Psychometric testing: Everything you need to know

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Psychometric testing is an objective, reliable and valid process of assessing a candidate’s ability to perform in a role. Psychologists often assess aptitude or general mental ability/cognitive ability and personality. Other attributes assessed include emotional intelligence and individual interests.

In the workplace, psychometric testing includes the administration of assessment centres. Off-work psychometric testing includes career guidance assessments to advise students or individuals on career options.

According to research, cognitive capacity and integrity are the most critical predictors of job performance. Psychometric tests are used to measure each of these. Psychometric tests can be used in the recruiting and selection process. They can also be administered to people already working for the organisation to assess employee capacity gaps.

 Many employers in Zimbabwe use psychometric testing as part of the recruitment and selection process. When assessing the prevalence of psychometric testing in Zimbabwean organisations, I noticed that organisations that use psychometric testing generally do well in overall business performance compared to similar organisations not using psychometric tests. I also looked at listed companies and saw that of the top 10 companies by market capitalisation, 8 use psychometric testing for recruitment and selection. That should tell you something about the efficacy of psychometric testing as an employee selection tool.

The other reason why psychometric testing is crucial for hiring is that general mental ability and personality are things that can not be improved once a person has been hired. If you hire people without these, you will spend more money trying to correct this anomaly. This is why progressive companies would utilise them at the entry to ensure that the people hired have the right aptitude and personality for the job.

It is essential to remember that psychometric testing does not measure job knowledge. The assumption in psychometric testing is that an individual has enough job knowledge for the role they are applying for. The right cognitive ability will ensure that the individual can utilise their knowledge productively.

I am sure you have noticed that there are people who have more than the qualifications required for a role but still fail to deliver. There are also other people who have enough experience for the role they are in but still fail to deliver. Research has already shown that having qualifications and the necessary experience contributes very little to job performance. Scientific evidence is abundant, indicating that individuals will still fail to deliver without the right cognitive ability and personality, even if they possess the necessary qualifications.

When interpreting psychometric tests, Psychologists use norms. Norms are a collection of performance scores for a particular group of individuals. For example, in the hiring field, the common norm groups are executives, senior managers, professionals, administrative/clerical staff, graduate trainees and artisans. It is important to remember that an individual can be classified as passed compared to one group and fail when compared to another group.

Can people improve their psychometric scores by taking practice tests? Yes, it can happen, but the impact is usually insignificant. The change is unlikely to move their score outside the normal performance range of that individual versus the norm group. In that case, the interpretation of their score will not change.

For organisations, choosing to use psychometric tests depends on the value you see in using them. Please do not use them because others are using them. Psychometric testing will work in organisations that want to hire people on merit and want to eliminate nepotism and corruption in hiring. Psychometric tests are resisted since they prevent corruption practices by seniors.

What categories or levels of employees should you take through psychometric testing? It all depends on your goals. Others test everyone coming into the organisation. Others restrict them to senior managers upwards, while others cover all professional-level staff, senior managers and executives.

To get the maximum benefits from psychometric testing, make sure you have a clear policy on psychometric testing. Adhoc testing creates inconsistency in the quality of people you hire. It is important to note that in Zimbabwe, only Registered Psychologists with valid practising certificates are allowed to administer and interpret psychometric tests. This is the practice globally. No country I know of allows anyone to administer and interpret psychometric tests.

Employers who use unregistered people to administer and interpret psychometric tests will commit an offence. More information on the registration of Psychologists can be obtained from the regulator Allied Health Professions Councils.

An organisation that utilises unregistered people to administer psychometric tests will be bringing a huge risk to their organisation as it is an offence to use unregistered people. The organisation runs into reputational risk, while the individual can be arrested if reported to the regulator.

To register as a psychologist, an individual must possess a first degree in psychology plus a master degree in psychology. Over and above this requirement, they must go through a supervised internship culminating in writing qualifying exams set by the regulator. As you can see, having a first and a master degree is not enough to be called a psychologist. You can only be called a psychologist when you have a valid registration certificate and a current practising certificate. The practising certificate is renewed every year. Before you engage anyone to do psychometric assessment for you, ensure they provide their registration certificate and a current valid practising certificate.

Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and HR consulting firm. Phone +263 24 248 1 946-48/ 2290 0276, cell number +263 772 356 361 or e-mail: [email protected] or visit

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