By Debarshi Nayak
Talent is the lifeline of every organisation. A steady inflow and retention of employees ensure stability and growth of a company. But shortlisting the best candidates out of a pool is just as important as retaining them.
According to a Harvard Business Review report, cognitive and psychometric assessments can increase the chances of success of a new employee. It is particularly important as the cost of a bad hire is estimated to be at least one year of pay. 
But how do you get the best candidate? More importantly, how do you get a candidate who is not just the best in what he/she does but also the best fit for your company as well?
The evolution of selection
Traditionally, candidates used to be selected based on their education, college degree or training. A short interview would decide whether a candidate was suitable for the job or not. But often this method fell short of filtering the right candidates, as the process of the interview depended entirely on the manager conducting it.
This flaw led to the development of standardised pre-hiring assessments, which would provide actionable insight of the skills of a candidate regardless of the degree he/she possessed. It also allowed companies to cultivate and nurture a candidate’s hidden talents.
But the assessments were limited to analysing the technical expertise of the candidate on the job requirements. As these tests proved inadequate, cognitive assessments were introduced into pre-hiring assessments to get a general idea about the aptitude and problem-solving skills of the candidate.
Cognitive assessments were mostly used to analyse the level of intelligence, perceptual abilities, verbal and non-verbal skills, attention, processing, and memory abilities.
Aren’t cognitive assessments enough?
Cognitive tests can assess the ability of a person to learn new things. However, they give us no insight into the candidate’s integrity, personality, creativity, ability to handle pressure, interpersonal style or how they work in a team.
Several decades of research by psychologists Frank Schmidt, PhD, and John Hunter, PhD, showed that adding conscientiousness to cognitive abilities improves validity by a considerable amount. Conversely, adding cognitive abilities to conscientiousness barely increases validity any further.
Conscientiousness falls under the BIG 5 Personality Traits which also include Openness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.Interviews fail to perform a complete analysis of the candidate, often due to personal bias and lack of expertise.
Thus, a more scientific and validated form of assessment was developed – psychometric assessments.
Answer-manipulation to prove fit for the job turned out to be another major concern as interviewers were unable to assess how well a candidate would fit into the team, or how they would cope with stress.
What are psychometric assessment all about?
Psychometric assessments refer to the process of measuring a candidate’s relevant strengths and weaknesses, capabilities, aptitude for the job and whether their personality is in tune with the vision of the company. Psychometric tests are specially developed to measure aptitude, ability and personality.
The aim of psychometric tests is to gain an accurate bearing on the candidate’s cognitive abilities and behavioural style. Psychometric assessments allow recruiters to predict, based on objective data, which candidates will be most suitable for specific roles.
But how are psychometric assessments relevant to recruitment?
Psychometric assessments help interviewers assess the potential of a candidate based on actionable data about that candidate, which standard tests or interviews fail to reveal.
Psychometric assessments provide data about how a person will behave at work, how he/she will react in different situations and how he/she will manage a crisis. These assessments give an interviewer a glimpse into the mind of a candidate through measurable indicators.
By using psychometric assessments, the interviewer can gauge beforehand the problem-solving ability of the applicant, his/her reactiveness or passiveness towards work and how he/she interacts with others in the team.
As per a survey by Society for Human Resource Management, about 18% companies are already using psychometric assessments  and this number is increasing at a rate of 10 to 15% per year, according to the Association of Test Publishers and several organisational psychologists.
Mettl’s ebook- Soup for The Corporate Soul: Psychometric Assessments, attributes the growing application of psychometric assessments in recruitment to the following three factors. 
- Personality has become a significant predictor of work-relevant outcomes such as performance, satisfaction, organisational commitment, turnover and leadership
- Innovative ways of measuring personality and other psychological attributes with actionable insights
- Successful hiring, along with all other organisational decisions, is all about maximising the probabilities of success
According to Psychometric Institute in Australia, using psychometric assessments for recruitment has reportedly decreased attrition, boosted the morale of the employees and has reduced reports of improper conduct in the workplace by a significant margin.
Why are psychometric tests criticised?
As the psychometric assessments gained popularity, a lot of publishers pushed poor quality, non-validated evaluations in the market. The niche category of the tests also prevented clients from assessing the validity and quality of the tests – creating a different, sub-standard image of psychometric tests that are not adequately able to predict performance or personality.
One other problem companies often face, is the inability to select the psychometric test based on the job requirements. What many HR professionals do not realise is that often-used tests might fail to predict desired results.
A classic example of this is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This test is quite popular with recruiters, but MBTI was originally not developed for personnel evaluation and is not designed to do so either. Even the publisher of the test warns against the same. 
How do I avoid this problem?
Keeping all the issues in mind, psychometric assessments should be developed based on guidelines set by the American Psychological Association, International Test Commission and British Psychological Society.All psychometric assessments are based on contemporary theories of organisational behaviour and comply with international test construction standards.
The twelve core competencies being measured are- ethical (integrity), trustworthy, trusting others, passionate about work, responsible/ accountable, team player, sincere in following others, open to learning, capable of taking the initiative, stress management, self-starter, and stability.
Mettl has developed a sophisticated algorithm and state-of-the-art proctoring system to detect candidates who try to ‘game’ the system, thus eliminating the possibility of cheating in psychometric assessments. The psychometric assessments offered are also in compliance with international guidelines, and are completely customizable based on the needs of the recruiters.
Psychometric assessments are slowly gaining traction in the international arena of recruitment, with more using it to evaluate their candidates. A subtle nod to the saying, ‘Hire character, train skill’, psychometric assessments is on its way to being a standard part of all pre-hiring assessments. Have you adopted it yet?
Debarshi Nayak is a member of the product marketing team at Mettl, one of India’s fastest growing assessment platforms and skill measurement company. Along with writing articles for HR, Debarshi has a tendency to tinker with gadgets in his free time and is also vocal about his love for Android.
 How to Use Psychometric Testing in Hiring. Harvard Business Review. September 2013
 Personality Tests for the Hiring. SHRM. December 2011
 Soup for The Corporate Soul: Psychometric Assessments. Mettl. August 2016
 MBTI: An Unhealthy Romance. Business World. October 2016
 Schmidt, F. L. & Hunter, J. E . (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 124, pp. 262-274.
Featured Image Credits: Knowstartup