Three reasons not to use psych testing

Human Resources

Three reasons not to use psych testing

I am a believer in the value psych testing can add to understanding someone’s motivations, preferences, potential and underlying abilities. Having built a business around psych testing for selection and development, this faith is certainly an asset to our service offering! But not everyone I meet is a true believer and at times I am faced with scepticism and wariness. And I can understand this, psych testing can be confronting, it measures our key drivers, our resilience, our thinking style, which can leave some people feeling vulnerable and exposed. So when faced with criticism or cynicism on the value of psych testing, rather than try to convert the sceptics to the ‘dark arts’ (a term once used to describe psych testing to me), I tend to agree with them.


Here are my top three reasons not to psych test.


You can tell someone’s personality just by talking to them

If, ‘people show you who they are everyday’ (a philosophy we live by at Psylutions) then through their behaviour, their words and their actions, people are showing us who they are and hence we get an understanding of their personality. In our own way, we are all experts on human behaviour. We understand ourselves, and this helps us to understand other people we come into contact with every day. By attending to the behaviour of others, we can get a feel for their personality and we can then make assumptions about how they will behave across a range of situations.


But is what we see in others really who they are? Or is it our own unconscious bias making judgements about someone and then only picking up on the evidence they give us that supports this judgement? And is what we see in others really who they are? Or is this their learned behaviour? We don’t know if someone has adapted to a new situation and is behaving in a certain way because they have to (such as working in a team) or because they genuinely enjoy working closely with others and are motivated to do so (such as having a high affilative drive).


People will fake a profile just to get a job

Now this is the old corker that if someone wants a job badly enough they will ‘cheat’ or fake a personality test to get that job. And if this type of behaviour motivates a person then really, what is to stop them cheating to get what they want? A savvy enough individual can probably work out what the questions in a personality test are getting at and answer them in the way they think their prospective employer wants them to be answered.


On the face of this, it does seem like a pretty iron clad reason not to use psych testing as one tool to assist in the selection of employees. But, think about this, if you didn’t use psych testing and you hired a person who had the propensity to ‘cheat’ or do what they needed to do, both ethically and not, to get what they want, wouldn’t you want to know this? We find that for the small percentage of those who do attempt to fake or manipulate the psych tests, their personality profile results are often incongruent with their behaviour raising red flags that warrant further investigation.  


A current high performing person also has high potential

Potential. It’s a word that is used often without a shared understanding of what it means and it is often assumed that to be a high performer means you also have high potential. It makes sense. If you are performing well now and have been for a number of years, then the logical assumption is that you will continue to perform well in the future. And, often this is the case.


But what about those cases where the opposite is true? What if a high performer is already performing at their potential? What if a high performer doesn’t have the motivation to continue to perform at increasingly higher levels?  We can’t answer these questions based purely on their current high performance. A great example from nature; if you watched a caterpillar going about its day (its performance) could you ever know that one day it could fly? (its potential). Without understanding what drives and motivates a person, without knowing how resilient they are in the face of change and how they adapt to uncertainty, we can never truly understand their level of potential.


So, as you can see, when faced with three sensible reasons as to why not to psych test, I don’t try to convince others of the merits of what I have built my business on for the last 8 years, I let the evidence do that for me.

Prue Laurence

Director at Psylutions

Prue Laurence is the Director and Principal Consulting Psychologist with Psylutions. She plays an integral role in the design and implementation of the suite of Psylutions services. A registered psychologist, Prue has over 15 years of business consulting experience within both the government and commercial fields. Preferring to work closely with her clients, Prue is passionate about ensuring they receive tailored and seamless delivery of Psylutions services.