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Psychometric Testing vs. Structured Interviews

Perhaps you, at the beginning of your career as a recruiter, asked candidates the question, “who are you?” If you’ve ever received the question yourself, you know how difficult it is to answer. But it’s even trickier to understand who someone truly is. 

The human psyche is complex to the point that it takes 200 hours to become good friends with someone, which equals one month and one week if you’d hang out from 9-5. 

With that in mind, how on earth is it even possible to achieve a quality hire with a short time to fill, considering you can’t spend nearly as much time as you might have liked with each candidate? 

The answer is: that we turn to research and recent advancements in recruiting AI

Because, in reality, and as you probably have learned during your training, your task is not to understand who someone is, but how well they would perform a job. 

Luckily, psychologists have pulled hairs for ages to construct shortcuts that put you on the fast lane into the in’s and out’s of a person.

We’ll explore some of these shortcuts in this post, hopefully pushing you in the right direction of which is your preferred method. 

What is Psychometric Testing?

Psychometric tests are assessments that evaluate an individual’s cognitive ability, traits, and facets. These tests are typically used for hiring and development purposes. Psychometric testing involves open-ended questions, with no right or wrong answers.

Unlike aptitude tests or skill bases tests, psychometric tests do not need prior preparation. These tests are built to evaluate a person’s skills, intelligence, knowledge, abilities, and personality traits for hiring purposes in all lines of work. The tests evaluate an individual’s aptitude for a job, capabilities, and cultural fit. 

This is not a “one test fits all” kind of situation, on the contrary, the most common method is to use a combination of different tests. 

There’s a wide variety of psychometric tests that are aimed at deciphering various mental measurements such as numerical tests, spatial, verbal, logical, mechanical, and electrical reasoning tests, etc. Psychometric testing can be divided up into two categories:

Personality tests
Aptitude tests 

The former analyzes a person’s emotions, behaviours, values, motivations, and how they would fit with the role and organization. Whereas the latter assesses reasoning and/or cognitive ability to find out if the candidate has the right skill set for a role. 

All attempts at understanding a person’s psyche through established psychological methods come with both positives and negatives. It’s reasonable to keep in mind that even though they can give a deep understanding of how a person most likely would behave and perform, it’s impossible to take into account, for example, how a person would react if something jarring were to happen in their private lives. 

The Advantages of Psychometric Testing

The Advantages of Psychometric Testing

Unbiased 

Unfortunately, the recruitment industry is littered with biases. They’re innate to each and every human and they’re incredibly hard to rid yourself of since they can emerge subconsciously. In testing, however, the test results speak for themselves, paving the way for results based on the exact same premises. 

Equal chance at opportunity 

As soon as another person is involved in judging a person’s character, equality is removed from the equation. Because the person judging might base their decision on how well they connected, and how fun they had together, and sometimes pure nepotism is at play. Tests erase all factors that the candidate can’t affect and give everyone the same chance no matter the scale.

Time and money-saving 

As the tests are doled out in groups, you earn a lot of time compared to conducting in-depth interviews with each and every candidate. The tests are relatively cheap to acquire and you’ll quickly see a prominent ROI considering how much time you free up. 

Encourages reviews 

Every candidate receives their own testing results after they’ve conducted the tests. If they do not get the job, they then have the opportunity to review their tests and see areas for improvement. It’s nothing short of a win-win for both recruiter and candidate. 

The Disadvantages of Psychometric Testing 

Practice makes perfect

Since the tests follow a structure, it’s possible to practice for them (it’s even encouraged) which may or may not result in a skewed idea of how logical or verbally skilled someone is, e.g. you can become good at the test but in real life, you may not be great at logical thinking. This criticism is met with the counter-argument that it is fair since everyone can practice beforehand. But that argument doesn’t remove the fact that the test may not always mirror reality. 

Difficult to interpret results

For you to start using psychometric tests you need to conduct proper research, otherwise, you risk using tests that are not legitimate and you won’t be able to decipher what the results actually mean. The Internet is overflooded with “personality tests” that may or may not be scientifically based. For the testing to be legitimate you can’t just choose a couple that you deem to be suitable for you, no, they need to complete each other scientifically. Get in contact with an expert who can help you understand both which tests to use and how to read them. 

Cultural barriers 

A person who has never been in touch with these tests is likely to be eliminated immediately. Therefore it’s wise that you ask beforehand whether they recognize the tests or not. If they don’t it would definitely be worth finding other ways to pick the candidate’s brain or give them more time to get accustomed to the tests. If you don’t want to risk missing out on a great candidate, that is. 

Hidden abilities and qualities

Unfortunately, these tests don’t reveal how driven nor how motivated a candidate is. Keep in mind that what you don’t get from the tests you have to find out through an interview. 

