Psychometric Testing

by Claire Walsh and David Hoad

Uses of psychometric testing

If they are well chosen, psychometric tests can provide a standardised method for assessing individuals or teams in a work, educational or clinical setting. In an occupational context, psychometric tests are used as an aid to employee selection and development and are popular because they can add some objective measure of performance.

Note

Only use tests in conjunction with other assessment methods and only when they can be supported by the available technical information.

However, it is important to note that no test is 100 per cent reliable and tests should always be used in conjunction with other assessment methods, such as an interview. The British Psychological Society in their ‘Code of Practice for Psychological Testing’ advise that tests should always be used alongside other assessment methods.

Uses in organisations

Psychometric tests at work are used in a variety of settings and have several applications.

Recruitment and selection

Alongside other assessment methods, psychometric testing is often used as part of the recruitment and selection process, to explore the match between the candidate and the role.

Coaching

Coaches use psychometric instruments to help individuals understand their strengths and development areas in order to facilitate personal learning and growth.

Psychometric tests are powerful measures of human characteristics. Their results can alter the course of people’s lives.

Testing People at Work
Mike Smith with Pam Smith

Career guidance

A variety of psychometric tests, such as interests and values inventories, can be used to help an individual consider their preferences for future career decisions.

Team development

Psychometric tests can be used in team training and development to enhance self-awareness, understanding and team communication.

Succession planning

Psychometric tests can be used as part of the assessment and development of future talent and leadership potential.

Assessment and development centres

Psychometric tests can be used as part of a multiple assessment process where a number of candidates are brought together with a team of assessors to explore their suitability or development needs for a certain role or promotion.

Assessment centres are not usually physical locations, as the name might suggest. They are planned sets of activities that are normally used to thoroughly assess suitability for particular jobs. Typically, an assessment centre event may include some appropriate psychometrics, competency-based interviews, plus some other activities, such as role-plays, work simulations (for example, an In-Tray exercise) or group discussions.

A good assessment centre will usually provide at least two different ways of assessing each important component of job success, thus providing a matrix of information about the individual.

Because they take up a lot of time, specialist staffing and other resources, assessment centres are usually only carried out for more senior or specialist positions, where the cost of getting it wrong is greater. They can also be cost-effective when a number of people are being recruited to one type of position – graduate entrants, for example, or a new sales team.

Note that the term ‘development centre’ is sometimes confused with assessment centre (even by the users), but the former is, in fact, a similarly-structured event that is designed to look at the abilities and development needs of a number of existing employees – perhaps to help plan training programmes or career paths, or to formulate succession plans.