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Are some psychometric assessments discriminatory?

Opinion Written by Sue Berry on 23rd August 2017. Reading time: 2 minutes

Multiple cogsIn May, a job applicant with Asperger Syndrome had her case upheld by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). Her treatment by the Government Legal Services amounted to indirect discrimination.

She had applied for a role as a trainee solicitor and was required to take a multi-choice situational-judgement test – a form of psychometric test - as the first part of the recruitment process. Prior to the test she explained her condition and asked that an adjustment be made whereby she could provide a narrative answer instead. Her request was refused. She took the multiple-choice test and scored 12 marks, the pass mark was 14. Her application went no further.

As an HR professional qualified to administer and interpret psychometric tests, I find the stance of the prospective employer shocking. It is just this kind of poor behaviour that gives psychometric tests a bad name.

When used properly, psychometric tests provide a valuable insight that enhances the selection process. They should never be used in isolation. And, they should be adapted as needed to facilitate those with disabilities.

It is very important to ensure that before an applicant sits a test they understand what type of test they are taking. They should also be given the ability to pull out of the test at any stage and request an alternative assessment. And they should have the chance to explain any adjustments that they might need to support them.

Data analysis

The data collected is generally processed to provide two forms of report.

Firstly, there’s a score leading to a pass/fail. Such tests are normally related to ability (for example numerical, verbal or abstract reasoning). Secondly the tests could provide information about a person’s personality or preferences. This type of information can be considered against the ideal profile for a job role to help decide if the person is likely to excel in the role. These tests should never be used alone to make decisions.

They form part of a composite selection process that assesses which applicant best matches the role requirements. Human intervention in the process is paramount. Simply accepting that the score is too low when mitigating information has been provided is wrong. And blindly accepting the information provided in personality profiles is wrong.

Competent psychometric analysts take the data provided by the various tests and develop reports that can then be used to help inform the selection process. By using the data gathered in the tests, and asking targeted questions, the best candidate can be selected for the role. And knowledge of the context is essential.

Test and data management

As a test user I’ve agreed to be bound by The British Psychological Society Code of Good Practice for Psychological Testing. This means that I have a responsibility to maintain my competence and to use tests in an appropriate manner. I’ve agreed to only administer tests when used in conjunction with other assessment methods.
Furthermore, applicants must understand why the test is being used, what will happen to their test results and who will have access to the results. Due consideration to gender, ethnicity, age, disability and any other special needs is given before the tests are taken.

And if candidates do completed the assessment, they are provided with feedback in a clear, meaningful style.

TimelessTime takes the administration and interpretation of psychometric tests very seriously. If you would like to find out more about how we support our clients with psychometric accessments, please get in touch. If you want to sample part of the pre-select tool that we developed, why not define your ideal employee and then call us to discuss how you can implement this in your selection process. Not convinced? Check out what one of our clients had to say about their improved recruitment effectiveness.


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