Intimidating situation

There are usually a high number of drops off due to how stress-inducing it is to be tested like this. Many candidates feel so pressured that they can’t get around to finishing the tests. It’s debatable whether or not this is an indicator of how someone would handle another type of stressful situation. But being tested on your abilities under a circumstance like this tends to evoke stress like other situations wouldn’t. 

What are Structured Interviews? 

As opposed to an unstructured interview where asking ad hoc- and different questions to every candidate, a structured interview is a systematic approach to interviewing where you ask the same questions to every candidate, in the exact same order and rate them with a standardized scoring system. This interview format also has high scientific validity if you practice it in an accurate way.  

In order to create a structured interview, you should perform a job analysis to match skills to job tasks and define the requirements as well as create a list that defines, for example, what excellent leadership skills are. The questions can be either situational or behavioural and they’re both job-related. To get more information or to clarify things, you should ask probing questions. Here’s an example of a good approach:

Say that the competency to be measured is Leadership skills which are defined as showing understanding, empathy, assertiveness, drive, focus, and efficiently moving the team forward. 

The initial question could be for example:
Your team has failed to deliver to the client and no one wants to take responsibility for the occurrence. The team starts to argue, the client is angry, and you risk not getting paid for the project. How would you handle this situation?

Phrase the question according to the STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result)

Why do you believe this situation occurred? (Situation/Task), What factors would affect your course of action? (Action), How do you think your action would be received? (Result). 


Structured interviews may seem like a cold approach candidate/recruiter-wise compared to unstructured interviews because they don’t give room for connection between the two parties. But that is also somewhat of the point as bias is likely to form as soon as something that could be called a ‘connection’. In an ideal setting, the recruiter should act somewhat like a robot and be emotionless throughout the interview. 

Advantages of Structured Interviews

Advantages of Structured Interviews

A multitude of options

In comparison to psychometric testing, structured interviews enable you to extract more information from each candidate, as well as give more information, since you can ask a variety of questions. All from questions on motivation, drive, salary, and expectations, to working hours. 

A more rewarding candidate experience

Undertaking a hiring process that entails structured interviews usually means you are more often in contact with the candidates. You thereby have the opportunity to create a splendid candidate experience by, for example, automating consistent email send-outs before and after every step of the process. 

Low bias 

Because of the structured approach, these interviews, if done ethically correct, are actually very low on bias even though the candidate is sitting right in front of you. 

Easy to check the data

Thanks to the thought-through structure from interview to scoring, you can compare results and reliability check the results. If you notice that a question gives extremely varied responses or responses that are far from the question itself, consider removing it from the template since it is of limited use for evaluation purposes anyway.

Works for all positions 

One major perk is that the candidate is allowed to develop their responses and explain a situation from the top down which in return gives you a well-founded idea of their motives and actions. Thus this method can be applicable to all positions. 

Indicate performance easily 

Since they’re very focused on competencies, you’ll avoid making choices based on your own intuition and instead rely heavily on the results in front of you. 

Structured interviews in a digital format

Nowadays, you don’t have to meet up with the candidates to conduct the interviews. You could use, for example, Hubert to do it which frees up a lot of time. 

Disadvantages of Structured Interviews

Resource-consuming

Conducting these interviews the old-fashioned way; candidate by candidate, takes up a lot of time from your side, especially since you have to book meetings with each and every one. It will quickly become a costly endeavour because of the time you have to spend with each candidate, and there’s no way to get around that unless you make use of a digitized version, which we touch on further down. 

Not entirely bias-free

Despite the fact that structured interviews are known for being impersonal and cold-hearted, the recruiters’ impression of someone can still influence their choice, even though the results should speak for themselves. 

Structured interviews for the digital age

When it comes to high-volume recruiting there’re not a lot of options when it comes to good pre-hire assessments that are both scalable, user-friendly, and deliver a high validity.

As great as the structured interview is at indicating performance, it’s not the best when it comes to high-volume recruitment due to its time-consuming nature.

With the recent advancements in artificial intelligence and Natural Language Processing, some companies have started to explore the possibilities of automating structured interviews.

The advantages are pretty straightforward:

Up to 90% resource savings compared to a manual process
Virtually bias-free (no human interaction)
Great candidate experience and convenient for both candidates and recruiters

And in terms of structure, it’s hard to be more structured than a machine trained to perform the same task in the same set order.

For the next step, the interview is coupled with a scoring engine that looks into the performance of the candidate’s interview and assigns a score based on the requirements for the position.

Conclusion

To conclude, one could say that psychometric testing is the best fit for c-level positions. In contrast, structured interviews are more relevant for high-volume recruitment or roles where personality doesn’t make it or break it in the job. Whichever method you choose, remember to advise experts in the area.