Psychometric Testing in Recruiting Police Candidates

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 15
Words: 4191
Reading time:
16 min
Study level: PhD


For the past thirty years, psychometric tests have been crucial in the selection and recruitment processes. Today the tests are common in many organizations during the recruitment process. The police force is no different. These tests would improve the quality of service as compared to the traditional mass training, which has existed for years. Psychometric tests are effective in measurement of the candidates’ intelligence, competence, skills, personality traits, emotional resilience, and other personal qualities in employment setup” (Kline 2000). [1]

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The traditional recruitment methods have been long in the police force. Utilizing the psychometric tests would be a turning point for employers in selecting candidates to serve in the police force. It gives a wider picture of the recruits, as opposed to interviews alone.

For quality service in the police force, quality recruitment is the option rather than depending on numbers. Therefore, psychometric tests serve the purpose of selecting candidates for the appropriate task and sieving out the unsuitable applicants. Psychometric tests would be an option for employers. It is a relatively cheaper method of filtering unfit candidates for the job in the early recruitment stages. This gives the employers in the forces an easier time concentrating on the remaining candidates. Psychometric tests reduce workload significantly and replace the first selection system that initially dominated in shortlisting candidates for a severe second interview. According to Kline, 1993, “psychometric tests increase the opportunity of recruiting the most suitable candidate for a given job. From research, a wide range of organizations and firms utilizing psychometric tests have high chances of success” (Kline 2000, 374).

Conducting the Recruitment and Selection process

The selection process is the collection and evaluation of information concerning an individual for the purpose of employment. In the pursuit of excellence in the police force, the psychometric test should be core. These entail all aspects of the police force, ranging from Human resources, recruitment, selection, and placement to retention.

Job Analysis

This is the initial stage also known as occupational analysis. It involves a thorough examination of a job. It is also a research process for getting thorough information concerning a given task for undertaking in the future or ongoing. In the police recruitment exercise, this step serves to identify the obligations and responsibilities of the police job that in turn highlights the job description and person specification.

Job description

This step summarises the employees’ roles and responsibilities. It is the key tool in the selection process as it details the job expectations, training requirements, and the employees’ pay rates.

Person Specification

In the selection exercise, this step serves to give an outline of the candidates’ knowledge, abilities, aptitude, and experience necessary to attain the post in the police recruitment exercise, this step is the foundation for fit candidates as personal specifications targets traits that candidates require for efficient job performance. In this stage, the employees’ qualities are relevant for undertaking the given task.

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This step brings the employer and the job seekers together. Recruitment is the act of attracting job seekers for employment, prompting them to apply for given posts in organizations. In this stage, relevant steps that count include: attracting, assessing, short listings, interviews, testing, and selection.


This involves making decisions on the appropriate candidate for the appropriate job. This stands as the last stage where a detailed review of the skills and the requirements takes place. Selection of the most suitable candidates for the job takes place at this stage. However, before appointments, the involved organization ensures a background check for the selected candidate.


In this step, the selected candidate gets the job and is given duties to undertake. If need be, training would as well work before placing the candidate on the job.

Psychometric Tests

Modern psychometric tests have their origin in Sir Francis Galton, whose interest was on human differences. He demonstrated how the tests would provide meaningful scores.

In the 20th century, the tests increased in their popularity. Today, these tests are standardized assessment, that intensively looks at the human character and expound it through scores. These tests examine intelligence, ability, and personality individual characteristics. Majorities of employers extensively use these tests to recruit graduates to which they make considerable investments.

The British Psychological Society describes psychometric tests as “an established method in which there are deductions made revolving on an individual’s ability, propensity or obligation to act, respond emotionally, experience, or to build, direct thought or behavior in a given way” (The British Psychological Society 2012). [2] This test would improve the quality of recruiting candidates for the police service.

This is because the test targets the candidate’s intelligence, memory, aptitude, sensitivity, and personality. The tests also serve to assess and thoroughly examine details that the prospective employee submits to the employer.

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These tests measure mental status. They objectively reflect on an individual’s abilities and characters, which foretell the degree of excellence in a specified job. In the recruitment of candidates for police service, psychometric tests should target key areas of the candidates: aptitude, personality, and interests.

