The role of psychometric tests in the recruitment process

Endless recruitment and constant staff turnover are the bane of many companies. Added to this are the costs of successive recruitment processes and additional time. Typically, the recruitment process is more expensive the higher and more specialised the position for which we are recruiting. Increasingly, various tests are an integral part of recruitment, which are designed to support modern recruitment processes and thus minimise the risk of selecting the wrong candidate.

Unsuccessful recruitment is when an employee resigns after three months of employment or when the employer decides not to renew the contract with the hired employee. Either way, it is the employer who bears all the costs associated with a wrong recruitment decision. It is no longer only large corporations with a large number of recruitment processes going on at the same time that are counting the costs of erroneous staffing decisions, but also small companies that are equally concerned about putting the right team together.

High costs of erroneous recruitment

According to data from PwC’s ‘Saratoga Human Capital Benchmarking 2015′ report, companies’ expenditures related to acquiring a new employee have increased on average by around 40 per cent compared to figures from four years ago. The average cost of the recruitment process is approximately PLN 2640, and in the case of manufacturing companies even PLN 4300. The cost of a mis-recruitment in the case of a managerial position is on average estimated at the level of a gross annual salary. The final amount a company has to pay for recruiting the wrong person depends on a number of factors, including the level of the position we are recruiting for, the cost of publishing the advertisement, the number of interviews, the adaptation training for the new employee, the preparation of the position and the time commitment of the people from the recruitment and other support departments who introduce the new person to the company. Often overlooked, but so important from the point of view of the functioning of the entire team, are also issues related to the waning motivation and commitment of the company’s employees, with team members or managers changing every now and then. Added to this are the costs associated with lost potential clients and missed business opportunities. In the case of several unsuccessful recruitment processes, these costs start to add up to quite a substantial sum. So what can be done to increase the likelihood of a successful recruitment process and therefore minimise the costs associated with re-recruitment? This can be achieved by using the right tools to better verify a candidate’s competence – psychometric tests are one of these tools.

Supporting recruitment processes

Candidate preselection tests can be divided into two groups: personality tests and qualification tests, also known as aptitude tests. Aptitude tests are primarily designed to test a candidate’s range of knowledge in terms of the position for which they are recruiting. The advantage of this type of test is certainly that all candidates receive the same set of questions and it is thus easier to compare the level of knowledge of individuals in an objective manner. This excludes the possibility of the risk of a non-comparative interview, during which the recruiter may ask a different set of questions. Typically, job tests contain closed questions, open questions or specific tasks. It also happens that all of these elements are used – it depends on the position for which the test was created.

The second group of tests are personality tests which, on the one hand, are still a rather controversial method for many companies to assess a candidate, but on the other hand, it is the so-called personality traits that make it possible to determine whether an applicant has the personality desired for a given position. With these types of tests, the employer has the opportunity to examine the candidate’s behaviour in terms of specific psychological traits.

Only a few years ago, the use of personality tests in recruitment was highly controversial and, moreover, could only be carried out by people with a psychology degree. Today, in order to be able to correctly interpret the results and give correct feedback to candidates, all that is needed is the appropriate certification.

How not to measure?

The reliability of the information obtained from the results is quite high. However, it turns out that some questionnaires are not effective enough for recruitment. Why?

One of the main reasons is the wrong choice of tool. Often, recruiters use tools that are not designed for use in candidate selection processes – such examples are Insight Discovery or MBTI®, which are designed for the development of the respondent, and therefore in their design are not immune to the so-called social approval factor. This means that a more informed candidate is able to predict which answers are desirable for a given position. The consequence of this situation is to obtain a profile that is potentially inconsistent with the candidate’s actual preferences, and thus the diagnostic value of the results obtained is practically nonexistent.

Another factor that affects the effectiveness of the tools used is the cultural context – recruitment in every country and in every company has its own specificities. Most of the tools available on the market were developed outside Poland, which means that the tools used were translated into Polish. However, a closer look at the methodology involved in adapting a tool to our specificity sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. It is worth remembering that psychometric tests only allow for the prediction of the personality traits being tested, and are not a direct reflection of reality.

How do you create a good psychometric test?

Recruiters are increasingly looking for tests that are designed specifically for a particular company and thus take into account the needs and specificities of working in a particular organisation. Work on such a tool usually consists of several stages.

Build the team

The work of building a customised test should start with the creation of a well-chosen team to work together on the questionnaire. Such a team should include practitioners, i.e. people from the business community who are familiar with the specifics of working in a given organisation, but it is equally important here to have people who deal with the development of psychometric tests on a daily basis, i.e. psychologists and statisticians.

