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HigherDecember 2023

Unprejudiced recruitment – tests are not a quick fix

Today most companies strive to acchive open-minded recruitment. But is it even possible to achieve a completely open-minded recruitment process? In this blog post, you get to meet one of Sweden’s most experienced experts in recruitment and recruitment tests. He shares valuable insights into prejudice, but also how to use tests the right way.

After many years as an Executive Search consultant, Patrick Littorin has solid experience in recruitment and testing. As an editor within the Affärsvärlden group, he has also contributed to journalistic reviews of various industries, and discovered that the testing industry stood out as less serious than most.

Based on these experiences, Patrick teamed up with Professor Bo Ekehammar and started Psykometrika; a company that develops various types of evidence-based tests for recruitment based on modern research.

Below, Patrick explains the concepts around prejudice and tests. The goal is to give you, the reader, an increased understanding of how humans work – and hopefully contribute to better and more open-minded recruitment in the future.

Why are we humans so affected by prejudice?

– We humans are limited in terms of the amount of information we are able to take in. We can handle a maximum of five to seven sources of information at once. Appearance and speech are examples of information sources we handle when we meet a new person. In order to sift through today’s large flows of information, we need to take shortcuts and filter, and such a filter is precisely prejudice. People often think mainly of negative prejudices, but they can be positive too. For example, beautiful people receive better treatment than those who are not as attractive. Although some people are more open-minded than others, we are all affected by prejudice to some degree, whether we are aware of it or not.

What role does prejudice play in the recruitment process?

– It is both about who is selected and who’s not. All people are appealed to by equality. Therefore you often choose a candidate that you see yourself in. The same way, you tend to not choose people that you find it more difficult to relate to, often because of name, age or background. Even those who say they want diversity, find it difficult to succeed in practice.

What problems can prejudices lead to in recruitment?

– With prejudicial recruitment, you run the risk of not selecting talented candidates, but also ending up with a group that’s way to similar, which means you miss out on new impressions and impulses. Difference is a precondition for development.

Which groups are most affected by prejudice in recruitment?

– It is above all older candidates and people with an immigrant background who won’t be selected by employers in Sweden today. We Swedes would like to see ourselves as open-minded, but compared to many other countries, age discrimination is a big issue and also the lack of diversity in the workplace. For large groups to be excluded from the job market not only affects the individuals and the companies, but is a great loss for the whole society.

Is it possible to achieve a completely open-minded recruitment?

– No, it is not possible to eliminate the prejudices completely. However, you can design your recruitment processes so that all candidates get a fair chance to get as far as possible. Companies have tried to do this in various ways, for example by removing names and place of residence from job applications. This reduces the risk that the prejudices affects the selection at an early stage, but instead makes you delay the problem until it is time to meet the person in an interview. The positive thing is, of course, that more people get the opportunity to get to that stage.

What can be done to reduce the effect of prejudice in recruitment?

– In order to give more candidates a fair chance, you need to create more ways than the traditional CV and cover letter applications, especially for roles where writing skills are not the most important thing. Otherwise, you exclude people who may not write perfectly, but have other relevant characteristics.

– As a recruiter, it is also important to have an open mind and a large dose of self-awareness. It is important to be aware of what prejudices you yourself have and how they affect you. One must also not forget that recruitment is only the first step. What does diversity look like in the organization as a whole? Are differences tolerated once the people are in place? Many organizations still struggle with this today.

Can tests contribute to a more open-minded recruitment?

– Yes, but only if they are used correctly and are based on modern research. Today, personality and intelligence tests are common, but people have more dimensions than that. For example, it’s a myth that the person with the highest IQ is always the most suitable candidate. Normal talent is quite sufficient in the vast majority of cases. Instead, there are other qualities and abilities that can have a much greater impact on how well someone succeeds in a role, such as the ability to handle stress, take responsibility, show emotional intelligence and, of course, the will and motivation to work. The goal of the test must be to understand the candidate better, which requires a lot from the person who has to interpret the test results. Tests are not a universal solution, but a complement.

When in the recruitment process should tests be used?

– It depends on what type of recruitment it’s about. With bulk recruitment for simpler roles, you may receive more than 150 applications to sift through. Then it would be a good idea to send out tests before calling for interviews, in order to make an initial screening based on the qualities you are looking for. In the case of highly qualified jobs with few applicants, the interview often needs to come at an earlier stage. You want to meet the candidate to see if you are on the same page. Then reason for the test in a later stage is to find things that stand out and how that could affect how they would function in the workplace. The test result becomes a basis for continued discussion and a way to help the interviewer or recruiter to see the candidate with new eyes. A first impression can otherwise be difficult to change, because one tends to seek confirmation of the image one has already received.

What to consider when choosing testing tools?

– First of all, you must demand scientific proof and ask for documentation for this. One should also ask which norm groups the test result will be compared to, and whether these groups are up-to-date. Many tests, such as Myers-Briggs, are based on findings over a century old that would not pass as science today. Badly designed tests can be practiced and get different results on different occasions. Good tests have a higher reliability and stability, which means that the test subject gets a similar result in repeated measurements. To get a worhty result, you also need to test at the right time, and not, for example, when the candidate is on holiday. Then you don’t respond in the same way as when you are “in action” Dramatic life events, such as having just been laid off or going through a divorce, can also affect the outcome.

What types of tests will we see more of in the future?

– One area that is growing a lot right now is tests for blue collar workers, i.e. blue-collar workers. There you want to be able to measure things like prejudice, integrity, emotional stability, honesty and morality. The goal is to be able to put together personnel groups with a positive culture, and thereby reduce the risk of everything from sexual harassment to theft – and ultimately save large sums.


How should test results be interpreted and which test should be used? Read more here.

Unprejudiced recruitment and personality tests are hot topics in recruitment today. What will recruitment look like going forward? What can we expect to see more of in the future? Read more about this topic here Rekryteringsguide: Framtidens rekrytering

Book a demo with us and we can show you how Psykometrika’s tests are integrated into our application process.