Psychometric Testing & Selection – The Pros and Cons of Online Assessment

Research shows that nearly 70% of Australian employers use psychometric tests within their recruitment and selection processes. They can be used by employers to help them understand an applicant’s suitability for a certain job. Psychometric tests should be used as part of a wider selection process, including CV screening and interviewing and should not be used on their own to determine a candidate’s suitability for a job.

Psychometric Testing & Selection – The Pros and Cons of Online Assessment
In general, there are three types of psychometric test that an employer is likely to use. These are: Aptitude Testing, Attainment Testing and Personality Testing. I have summarised these test types below.

Aptitude and ability tests

These tests are used to assess a person’s ability to think logically. The most commonly used aptitude tests are: Verbal Reasoning, Numeric Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Spatial Reasoning. Normally, these tests consist of multiple choice questions. The tests are timed and a typical test might last 30 minutes and include about 30 questions. The test result will be compared to that of a control group.

Skill and Attainment Testing

Attainment tests assess a particular individual’s knowledge in an area and are especially useful in technical roles but they can be used in almost any discipline. For example, if you are recruiting a developer and you wish to test their knowledge of a programming language, such as Java, you can have them take an attainment test which measures their theoretical understanding of Java.

Personality Testing

These tests are used to measure a person’s personality, but in particular how they will react and behave in a various work place situations. It is a great way to see how well a person is suited to the culture of your company and to the social and psychological pressures of a specific role. For example, tests can give you an idea of how well someone may work in a team, in isolation, in an environment of uncertainty, when dealing with customers, or in an environment that is constantly changing; the list goes on.

In terms of using and administering these tests, there are a range of online providers who provide web based psychometric testing. Online testing comes with many advantages over the traditional classroom type questioning or over simply doing no assessment at all.

For example, online assessment means that you assess applicants from all over the world, which is great if you engage in international recruitment. It also enables you to filter, mark and manage multiple tests in a cost effective way.

However, there are drawbacks, especially with personality tests which have proved contentious at times and have faced some criticism. Some of the main objections to psychometric tests, especially personality tests are:

  • They don’t predict performance
  • The test may be biased in terms of gender, age or ethnicity
  • The test was not administered fairly or under correct conditions
  • The test itself in not valid or reliable
  • The test is not measuring what it suggests it is measuring.

Therefore you should tread with caution and follow these guidelines when using any kind of psychometric test.
If you are serious about using tests and making them a substantial part of your selection process, you should avoid using free tests as they are unlikely to have the resources available to them to offer a robust and reliable testing solution.

It is advisable that you use professional paid tests from a well known brand, like You should ensure the online test provider’s website contains clear and extensive documentation of its methodology for designing tests and making them valid and reliable.

In the case of personality tests, their methodology should ideally be endorsed by the psychological association of that particular country; which in Australia, is the Australian Psychological Society.