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The Ethical Dilemma of Using Psychometric Tests in Recruitment


Psychometric tests have been a cornerstone in the fields of leadership development and executive coaching for years. Professionals in these fields often hold relevant qualifications to administer such tests and even advocate for their effectiveness. However, a critical question emerges: Is it ethical to make career decisions based on someone’s personality as revealed by these tests?

The Conundrum

The general perception is that psychometric tests are instruments to inform, not dictate, hiring or promotion decisions. They are considered to be a part of a larger decision-making framework. But is this the true picture? More often than not, the results of these tests weigh heavily in the decision-making process, potentially overshadowing other equally significant factors.

Are All Personalities Equal?

There’s a common argument that all personality styles have their strengths and that the tests are not about making judgments. However, this isn’t entirely accurate. For instance, if an individual scores low in conscientiousness and high in neuroticism on the Neo Personality Inventory, the likelihood of them being a first choice for hiring is extremely low. These traits are seldom, if ever, listed as desirable in job descriptions.

Biases and Limitations

Another concerning aspect of psychometric tests is their limitations and biases. For one, these tests are subject to ‘item bias,’ making it possible for applicants to cheat. Secondly, there is evidence to suggest that different neural circuitry can influence personality traits. This means that a test could potentially influence a decision based on physical, and neurological differences, raising ethical and discrimination concerns.

The Bigger Picture: Neurodiversity

Many organizations are increasingly embracing neurodiversity, making adjustments to be more inclusive. However, the use of psychometric tests in recruitment processes stands in contradiction to these efforts. Where is the line drawn between personality and neurodivergence? Given that psychometric tests can’t discern this, their use could be considered discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010.

By highlighting these ethical concerns, organizations must critically evaluate the role of psychometric tests in their recruitment processes to ensure they are fair and accessible for everyone.

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