For some organisations, psychometric testing and behavioural assessments remain an integral part of the hiring process, but the tight labour market prior to coronavirus taking hold did see a curbing of some of the more excessive mindgames supposedly meant to ferret out the best candidate for a job. When employment levels are high, people are far less tolerant of aggressive behaviour, eccentric requests or needless delays designed to gauge how they react under pressure.

But with the mass redundancies being brought by the pandemic, a single job advert is now estimated to be attracting an average of 250 applicants. With so many to choose from and very little to separate the best, employers may be tempted to revert to more dubious strategies, or find no option than to give added weight to more accepted assessment tools.

“This is not 1970,” observes Brian Creegan, founding director of Scottish-based Ucruit. “As I said to a client once, you don’t have to do bad cop-good cop.

“But could it happen again? Are these things cyclical? Possibly – time will tell.”

There are other factors at play, such as an organisation’s brand image as an employer. This will influence the kind of people who will consider working for a particular operation, and in the age of social media where stories of poor recruitment practices can quickly go viral, that image can rapidly tarnish.

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In hand with this, Mr Creegan points out that unhappy candidates can also impact a company’s bottom line, particularly those where job applicants are also customers.

The former head of talent acquisition at Virgin Media, Graeme Johnson, carried out a study in 2014 in which he examined feedback from thousands of candidates rejected by the subscription-based telecommunications company. He found that 6 per cent of those applicants were former customers who decided to switch providers after a negative recruitment experience, with a loss of more than £4 million to Virgin.

With statistics suggesting that 90 per cent of all workers will need at least some degree of retraining between now and 2030, employers are beginning to focus on hiring based on future capability, rather than past experience. Although in its infancy, this movement faces some of the same challenges as the more advanced drive to recruit those with high “emotional IQ” and other soft skills reportedly in widespread shortage.

Tests such as the Personality and Preference Inventory (PAPI) have been used for decades to determine individual suitability for various vocations and specific positions. Scottish manufacturer Peak Scientific is among many organisations employing PAPI as part of its recruitment process, though at a later stage in a multi-step process that begins with a personal phone call to establish initial contact.

“The man who set up the business is our chairman, so Peak still has a very family feel about it,” in-house recruiter Dawn Jackson said. “It is not just about what someone can do on paper, it is about values and principles, which is why we have the behavioural questioning.”

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She said test results could be more heavily relied upon in a situation where there are several strong candidates for one position, but added: “It is actually quite tricky to give an answer to that, because we would never use it in silo.

"Ultimately, the decision is with the hiring manager.”

Karen Orton of Scoutess Consultancy specialises in recruiting at executive candidates, with a particular focus on increasing boardroom representation among black women. At that level, she promotes a personal approach, with no automated processes or psychometric testing.

She concedes the need for technology solutions to speed up hiring procedures for jobs attracting large numbers of candidates, but adds that employers themselves are often unclear about what it is that they need. One recent example is that of a call centre operator that has deployed numerical games for applicants as part of its recruitment process.

Ms Orton says: “Do [staff] need to be that analytical to take an inbound call? Or do they need to have good values, and have they got the customer skills to do the job?

“There has to be a process, but you have to ask what are you measuring, why are you measuring it, and is that fit for purpose?”