Tests for jobseekers must be ethical

If psychological tests are to be used to judge whether jobseekers have a psychological resistance to work, they must be administered by experienced users of psychometrics and proper feedback must be provided.

That was the reaction of the British Psychological Society to the news that the government is considering such a move.

Dr Ian Bushnell CPsychol from the University of Glasgow, the chair of the Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology, said:

“Psychometrics can be a valuable source of information for guiding people in their career search and decisions; the longer term unemployed could find the insights provided by a professionally conducted psychometric assessment very helpful in determining their choices about jobs.

“It is critical, however, that all assessments are conducted by experienced users of psychometrics - ideally under the supervision of a chartered psychologist. The success of a psychometric assessment of jobseekers will depend on sensitive, constructive and meaningful feedback about the results.”

Esther McVey, a minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, announced the scheme last week.

Under it, interviewers will assess jobseekers’ attitudes, behavioural norms and levels of self-belief by asking them to describe what they regard as the “risks of going to work”, the “value of work” and how confident they are of finding a job.

This will be combined with a profile on their background, looking at whether they come from a troubled family, whether their spouse will help them in looking for a job and when they last worked.

The scheme is currently being piloted in three job centres. If it proves successful, it will receive a voluntary trial involving 27,000 jobseekers in 27 cities to assess whether the tests can accurately predict whether someone will take a job.

The British Psychological Society’s Psychological Testing Centre provides information and services relating to standards in tests and testing for test takers, test users, test developers and members of the public.