Aptitude Tests: Candidates looking forward to serving in the police force should undergo tests for their ability to think rationally. Such tests are able to scale a potential candidate to acquire knowledge on new tasks and skills necessary in the police service. Interest Tests: These tests show how the potential recruits may differ in their “motivation and values, in their drives and strength of their interests what they value and their personal view of situations” (Kline 2000).

Personality Tests: These tests scale the personal qualities of an individual that are relevant for a specified task. It tests the ability of the candidate to interact with others at work, ability to think rationally, constancy at the workplace, and ability to handle emotions. For recruitment of candidates to serve in the police force, personality questionnaires utilized in conjunction with interviews are effective in providing significant self-awareness into the candidates’ style and how they perceive themselves. For obtaining a personality profile, answers ranges of multiple questions are necessary. Questions presented to the candidates usually require responses that describe the way they feel and act, and require the true or false responses or responses on a scale.

These tests are appropriate during recruitment exercises for the purpose of selecting candidates for the next stage, or for the ultimate utterances on promotions, individual development, and building the team spirit. The tests’ role in the recruitment process is vital in the achievement of the organization’s objectives. When embracing these tests, situations assessment is necessary for attaining the desired objective. In some cases, psychometric tests are not necessary. For instance, when there is evidence of job performance, it would be futile putting the psychometric test for candidates. In the police force, the tests would serve the purpose of recruiting new candidates to the force. The force should utilize the tests for informed decisions. For candidates applying to the police force, the test serves to recruit them for scheduled interviews to determine candidates suitable for particular tasks.

Purpose of psychometric tests

When seeking to improve the police service, employers in the police force should abandon the traditional recruitment method and embrace psychometric tests. The psychometric test for prospective employees of the police service ought to play the role of determining the candidates’ skills suitability of serving, facilitating personal growth and recognition of training requirements, and staff progress. They should also serve the purpose of offering career guidance for present employees in the police force and developing teamwork.

When these tests serve their purpose, they provide the police employers with a clear perception on predicting how well their prospective employees are able to coexist and work together with other individuals. In addition, tests also show how candidates can manage their stress level, and whether the prospective employee will successfully handle intellectual demands that come with the job. Psychometric tests for police recruitment ought to be straightforward in the initial stages of selection for the sake of filtering out unsuitable candidates for the service.

As a measurement for the candidates’ set of characters, preferences, intelligence, and competence, these tests aid the police employers to get the appropriate match of candidates to the job surrounding influences. For their core roles in recruitment, these tests should present accurate results based on methods that conform to statistical works.

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Benefits of using psychometric tests in the recruitment of candidates to the police service

Psychometric tests aid the police employers in predicting the future performance of the candidates with the real performance. The tests gauge the intelligence and the competence of the candidate, instead of the candidate’s physical features, thus; there are limited chances of biases and inequality.

Compared to interviews, these tests give clear results, and maintenance of secrecy is possible. With the test, it is possible to grade the candidates as good, average, or poor. The test offers a deep explanation to certain behaviors of a candidate; hence justifying rejection.

However, the psychometric tests may fail to be effective in the police recruitment exercise due to some of its limitations. The candidates are likely to give false information to attain the needed score for selection. During the recruitment exercise, some candidates may experience anxiety and are likely to give inappropriate responses. The test may fail to test on some qualities such as honesty and transparency that are crucial in the force. The test may not be valid and reliable as several groups of candidates do it in a different environment. This greatly destroys the testing value (Price 2007, 361). [3]

Qualities of psychometric tests

When recruiters embrace the test for selecting suitable candidates to serve in the police service, there are some qualities the tests should possess. The employers in the police force should ensure that the tests do not favor any individual or disadvantage others, the tests should be in a position to perfect the prediction of future performances of selected candidates to work in the force. The test should be reliable, reduce and quantify any basic mistake. The candidates’ beliefs or values should not influence the tests. Therefore, they should be objective.

Measurement of psychometric tests in the recruitment

The two scales common for measuring psychometric tests are the ipsative and Likert scales. The ipsative test scale requires the candidate to select one or more identical options. Conversely, with the Likert scale, the candidate can choose any preferred option.

Interpretation of the psychometric tests

The first method compares the candidate and other candidates that serve as reference groups. This interpretation serves to choose personnel to differentiate the candidates in terms of their skills in numbers, ability to express themselves, intelligent reasoning, and personality. Such reference groups serve as the normal group due to their link to the normal curve.

