Concerns raised about pyschometric testing in NSW public sector

The former NSW public service commissioner has raised doubts about the use of psychometric testing in the public sector recruitment.

Graeme Head

Writing in his report into recent recruitment practices for the state’s Senior Trade Commissioner to the Americas, Graeme Head says psychometric testing “may not be being used optimally” in the selection of senior public servants, and has called for a review.

Mr Head, who was directed by Premier Dominic Perrottet to investigate the circumstances around the controversial appointment of former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro to the post, handed down his report this week.

Capability assessments

The report makes a number of observations, including some relating to the use of psychometric tests during the selection process.

Psychometric assessments, which are used to measure things like cognitive ability and personality in applicants, can count towards capability assessments required under the NSW Government Sector Employment Act.

While not mandatory, they are commonly used by government agencies.

Mr Head says in his report that psychometric testing can be “a useful tool in recruitment” if the right tests are chosen, if they are done correctly, and if the results are interpreted correctly.

However, he concludes there’s no evidence they were used in this way for the trade commissioner job.

Instead, Mr Head concludes that psychometric testing seems to have done at the end of the process at the same time as things like police checks.

“A psychometric test is not a diagnostic tool of some kind to be used at the end of a process,” he says.

Wider concerns

Mr Head also said there were wider concerns about psychometric testing in the public sector.

“It was brought to my attention during the course of this inquiry that there is some concern about the way psychometric assessment is being used more generally in recruitment in the NSW government sector, particularly given its expense,” he said.

“While this was the observation of only a couple of people in the process, it is likely to be useful to understand whether this is a general problem.

“I make recommendations in this report for the Public Service Commission to conduct a review into how psychometric testing is being used in recruitment in the NSW public sector.”

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

4 thoughts on “Concerns raised about pyschometric testing in NSW public sector

  1. These tests are based on certain paradigms from alleged expert psychiatric test designers of how one is expected to behave in certain situations. In some cases you are forced to make choices from a limited selection, none of which actually reflect your intended response which, results in a test report that does not accurately reflect who you are. Humans are complex and the validity of these reports should be assessed with caution.

  2. Things have seriously deteriorated ever since we let personnel officers call themselves HR directors – much less people and culture!

    Anyone who can’t fake a psychometric test shouldn’t make it past the first interview for a senior management role.

  3. Using psychometric testing when hiring also has the potential to discriminate against neurodivergent candidates. I’m grateful that most recruiters I’ve asked about this were willing these barriers with written work samples that were genuinely relevant to the inherent requirements of the role.

    The Achievability Commission’s report Neurodiverse voices: Opening Doors to Employment is an excellent source for anyone who wants to learn more about this problem.

  4. I have witnessed the use of these tests being used to routinely to discriminate against candidates better qualified, but less likely to “tow the departmental line”. Essentially another way of entrenching the “grey cardigan bureaucrats” that dominate NSW government.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required