Identify the desired characteristics

The interdisciplinary team begins by identifying the needs of the company, i.e. the competencies/personal qualities desired for the position. Here, it is very important to involve people from the business community, who are very familiar with the specifics of the job for which the questionnaire is being created.

Identify behaviours

On the basis of a carefully prepared description of the set of competencies, the team prepares a set of behaviours that are key to work on a given position and identifies a group of characteristics that are undesirable. It is then possible to build specific questions (items) into the questionnaire.

What do personality tests measure?

– leadership, customer relationship management skills),

– individual competences (e.g. communication skills, conflict resolution style),

– intellectual abilities (in terms of both general and emotional intelligence),

– social competences (e.g. the candidate’s preferred way of behaving in a team).

Suggest specific questions

There are a couple of issues worth considering at this stage – the first of which relates to the aforementioned social approval factor. One way to minimise the social approval factor is to introduce a so-called lie scale, a set of questions to verify the consistency of the candidate’s answers. Unfortunately, questionnaires containing a lie scale are usually composed of several hundred questions, and thus the process of filling in such a test is very time-consuming. Therefore, one of the solutions used to create questionnaires used in business is to create facially ambiguous answers – that is, answers that are socially desirable in both cases. Once all the items in the questionnaire have been created, we have a ready-made tool.

Conduct reliability tests

In order to be sure that the developed tool provides the information that the recruiter needs – a series of test studies should be conducted. A well-designed test should be tested on an appropriate sample of respondents, as only an appropriate group of people tested will allow us to determine whether the tool is reliable (accuracy of measurement) and accurate (measures what it is supposed to measure).

Clarify the job profile

When we have collected a sufficient amount of data, and thus confirmed the methodological value of the tool, we can start applying it to recruitment processes. At this stage, we can also carry out what is known as calibration, i.e. determining the exact profile required for the position. The calibration process involves surveying a reference group of employees, the results of which will enable us to define the desired characteristics on the basis of objective data. Thanks to calibration, we minimise the subjectivity associated with defining the desired profile of a candidate by the HR department or direct supervisor.

Examples of tests used in recruitment

Hogan Select

Examines behavioural styles at work, mainly those that are key to achieving effectiveness in a given organisation and position. The Hogan report is generated almost as soon as the candidate completes the test, and therefore recruiters can immediately obtain information about the person’s potential as well as his or her limitations, including the values and attitudes with which he or she identifies.

Thomas PPA (Personal Profile Analysis)

This is a tool for analysing the behavioural styles of individuals in the work environment. By answering individual questions, we obtain information about the candidate’s preferred style of behaviour, how motivated this style of behaviour is in the work environment and under environmental pressure. The Thomas PPA questionnaire improves the efficiency of recruitment processes, as it provides an answer to how well suited the candidate is to the challenges of the position they are applying for.


For these tests, the most commonly used are: Verbal Data Analysis and Numerical Data Analysis. The former indicates the level of ability to logically evaluate different types of arguments against the passage of text being tested. The candidate subjected to this type of test has to evaluate each statement given and decide whether it is true, false or whether the information contained is insufficient to make a logical evaluation. The Numerical Data Analysis test, on the other hand, tests the candidate’s ability to handle numerical data presented in statistical tables.

The test will not make a decision for the recruiter

It is important to remember that, regardless of their statistical value, psychometric questionnaires are no substitute for a face-to-face meeting with a candidate. The results of the tests serve as a support for the recruitment process and thus should not be the basis for the final decision to hire the candidate. The questionnaires should serve as a starting point for additional analyses and as information about the candidate’s personality traits, which would be rather difficult for us to verify during an interview. The use of recruitment tests is also an element of building the company’s image as a desirable employer – employer branding. Such support tools are identified by candidates with professional and attractive employers.

Recruitment success and finding the right candidates is just one of the many applications of psychometric testing in modern business. Today, questionnaires are an excellent support tool for HR consultants. Thanks to psychometric tools, it is also possible to get to know current employees more closely and, in addition to recruitment and selection, use them, for example, to plan promotion paths or design employee development programmes.


Authors: Bożena Roczniak, Monika Jagodzińska


Bożena Roczniak, PhD

R&D Director at Ostendi Global. Doctor of Health Sciences and ICC certified coach. Co-developer of many psychometric tools.

Monika Jagodzińska

Communication Manager at HR Development. Develops, coordinates activities and communication related to the development of the company’s services.


The article was published in the monthly magazine “Personel & Zarządzanie, Number 10/2016, Infor Publishing House.