PracticeAccounting FirmsPsychometric testing: a vital business tool

Psychometric testing: a vital business tool

It once struck fear into job hunters’ hearts – but psychometric testing is now a vital business tool

The use of psychometric candidate profiling and assessment for recruitment,
development and talent management is widely endorsed across the accountancy

It has become an intrinsic part of strategic people management ­ 85% of the
UK top FTSE 100 companies use this approach, with more and more companies
looking to achieve the long-term benefits of matching the right person to the
right job and keeping them onboard.

The primary reasons for the growth in usage are the proven predictive power
and the ease of online administration and scoring, which means recruiting
managers get test results before seeing the candidates.

This ensures unsuitable candidates are sifted out before interview and
recruiting managers have more information on successful candidates prior to

But now line managers at all levels, including FDs and partners, are
demanding a more active role in psychometric assessment to take advantage of the
benefits that not only recruit the best people for job vacancies, but also
measure staff motivation, assess team performance, pinpoint and develop talent
within their teams and ensure that the best recruits stay.

Power of the web

Psychometric testing has come a long way since the days of pencil and paper
assessment centres. Nowadays tests are typically completed online, saving a
great deal of time and money.

In the past it would have been necessary to manually read through tens if not
hundreds of CVs or application forms. One of the key benefits of psychometric
testing is its ability to quickly sift through a huge number of candidates,
identifying those with the technical and personal requirements for the role.

Psychometric assessments are being used in a wide variety of ways in the
accountancy field. There are tests for every level depending on the gap that
needs to be filled.

These include clerical tests to assess a person’s ability to check
information and numeracy tests, which evaluate how quickly candidates can solve
short numerical problems and how they interpret and use business-related
numerical data.

Personality questionnaires measure behavioural traits such as leadership,
communication and motivation and are regularly used to objectively identify
graduates with potential.

There are also inductive reasoning tests, which determine a candidate’s
ability to ‘think outside the box’ in terms of creative problem-solving, data
analysis and formulating new strategies and concepts, and these are used to help
recruit at more senior managerial levels.

Emotional intelligence

The large number of organisations who use psychometric tests to support the
recruitment process is a testament to the accepted industry view that
educational qualifications and technical skills alone cannot predict how well
someone is going to perform in their job.

While a candidate may well be good at passing exams this does not mean they
possess the skills needed to manage people, be a team player or work in a client
facing role, pre-requisites for most roles in the financial sector.

In order to achieve the best predictability of job performance, organisations
will use a combination of techniques, for example, ability tests (usually a
maximum of two or three relevant tests) will be used in conjunction with a
structured or semi-structured
interview and other relevant processes such as group exercises.

Psychometric tools are designed to objectively assess a person’s ability and
potential to carry out a specified job, taking into consideration all the
competencies needed to excel in a particular position.

Whilst qualifications in tax, risk and compliance are necessary to work in
certain areas of accountancy, motivation, personality and overall person to
job-fit are essential contributors to the success of a talented organisation.

Career development

Improving the efficiency of the recruitment process is just one way in which
psychometric assessments can aid team leaders with people management issues.

Another key area is that of team development. With traditional recruitment
processes, it can take up to six months to identify employees’ strengths and
weaknesses and then target them with relevant training.

But by using psychometrics, managers will have a good idea from day one as to
whether they need additional support and new starters become more productive and
engaged much earlier in the development process.

When looking to improve retention, psychometric tools in conjunction with a
consultative approach to strategic people management can also be invaluable. Not
only can they predict employee-job-fit and facilitate onward development, but
questionnaires can also be used at key stages in the employee lifecycle to
pinpoint motivational or developmental needs.

Cost effective

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the
average cost of recruiting someone stands at £5,000, which highlights the
importance of getting the people-fit right first time. Psychometric tests offer
managers an efficient and accurate approach to ensure that time and money isn’t
wasted in the recruitment and development of their teams, ensuring that
businesses attract and keep the staff they need.

Pwc takes the test

To lead in its chosen markets, PricewaterhouseCoopers tries to attract the
best and brightest people and provide an environment that motivates them to
fulfil their potential.

The professional services firm was an early adopter in using psychometric
assessment in evaluating the skills and behaviours of candidates to help ensure
they will be the right fit for the firm and its clients. This is not surprising
when you consider that more than 69,000 people applied for roles with the firm
in the UK in 2007. With just 3,000 positions available, it is crucial the firm
has a fair, efficient, and cost-effective method of evaluating candidates.

Initial application forms are reviewed by hand by the PwC recruitment team.
Then candidates are invited to undertake online tests, including numerical and
verbal reasoning.

In addition to being one of the UK’s largest recruiters of graduates, PwC
also took on more than 2,000 experienced hires last year. Candidates at this
level, typically manager, senior manager and executive level candidates, have
three Ð five years post qualification, or wider business experience and the
emphasis in applications is on a recruit’s fit with the firm’s culture and

Candidates are invited to complete an online personality questionnaire which
is linked to PwC’s values and competencies, including team work, leadership and
professional excellence. The aim of this process is not as a screening tool but
to enable line managers to have better conversations in interviews with

Sean Howard is sales director of
SHL Group

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