Self-reported Test Results: a dangerous new trend

When administered and interpreted correctly, psychological testing provides standardised and objective information about whether or not an individual will be likely to perform well in a job. In fact, psychometric assessment (in particular assessment of general mental ability) has been shown to be the single best predictor of future performance.

With the growing number of employers using psychological assessments (estimated at more than 25%), the number of employees and job candidates who have been assessed is also increasing. Interestingly, we have noticed a recent trend where many of these individuals are choosing to showcase their test results in the public arena to impress prospective managers, clients and colleagues. People are not only listing their intellectual abilities on their CV alongside their employment history and work profile, but also on Facebook, Linkedin and other social media outlets. We recently even came across a Linkedin contact that lists his intelligence results as a ‘speciality’.

There are a number of reasons why candidates may do this. From a marketing perspective, presenting such results (especially if they are good news stories) is obviously an attractive strategy for job seekers. Beyond this, although Psychologists will always attempt to make the assessment process as painless as possible, it would be rare that people found testing enjoyable. It is therefore not surprising that many people proactively present test results in an attempt to avoid future testing.

These motivations are completely understandable from a candidate’s perspective. However, this does not mean that accepting such results is the right thing to do as an employer. The main four reasons that employers should be wary of self-reported psychometric results are summarised below.

1. Results are not standardised across tests.

There are a n umber of different companies that publish ability-based assessments. However, different test publishers provide different types of tests. These tests will not only vary in terms of the specific questions they ask, but may also differ in terms of the degree of difficulty. For this reason, results obtained from one company and on one particular test, cannot be directly compared to results from another. If your company currently uses a particular psychometric assessment as part of their recruitment process you cannot be certain that a score at the 30th percentile on your standard assessment tool is equivalent to a score at the 30th percent ile on another abilities assessment. This lack of consistency completely undermines the objectivity and defensibility of your selection process.

2. Often, you don’t know what population the results are being compared against.

A ‘comparison group’ is a large random sample of test-takers within a particular population. By comparing an individual’s results against a comparison group we can anticipate in an objective way how an individual is likely to perform in their future role, relative to most people. The problem is, that prior to interpreting a test result, a Psychologist will always consider the most appropriate ‘comparison group’. For some, senior or complex roles, we may choose to compare results against a comparison group of people that have at least finished a university degree. Whereas, for more basic roles we may choose to compare results against the general population.

So far, we have not seen any employees quoting the specific comparison group that was used in obtaining their particular test results. This is probably based on misunderstanding, not malice. However, the fact remains that it is simply not possible to interpret such results in a valid way.

3.  Test results are often presented in ways that can be easily misinterpreted.

Psychometric test results are designed to be interpreted by a trained Psychologist. Terms such as Percentiles, Stens and Raw Scores are frequently used to summarise results amongst trained interpreters. However, to those that are not trained these terms can be at best confusing and at worst misleading. Misinterpretation of key terms can often lead to a candidate presenting their results incorrectly, or explaining them to a hiring manager in the wrong context.

4.  You don’t know the authenticity of the results or if the test provider is reputable

Most people will not include details about the test provider when they present their scores on their CV or on Facebook. Without knowing details of who published the test it is impossible to verify the accuracy of the results being presented. Additionally, with the wealth of psychological assessments now available on the inte

et, anyone can easily take a test online and publish their results (or worse still – entirely fabricate them).

HC would always advise against the utilisation of self-reported psychometric testing results. However, we also understand that sometimes time constraints and other pressures make accepting such results attractive. As such, we’ve provided a number of guidelines to help minimise the risks associated with this approach (if you are still tempted to utilise it):

  • Always ascertain the tests administered, the comparison group utilised and the test publisher who administered the assessment.
  • Before you contact the publisher, obtain a privacy disclosure / release form from the candidate, authorising the test publisher to provide you with their results.
  • Always confirm with the test provider independently that the individual did in fact complete the tests, and verify that they are reporting their results correctly.
  • Confirm with the test provider all the details about the test results. You may need to engage this testing provider formally to do so as debriefing you on results may take some time and is usually an expensive exercise.
  • Inquire with the test provider as to whether or not the tests administered can be fairly compared to any other assessments that you have conducted with the other applicants for the role.

Although guidelines above might seem complicated, by taking the time to verify self-reported results, you are increasing your chances of hiring a successful candidate and saving yourself in terms of time and money in the long run.

If you need some assistance with verifying a candidate’s results, or would like more information about psychometric assessment in general, please contact us at [email protected] or call us on (02) 8061-3918.

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