Psychometric Testing

by Claire Walsh and David Hoad

Introduction

Psychometrics, and their use for testing, profiling and assessment, are a fact of life in many organisations these days. They are used to

  • help screen and select job applicants
  • assess suitability for individual roles via promotion or re-assignment
  • help identify high performers and their appropriate development
  • profile individuals and teams to assist team selection and development
  • provide information for use in coaching
  • and more.

But what are they? A simple answer lies in the word itself: psycho- means to do with the mind, while metrics mean to do with measurement. So, we are looking at ways to measure things relating to the mind.

Those things range, as we will see in the following pages, from personality (whatever that is!), through several different sorts of ability (for example, verbal and numerical reasoning), to other aspects of our mind and its functions, including interests and values.

The appropriate and ethical use of such psychometrics can help, for example, to predict future job performance, or in creating an appropriate balance of abilities and other characteristics amongst team members. On occasion, it can be used to help an individual understand themselves – and their thoughts, feelings and behaviours – better.

The poor use of psychometrics may result in people being inaccurately labelled in some way: perhaps inaccurate assumptions may be made about abilities and job suitability, or personal data may be held or shared inappropriately, so that privacy is compromised.

To avoid these possible problems, and to get the most out of what psychometrics can offer, it is essential that the person making decisions about their use has at least a grounding in the nature and purpose of the various products, can assess when to use which type, and either has (or has access to) the expertise to use psychometric tools effectively and ethically.

With these provisos in place, real benefits can be gained. For example, the addition of appropriate psychometric testing can improve the effectiveness of expert behavioural/competency interviewing (see Recruitment) by 20 per cent, while the combination of these two methods has been shown to be four times more effective than the traditional job interview in predicting the future job performance of an applicant.

Note

As this resource is aimed at managers, it will not be looking at the use of psychometric testing in education, medicine and so on. Some of the resources in Want to know more? may, however, be helpful for readers interested in these and other applications.