Special Reports

Use personality tests to recruit


Creativity, innovation and invention are different but related concepts. FILE PHOTO | POOL

When I started talking about psychometrics, about 14 or so years ago, people likened it to horoscopes. Few companies knew what they were about. The common statement from recruiters was “I know when someone is right for the job… I just know”.

And my response was, “If one person can know, then imagine a whole team coming together, based on scientific research and methods tried and tested, creating questions based primarily on psychology to give you accurate information on a person.”

Psychometrics are measures of ‘latent qualities of an individual be they mental attributes, and personality.

Today, employers like assessments because they greatly reduce the time and cost of recruiting and hiring. Assessments give information if the person will be successful at a role, to a certain degree.

Cognitive ability remains the best predictor of job performance across all job types, levels, and industries. Behavioural and personality assessments tell you if a potential employee will find it easy to fulfill certain requirements of a role.

These assessments will also tell you that this “person prefers to work alone”, even if at the interview she was all bubbly.

If the assessment also has what we call a ‘measure for occupational interests’, as suggested by the Holland Code, then you will understand if the person will be motivated by the role outside of money.

Psychometric assessments ensure you get the right employee. A bad hire can cost you from 30 percent of an employee’s annual salary to three times their annual salary if you factor in recruitment costs, training and onboarding, negative impact on team performance, customer satisfaction scores, re-work, and repairing damaged relationships.

But here is the clincher; Kenyan employers rarely fire unless the problem is really bad. They can be stuck with a bad hire for a long time.

A good assessment allows you to think through and pick key attributes that make that role successful. For instance, does ‘decisive’ have to one of the must-haves in every job description? A highly decisive person is known to quick decisions oftentimes without consultation.

Of course, nurturing will also determine if this person is aware and has taken steps to ensure that they are balanced in their decision-making. This is why an assessment result should only constitute about 30 percent of the total score.

Understanding the measure given by a psychometric assessment is key in being able to interpret the results the way it was intended to be. Therefore, you must get a person certified in the psychometric assessment. A lot of people avoid this as it can be expensive but it is well worth it.


However, organisations should not use personality assessments that are not created for recruitment, such as Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and others, to filter our candidates.

This common mistake happens when recruiting firms have not taken the time to understand what psychometrics assessments are and what constitutes good policy when administering them.

In countries that have used assessments for a longer time, there are laws against using certain assessments on a certain population, or assessments that have no research backing.

If used consistently, assessments give a company data to make accurate decisions. Information on high-performing employees can be used in future hires.

They also give an organisation a common language to better plan initiatives such as team-building, succession planning and talent mapping, and career guidance.

It makes the workplace a better place to be because no one likes to be a round peg in a square hole.

Employees who are a good fit are more engaged, more productive, can be better co-workers, and help reduce turnover at the company.

Ms Karuga is the managing director Profiles International EA, which offers employee tools and data for effective decisions about their talent acquisition and development