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Solicitors and psychometric testing - a match made in hell?

More and more of my clients are using psychometric testing, or personality profiling, as part of their interview process to recruit in-house lawyers with the idea that the tests can help identify a candidate’s skills, knowledge and personality.

I think I need to put my cards on the table and admit I’m not the biggest fan of psychometric testing. I’ve been lectured on the science and reasoning behind it, I’ve taken several of the tests myself but still remain extremely sceptical. Now I do appreciate testing can take many formats, and that timescales can differ hugely but can a 30 minute online test truly give total strangers a genuine insight into my personality and be able to indicate how I would behave in certain situations?

Anyway I’m not that interested in debating the merits of testing. Instead, what I’ve found more interesting is the reaction of lawyers when informed that they will need to undertake these tests, as well as the feedback or in some cases the total lack of feedback, once completed.

Reactions vary from nervous acceptance to total outrage and indignation on being informed that they will need to take part in psychometric testing or personality profiling. Some years ago one candidate actually pulled out of the interview process when they were favourite for the job as they could not understand as to why the potential employer would subject them to ‘this hell’—their  words. Their view was that having a law degree, a post graduate qualification, 5 years’ experience and having undergone 3 interviews should have been enough for the company to make a decision.  Interestingly they admitted to me several years later that they had overreacted and always regretted that decision.

So in light of that, I can spend quite a long time briefing candidates about how best to approach a psychometric test. Lawyers are trained to analyse and dare I say overthink situations and problems. This is not a good mind-set when approaching this sort of testing. A highly qualified lawyer who was interviewing with a FTSE 100plc was asked to complete both verbal and numerical reasoning tests within an allotted time frame. Everybody who joins the business completes these tests. This was the final stage of the process and I was told it was just a formality before they would present the offer. After taking the tests, however, her results indicated that she came in the bottom 5% of candidates tested. When quizzed it became obvious that the candidate had totally overthought the questions and had got stuck on one question which used up too much of her allotted time. A re-test with the advice of working quickly, accurately and to spend no more than 2 minutes on each question saw her results increase significantly.

I’ve also lost count of the number times HR have called me up with feedback on a candidate stating that the overriding concern from the testing is that the candidate is too ‘risk averse’. I patiently have to explain to them that this is who lawyers are, this is what they have been trained to do and this risk aversion may actually prevent one of their Directors going to jail at some time in the future.

I would also suggest that having committed to the process and having completed the psychometric test there invariably seems to be a lack of feedback from the client.

To sum up, I think it’s fair to say lawyers and psychometric testing are not natural bedfellows. And so my advice is always the same: do it, don’t think about it too much and then just forget it.


David Cartwright is the Head of In-house Regions at Chadwick Nott, recruiting for permanent, interim and fixed term contract roles. For additional information on in-house jobs, market trends and industry data please contact David.


David Cartwright
0121 500 5576
07921 895 768

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