Civil Service HR looks to develop library of online psychometric tests

Government looks to create up to 50 different tests for candidates

The government is looking to develop a wide range of online psychometric tests for candidates applying for roles in the civil service.

Civil Service HR, a 3,500-strong government-wide profession which includes a centralised unit housed in the Cabinet Office, currently uses a total of three psychometric tests provided by two external providers. But the government now wishes to develop its own tests, and has issued a request for information looking to identify an off-the-shelf software platform that could enable staff to write and publish tests to be delivered online. The system must also allow HR professional to access and analyse results, the government said.

Once such a product is in place, the government hopes to develop as many as 20 of its own tests within six months, and 50 by the end of the first year of the project.  

More than 250,000 candidates for jobs in the civil service are expected to take the tests each year, and the system on which they run must be able to handle as many as 1,500 concurrent users. In the last 15 months, 40 different departments and agencies have used the three tests that are currently available – which all plug into the civil service’s CS Jobs applicant-tracking system.

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“Based on customer expectations for recruitment outcomes, Civil Service HR is intending to take a toolkit approach to online tests and assessments, and will gradually grow the number and range of tests and assessments it makes available to departments,” the RFI said. “This vision will require us to grow our internal capability and capacity to develop and manage a range of complex psychometric tests and assessments. The project is at an early stage, in which the functional and technical requirements and operating models are being explored in relation to a variety of users’ needs.”

Psychometric testing, which is used by many large companies in their hiring procedures, aims to ascertain a candidate’s suitability for a profession or role. Tests typically take the form of either a personality test or an aptitude test. 

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – which places people into one of 16 defined personality types – is perhaps the most famous example of the former. The SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire is another test popular with employers, and is designed to shed light participants’ suitability for a role by measuring them on 32 different traits.

Unlike personality tests, aptitude tests have right and wrong answers, with questions designed to challenge people in areas such as logic, reasoning, and attention to detail. These tests tend to be taken in controlled environments, with time limits set for the finishing the whole exercise, or for completing individual questions and sections. 

Prospective suppliers of a platform for developing and administering psychometric tests have until 11 June to respond to the government’s RFI. Responses will then be analysed over the next couple of months. A formal procurement exercise is unlikely to be launched before the autumn.

Sam Trendall

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