Interpretation of the psychometric tests

The first method compares the candidate and other candidates that serve as reference groups. This interpretation serves to choose personnel to differentiate the candidates in terms of their skills in numbers, ability to express themselves, intelligent reasoning, and personality. Such reference groups serve as the normal group due to their link to the normal curve.

The second interpretation method fails to utilize the external reference, but rather opts for internal reference where the candidates select their preferred choice on the style of behavior with no comparison group as reference.

Why should police recruitment exercises consider psychometric tests?

The training costs have increased as a result of economic changes globally. Therefore, psychometric tests would be effective in police recruitment due to the large numbers of applicants involved at a reduced cost.

Advancement in technology can facilitate the administration and assessments of results. The police force can embrace technology as a source of instant scores and feedback. Consequently, they will reduce the obligation to employ sufficiently, trained assessors whose role is to send feedback in the selection process.

The rise of employment-related lawsuits prompts many organizations to hire highly qualified HR personnel. HR encourages more professional strategies of selection. These tests serve the purpose of highlighting areas that need detailed discussion at the interview. Thus, psychometric tests provide a professional recruitment process.

Many candidates looking forward to working in the police force, but present false academic qualifications and have non-standard degrees. Still, some want to bribe their way to the police unit and use questionable means like forgery. Therefore, the police recruitment exercise should incorporate psychometric tests in the recruitment exercise as they present up-to-date knowledge on skills like quantitative reasoning that qualify the candidate’s credentials.

Reliability and Validity of Psychometric Tests

When recruiting candidates to the police force, the employers should ask questions on the appropriateness, meaningfulness, and inferences made concerning the selection exercise. Validity involves whether the selected candidate is to exhibit results on performance as stipulated through inferences reflected during the selection process. When the real job performance equals the anticipated performance, then, the validity of the test is high in the selection process.

Reliability in the recruitment of candidates to the police force is about tests administered yielding similar results if administered again elsewhere. Reliability is about the accuracy of the real measuring tool.

Factors likely to affect the selection of candidates to serve in the police force

Selection of candidates to the police services should utilize reliable and accurate techniques in gauging the candidates’ suitability. Reliable tests are able to maintain the same standard when administered to the same people at the same time. Reliability increases when two individuals assess the same candidate and provide similar ratings, also when gauging of candidates occurs at various periods and the outcomes are similar.

However, there are some factors that may compromise the reliability of the tests when assessing candidates. A tensed candidate may fail to pass the psychometric test; thus, missing recruitment to the job. Poor communication between the candidate and the prospective employer is a factor reducing reliability. Candidates with insufficient knowledge on a subject usually compromise the reliability of a test. If the tests are lengthy, a conflict of reliability and validity arises in the selection procedures. In the selection process, every candidate is unique; thus, the provision of the same test to many applicants produces different results.

Adopting the psychometric test in recruitment exercises in the police force may be an effective way of providing reliable, and valid information relating to required candidates’ characteristics. It is also an effective way of predicting the future performance of selected candidates. According to a study by Salgado, these tests predict job performance i.e. those who perform well in the psychometric tests also perform well in the actual job (Salgado 1995). [4] Research literature reinforces this notion that cognitive tests play an effective role in predicting performance, and the perception of objectivity.

Cases of Psychometric Tests in Recruitment of Police

There are a number of police models using psychometric tests in recruiting their police officers. Psychometric tests in police recruitment involve “academic and problem-solving tests that assess the normal intellectual capabilities” (Head of Human Resources 2012). In academic tests, tests measure verbal, numerical, and abstract reasoning. It is crucial that applicants excel in psychometric tests as these tests demonstrate applicants’ abilities to perform and manage the cognitive requirements of police force learning, assignments, and jobs.

The UK advanced psychometric tests for its police officers. They note that the Police Initial Recruitment Test (PIRT) is applicable throughout the UK. The UK PIRT assesses many skills related to “numerical reasoning, logical reasoning, speed and accuracy skills, and verbal abilities” (Head of Human Resources 2012). Candidates undergo five stages where the force measures the ability to write clearly, accurately, and make logical conclusions from written materials. In addition, tests measure “numerical reasoning skills and ability to scan and compare information fast and accurately” (Head of Human Resources 2012).

