Are psychometric tests a good idea for solicitor recruitment?
in Employers, Interviews, Job Applications

Are psychometric tests a good idea for solicitor recruitment?

Psychometric testing and solicitors – a good idea?

We regularly come across employers using psychometric testing, basic literacy tests or maths tests for their prospective candidates, who can for example be 10-30 year PQE solicitors. After all, psychometric tests can filter out poor candidates fairly quickly and decisions can be made on weaker candidates who otherwise may not have been picked up as being lacking in certain characteristics. Testing prior to interview can be a good way of finding weak candidates without anyone needing to spend or commit any time or effort into their recruitment.

So are psychometric tests a good idea?

In terms of recruiting senior staff, and based on our experience of dealing with the candidates and the firms as the ‘person in the middle’ any form of testing prior to interview is usually an absolutely terrible idea! Solicitors detest psychometric testing, basic literacy and numeracy skill tests with a passion and they have been known to walk away from job application processes as soon as they get any wind of this type of testing being utilised by an employer, regardless of the consequences (ie not being considered for a well paid, good quality job).

Recent experience

We recently had a vacancy for a senior solicitor posted with us. It was a commercial role, in house, good conditions, excellent pay, and in an easily accessible location. Suffice to say, we had a strong shortlist of candidates (mostly sourced from our 12,500 solicitor database).

The client’s HR department decided to include psychometric testing as part of their process, with the aim of taking a sensible and careful approach as to who they recruited, and weeding out any weaker candidates so that the interview team did not need to spend any time on them. We could understand this as recruiters – it makes a lot of sense. Surely the candidates would appreciate it too?

Unfortunately the moment psychometric testing was mentioned, our shortlist halved overnight. Applicants pulled out instantly. Their reason for doing this was that they did not want to be subjected to psychometric testing.

Psychometric testing success?

You might think that the psychometric testing has in this case done its job, because it weeded out potentially weaker candidates who did not want anyone to see they were weaker candidates and so refused to be tested. However the sentiment was not specifically related to one or two candidates, it included those candidates who carried on with the recruitment, albeit very reluctantly. Essentially nobody wanted to be subjected to psychometric testing.

This is not an isolated incident either; we have seen this happen on a regular basis which is why we think psychometric testing is not a good idea when it comes to recruiting lawyers, particularly senior ones.

A Level results request

A similar effect is often seen if a firm ask a senior solicitor for details of their A levels, which they may or may not have taken 30 years before. In the past we have seen candidates walk away, even when they have 3 A grades. They simply cannot understand why anyone would want to ask the question.

Lengthy interview process

Another similar level of candidate removal has occurred when firms have an excessive level of interviewing as part of their recruitment process. We came across a firm some years ago who seemed to enjoy having 5 rounds of interviews before they made an offer. This was a very easy way to get rid of all candidates who did not have huge amounts of patience!


We recommend that where possible, in house legal departments and law firms should not undertake psychometric, literacy or numeracy testing when it comes to senior staff recruitment. Whilst we understand the reasons and they may well identify weaknesses in a particular individual’s work, they do not assist the recruitment process because it annoys the applicants before the process even starts. A better time to perhaps do it if it is part of the process would be to add it in between interviews.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at