups are likely to succeed in the recruitment process.

It is easy to blame tests for limiting diversity but not so easy to fix the problem. Surely the simple answer is to drop tests, but then what do we use in their place? Research into methods such as CVs, application forms and interviews shows that all can be substantially biased, often far more so than psychometric tests. One of the main issues is that interviewers tend to look for people who are like me but there are also many other biases that come into play. Over-reliance on such methods may only worsen the diversity issue. What about educational qualifications? A few years ago, EY, the global accountancy firm, announced it was no longer looking at A-levels or degrees when recruiting, instead relying on its assessment process that included psychometric tests. They argued that, as educational opportunity was not evenly spread across society, their recruitment process would open opportunity to a wider range of talented applicants. This is backed-up by the UK government’s own data, showing that not all groups attain to a similar level.

Revisiting psychometrics as a tool for diversity

So where does this leave psychometrics? First, we know that when tests are carefully matched against job requirements and used sensitively, they are both effective and legally defensible. Score differences are also not the same as bias. If my tape measure tells me that men, on average, are slightly taller than women, I don’t need to get a new measure. Scores may represent real differences or differences that are not due to the test. For example, score differences between groups may reflect social or cultural experiences or, as the EY example illustrates, differences in educational opportunity. The tests simply reflect these differences. Finally, not all tests display differences between groups to the same degree. Measures of cognitive ability, though highly predictive, tend to show some of the largest differences. Other types of assessments, such as personality and motivation, tend to show far lower, if any, group differences.

Psychometric tests are easy targets when needing to find a reason for lack of diversity in a recruitment process. Often, they are scapegoats. When used well, they offer recruiters insight into diversity - diversity in terms of thought, approach, drive and other characteristics that build strong teams and organisations. These insights need to translate into actions that build and support a diverse workforce. Tests may not be perfect, but they have the potential to be a lot fairer than most of the alternatives.