Aptitude Test

27 Jun 2011

Psychometric Aptitude Tests vs Referee Checks

Most jobs require applicants to provide references or referees in the form of former employers who can be called to ask about how the applicant performed in previous roles. Whilst referee checks are very common, there is evidence to show that they do not predict job performance very well and can in fact be highly misleading.

‘The’ landmark study by Hunter and Hunter (1984), further investigated by Hunter and Schmidt (2004), it was determined that the validity coefficient, which refers to the correlation or relationship between outcomes of the reference check and job performance was low (0.26). This is shown in Table 1. To further explain this, a coefficient of 1 would mean that there was a perfect correlation between the referee outcome and job performance, whereas a coefficient of 0 would mean there was no relationship. Table 1 also shows that the highest correlation with job performance is ability measures, otherwise known as Psychometric Aptitude Tests.  We will return to that subject later in the article.

Table 1

Even more worrying is a trend where applicants are using “fake” referees to try to secure jobs that they are unqualified for or when their employment record is less than satisfactory.  An article entitled “Fake Referees – Are You Sure of Your Applicant’s Employment Background” published on the Human Resources website HC Online reveals that there is a burgeoning business in the form of online agencies that will provide false reference and employment verification information to prospective employers for a fee.  These agencies may also partner with websites that provide fake employment qualifications such as degrees. This is a very worrying trend and will no doubt leave prospective employers wondering how they can be sure that they are not being cheated or mislead in their search for the right employees.

A Proven Solution:

Referring back to Table 1, the most valid and reliable indicators of job performance we currently have are Psychometric Aptitude Tests, otherwise known as Ability Tests. These are tests that examine aspects of intellectual or cognitive functioning.  They are such valid and reliable indicators of job performance because they are novel and standardised, so all applicants are on the same playing field.  Performance cannot be ‘faked’ and depending on the type of test it is unlikely that anyone has had the chance to practice. They have normative data that individual performance can be compared to.  There are many different types of Psychometric Aptitude tests, and the right one will depend on the nature and requirements of the job. RightPeople has a range of Psychometric Aptitude tests that are suitable for a wide variety of skilled and semi-skilled jobs, all of which are based on extensive research.

Don’t risk letting your organisation be fooled by fake assurances. Let us provide you with the most valid tools for predicting job performance we have.

Contact us for more information.


Hunter, J.E., & Hunter, R.F. (1984). Validity and utility of alternate predictors of job performance. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 72-98.

Schmidt, F., & Hunter, J. (2004). General mental ability in the world of work: Occupational attainment and job performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(1), 162–173.

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