The Kent Police apply occupational psychometric procedures to improve the quality and quantity of information accessible and available to recruitment officers when “making decisions regarding recruitment, selection, promotion, development or training processes” (Head of Human Resources 2012). [5] Kent Police applies psychometric tests alongside other tests using different methods. In addition, there are also other assessment techniques the force applies. However, Kent Police does not base its hiring decisions on the basis of outcomes of psychometric tests. The administrator documents reasons for applying certain psychometric tests in a given recruitment process.

Kent Police has recognized the importance of maintaining the highest standards in practice when applying psychometric tests. Kent Police strives to ensure that the process benefits the police force and applicants. In addition, it aims to promote fairness and equal opportunities for all applicants. Consequently, Kent Police has some standards that it has adopted to facilitate its administration of psychometric tests in the recruitment process. This can serve as a valuable tool for Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

It is only officers that have appropriate skills and training that administer psychometric tests to applicants. These officers also have specific training and license in a given field. Kent Police also ensures that all participants receive their results and feedback. During this process, qualified and licensed officers “interpret and explain the tests to both assessor and candidates” (Head of Human Resources 2012). Kent Police uses Data Protection Act 1998 to restrict and control access of feedback to only relevant persons like the applicants, assessors, and the vetting team.

The Kent Police ensure that all other external bodies supplying the tests also adhere to these requirements. In addition, the Human Resources Directorate must also comply with the policy in maintaining the confidentiality of the tests and results. Still, no officer can perform a task beyond his or her level of qualification. This eliminates chances of external interference, poor recruitment and selection processes. The Human Resource Directorate safely and securely keeps tests with feedback.

Kent Police PIRT system uses strict methods in provisions of psychometric tests to applicants. Candidates have access to a sample of practice material in advance before taking their ability test. Officers that take psychometric tests must recognize that they have responsibilities to themselves and the entire Kent Police. The system is flexible to allow candidates to express their concerns if they feel that some factors have influenced their performances. This also accounts for disabilities and the first language (English). As a result, the administrator can make prior arrangements for such candidates.

Officers can also retake a certain psychometric test after a period of six months. However, such officers must support their needs for a retake. Kent Police continually monitors its psychometric test “techniques for continued effectiveness and appropriateness” (Head of Human Resources 2012).

Kent Police considers psychometric ability tests that are not more than six months old. Any test above six months is invalid for any selection or promotion purposes. Consequently, Kent Police destroys such results after two years. Psychometric personality tests are valid for a period of two years. After that, the force destroys such tests after “five years, or when the respondent ceases to be a part of the force” (Head of Human Resources 2012).

Kent Police makes the process transparent and allows for complaints through the Head of Human Resources. The UK also offers equal opportunities for all races. Thus, the policy on recruitment and selection must be relevant to the race and diversity of the applicants. Kent Police assessment policy on psychometric tests for recruitment and selection can serve JCF.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) uses psychometric tests in its recruitment process. The RCMP refers to these tests as RCMP Police Aptitude Battery (RPAB). RPAB consists of the “RCMP Police Aptitude Test (RPAT) and the Six Factor Personality Questionnaire (SFPQ)” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2012). [6] The HR Research and Intelligence departments developed the latest version of the RPAT. On the other hand, RCMP purchases its SFPQ tests so that the organization can meet its needs. RCMP measures different aspects of applicants in the following areas.

Composition: This part assesses the candidate’s grammar, vocabulary, and spelling knowledge relying on the applicant’s ability to “articulate, in a written format, complex thoughts in a clear and concise manner understandable to others” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2012). Most parts of this section originate from grammar books on errors.

Comprehension: This section looks at the applicant’s ability to read and interpret written texts accurately. It usually has short passages then followed by questions that test whether the candidate has interpreted the text correctly.

Memory: the test assesses the candidate’s ability to recall textual and pictorial elements with a time frame. Candidates receive various items with different names, descriptions, and specific crimes. Description of such materials consists of color, make, model, and type of crime. The candidate must remember all information specific to each material and crime.

Judgement/Commonsense: this test assesses the candidate’s ability to use “resources and strategies appropriately to achieve the desired objectives through realistic decisions and correct courses of action” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2012).

Observation: the RPAT looks at the candidate’s visual abilities. The tests use sketches and labeling to identify different scenarios.

Logic: in this section, there is the use of deductive (candidate’s ability to use general rules to get a logical solution) and inductive (candidate’s ability to use different information to form general rules) processes to identify and analyze problems and solutions.

Computation: this part measures the candidate’s basic computation knowledge. It involves addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. The test may also include algebra tests.


