SO many employers now use psychometric and ability tests for recruitment that teachers should train their pupils to answer them, according to a new study.
It suggests that reforming qualifications and trying to assess "soft skills", such as the ability to work in a team to meet the needs of employers would be a waste of time. Most companies, it seems, would rather test the candidates' personality and skills themselves.
However, researchers Andrew Jenkins and Alison Wolf of the Institute of Education in London found little sign that employers were increasingly using their own tests because of discontent with existing qualifications. Employers stressed the importance of broad, interpersonal and non-academic qualities. They were reluctant to use qualifications in a formal way during recruitment, in part because of equal opportunity concerns.
The researchers found just one case where tests had been introduced because of dissatisfaction with a qualification. This was the armed forces, where recruiters felt that GCSE maths grades were not an adequate indicator of the skills required for technical recruits.
Nearly one in five UK workplaces uses personality tests and nearly half use competence or performance tests. Use of personality tests is much greater in large workplaces, with more than half of those employing 500 or more using them.
"Recruitment is seen as an increasingly important, high-stakes and potentially risky affair, in which any measures or techniques which can increase the accuracy of the decision are welcomed," say Jenkins and Wolf. "We owe it to young people to ensure that they understand and (in the case of ability tests) are well-trained at answering, these instruments in whose validity many users appear to have a rather alarming degree of faith."
Friday magazine, 12