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What are the ethics of psychometric testing?

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A hand placing a wooden block on a stack, representing the ethical considerations of psychometric testing.

Ethical considerations when using psychometric testing

Is psychometric testing ethically sound?

We ensure ethical testing practices by adhering to the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics and prioritising brevity, non-discrimination and data security.

Our clients and candidates also have a responsibility to maintain confidentiality and integrity during the assessment process.

Discover how SACS can help you navigate the ethical complexities of psychometric testing in recruitment.

What are the ethical responsibilities of psychometric testing?

Watch the video to understand the ethical considerations of psychometric testing and the different responsibilities each party has - SACS, the client and the candidate.

If you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Understanding the ethics of psychometric testing

Hi, Andrew from SACS.

This is a brief video talking about the ethics in psychometric assessment.

At SACS, we believe that there are basically three parties in the ethical process of psychometric assessment.

There’s the provider, us in this case, SACS, there’s the client, the people that we provide the service to, and then there’s the consumer of the service, the candidate.

The provider’s ethical responsibilities

So let’s start out with SACS.

We comply with the Australian Psychological Society Code of Ethics when we undertake our psychometric assessment or any other project for that matter.

And we believe that there are two key characteristics of that ethical framework.

One is that you should do as much good as you possibly can, and you should do as little harm as you possibly can.

And in general, ethics for us is the greatest good for the greatest number.

So that really raises the question of the whole proposition of psych testing because after all, don’t people miss out on jobs if they don’t do well on psych tests?

Evidence-based testing

And the answer is yes, but we believe that the ethical argument in favour of this is purely and simply evidence.

This diagram shows you the most accurate methods of recruitment available.

And you’ll see that the ones that are highlighted all involve some form of psychometric assessment.

So we believe that evidence is a very strong ethical argument in favour of psych testing.

It’s far more accurate than interviews, and reference checks, and all of those traditional things.

And if therefore you recruit somebody into a job and they can’t do it, we don’t believe that you’re doing them favours, and in fact, we know that that can markedly damage their wellbeing.

Similarly, if you recruit people who are, let’s say, dishonest, or very angry, or do nasty things to their colleagues, well, clearly, that one person can bring down the wellbeing of many people by doing so.

Keeping psychometric tests short

You’ll see also that we believe that psych tests should be as short as possible.

We believe that there’s an ethical responsibility to cause people to go through as little grief and effort as possible to measure things as accurately as possible.

So the psych tests that we use have been evaluated against the harshest mathematical standards.

They have high factor loadings is what they’re called.

And what that means is that you can measure accurately literally with less questions.

Our longest instrument takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes or maybe 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete.

That’s very short by international standards.

We believe that brevity is an ethical responsibility.

Ensuring that tests don’t discriminate

You’ll see on this diagram also we believe that it’s important to do no harm.

And that’s really about ensuring that your instruments do not discriminate against minorities or anything of that nature.

Now, the United States of America probably has the toughest standards in this respect.

And our instruments have been validated against those tough standards.

And we know that they don’t discriminate unnecessarily against any minority or any subgroup in society.

Keeping data safe and confidential

Finally, we have an ethical responsibility to confidentiality.

And these days, of course, that’s to do with data security.

So at SACS, we’re committed to the highest standards of data security, and we do everything we can to ensure that our infrastructure is protected from external incursion.

The client’s ethical responsibilities

And then there’s the ethical responsibilities for the client, the person who buys psych tests from us.

Every time somebody completes a psych test on the SACS portal, we ask them to tick a box saying that they will not give the results to the candidate.

Why? Well, psych test results can harm people.

There have been examples where people who were, let’s say, very troubled and emotionally unstable, they get an unfavourable result on a psych test, and that can harm them.

What we’re asking you to do is that if you’ve got a psych test result on somebody, don’t tell them what the result means.

Send them back to us so we can professionally debrief them.

Being respectful and sensitive

You’ll see that we suggest a respectful use of data.

When you psych test people, you’ll find out a lot of really surprising things about people, people with scores on honesty which are lower than they otherwise might be or perhaps cognitive ability, low, even though you’ve interviewed the people and they seem alright.

That’s useful information and it’s extremely helpful to make your recruitment decisions armed with that information.

But I think that it’s really crucial that there should be a respectful tone, a respectful tone to the individuals that are being assessed in this way, to make sure that that kind of information is dealt with appropriately.

And that links into the next point, and that is that as few people as possible should see the results.

This stuff is very sensitive, isn’t it?

My scores on my personality, my scores are on my values, my scores on my cognitive ability.

If we interact with somebody and decide that they need to complete psych tests, then we really have a responsibility to them to ensure that as few people as possible see those.

And that minimises the risk that somehow, that data might go astray, might go outside the organisation, let’s say, because this is around about as sensitive as data gets.

The candidate’s ethical responsibilities

And it might surprise you to see that we believe that there’s an ethical responsibility for the candidate.

And that is to say that the information that is in these psych tests is confidential.

It is the intellectual property either of SACS or our partner researchers.

And if people were to publish that information widely, there is a risk that that would compromise the effectiveness of some of the measures.

Not all of the measures, but some of the measures.

So we believe that the candidate has a responsibility of managing that situation in an ethical fashion.

And of course the obvious one is that it’s a responsibility of the candidate to make sure it’s them who undertake the psych assessments.

You know, people sitting in for other’s own psych assessments is incredibly rare, you know, fractions of a percentage, of 1%, or something like that.

But it does happen.

So there’s an ethical responsibility for all of us to manage this sensitive topic well.

If you’d like to find out more about SACS’ psych testing or perhaps to avail yourself of a free trial of our services, don’t hesitate to be in touch by clicking on the link via this video or checking us out on our website.

And we’ll do what we can to help you.

Ready to employ psychometric testing in your organisation?

Learn more about our psychometric testing services or contact us today.

Discover Our Psychometric Testing Tools

Increase the accuracy of your recruitment decisions by up to 40% using psychometric assessments.

Psychometric testing predicts work outcomes, including:

  • Likelihood of success & failure at work
  • Counterproductive work behaviours
  • Occupational health and safety issues
  • Attitudes towards diversity

All of our psychometric assessments are based on research and backed by science.

See how SACS psychometric testing can enhance your hiring process and your existing workforce.

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Originally posted: June 5, 2024

Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting

Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.

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