This test measures the candidate’s conscientiousness (this is behavior conforming to conscience or is under the influence of conscience), as RPAT does not measure it. The RCMP has introduced the concept of conscientiousness because of its “close relationship with concepts such as honesty, integrity and commitment” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2012).

New York City Police Department (NYPD)

NYPD also uses psychometric tests in the recruitment and placement of its police officers (NYPD 2005, 1). [7] The test measures the following abilities of the applicant.

Memorization: the test measures the candidate’s ability to recall information like words, procedures, and words. Candidates can use the same or different pieces of information to remember. Candidates study pictures (drawing or photographs) for a given time the take tests relating to the content.

Spatial Orientation: this shows the candidate’s ability to locate his or her location in relation to an object or location of the object in relation to the candidate. Occasionally, the test may involve the use of patrol maps. Such tests require the candidate to use efficient streets to access a point in a constraint situation.

Written Comprehension: the test involves testing the candidate’s ability to understand written sentences and paragraphs.

Written Expression: this section tests the candidate’s ability to grammar for comprehension.

Information Ordering: the test assesses the candidate’s ability to follow a rule or sets of rules or actions correctly in a given pattern. Tests have rules or a set of rules that the candidate must follow. They may include “numbers, letters, words, pictures, procedures, sentences, and mathematical or logical operations” (NYPD 2005, 9).

Inductive Reasoning: candidates must demonstrate their abilities of “combining separate pieces of information, or specific answers to problems, to form general rules or conclusions” (NYPD 2005). This helps candidates explain why different scenarios may fit each other.

Visualization: candidates imagine how an object would be in case of any changes to its shape or location. Candidates test their imagery abilities due to alteration of location, rotation, and distortion among others. It involves the prediction of the shape of an object after alterations of its position or shape. This test may also involve the complex use of images and mirrors, diagrams, and floor. The test assesses the applicant’s ability to access such areas.

Deductive Reasoning: candidates must demonstrate their ability to “apply general rules to specific problems and come up with logical answers” (NYPD 2005, 20).

Problem-solving: applicant shows his or her ability to know when a situation is likely to go wrong. In addition, candidates must identify the whole problem and its root causes.

Number Facility: the section tests the candidate’s ability to perform arithmetic requirements correctly.

NYPD Training

The NYPD Academy offers specific training in specialized areas. The Academy believes in changing recruits “into law enforcement professionals, equipped with the necessary academic and tactical knowledge of protecting the life, rights, property, and dignity of all the residents of the City of New York” (NYPD 2005).

Success in the police organization is effective when the recruitment exercise selects suitable candidates for particular roles. The force should not recruit highly qualified candidates only, but also understands such candidates’ suitability for the police service. Therefore, psychometric tests should determine whether the candidates are in the appropriate team environment for them to carry out their duties effectively and enhance police service. The tests are important in recognizing the skills of prospective employees. Thus, the main purpose of psychometric tests is to aid in recruiting candidates who are likely to improve services in the police force. Consequently, the JCF should adopt the use of psychometric tests so as to enhance the effectiveness and image of its force through service delivery to the public. In addition, studies indicate that country’s that use psychometric tests in the recruitment of their police officers have experienced a declining violent crime rate (see appendix).


Head of Human Resources. “Kent Police: L69 Psychometric Testing.” 2012. Web.

Kline, Paul. The Handbook of Psychological Testing. London: Routledge, 2000.

NYPD. NYPD: Police Officer Candidate. Test Preparation Kit, New York: NYPD, 2005.

Price, Alan. Human Resource Management in a Business Context, 3rd edn. Connecticut: Cengage Learning Business Press, 2007.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “Preparatory Guide for the RCMP Police Aptitude Battery.” 2012. Web.

Salgado, Jesus. “Situational specificity and within-setting validity variability.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 6 (1995): 1-2.

The British Psychological Society. “Psychological Testing Centre, 2012.” Web.


New York

New York crime statistics

“New York crime statistics report an overall downward trend in crime based on data from 11 years with violent crime decreasing and property crime decreasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in New York for 2012 is expected to be lower than in 2009”.

New York crime statistics


“The police-reported crime rate, which measures the overall volume of crime, continued its long-term downward trend in 2010, declining 5% from 2009. At the same time, the Crime Severity Index, which measures the severity of crime, fell 6%” (Statistics Canada:

The police-reported crime rate

The police-reported crime rate