Psychometric Testing

Measuring "Hidden" Traits

Psychometric Testing

Psychometric testing can objectively assess "hidden" traits.

© iStockphoto/olm26250

Measuring attributes like height, weight, and strength is reasonably simple. These are all physical and observable traits that you can assess objectively. But what about factors that aren't so easy to measure?

Traits such as personality, intelligence, attitude, and beliefs are important characteristics to measure and assess. Whether you're hiring people, helping team members understand themselves and their relationships with others, or trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, it's useful to assess these types of "hidden," less obvious attributes.

One way to gather this information is through psychometric tests. The article looks at what psychometric tests are, what they measure, and how they can help you in both recruiting staff and developing you career.

What Are Psychometric Tests?

Psychometric tests include personality profiles, reasoning tests, motivation questionnaires, and ability assessments. These tests try to provide objective data for otherwise subjective measurements.

For example, if you want to determine someone's attitude, you can ask the person directly, observe the person in action, or even gather observations about the person from other people. However, all of these methods can be affected by personal bias and perspective. By using a psychometric test, you make a more objective and impartial judgment.

Since objectivity is key to using these assessments, a good psychometric test provides fair and accurate results each time it's given. To ensure this, the test must meet these three key criteria:

  1. Standardization – The test must be based on results from a sample population that's truly representative of the people who'll be taking the test. You can't realistically test every working person in a country. But you can test a representative sample of that group, and then apply the results to the specific people whom you test.

    Also, a standardized test is administered the same way every time to help reduce any test bias. By using a standardized test, you can compare the results with anyone whose characteristics are similar to those of the sample group.

  2. Reliability – The test must produce consistent results, and not be significantly influenced by outside factors. For instance, if you're feeling stressed when you take the test, the test results shouldn't be overly different from times when you were excited or relaxed.
  3. Validity – This is perhaps the most important quality of a test. A valid test has to measure what it's intended to measure. If a test is supposed to measure a person's interests, then it must clearly demonstrate that it does actually measure interests, and not something else that's just related to interests.

Note:

Psychometrics is the study of educational and psychological measurements. The adjective "psychometric" is used to describe psychological tests (typically those used in educational and occupational settings) that are standardized as well as proven to be reliable and valid measures of areas like personality, ability, aptitude, and interest.

Beyond these criteria, effective psychometric tests must be relevant to the modern workplace. Before using one of these tests, make sure the test has been validated and updated recently.

What Do Psychometric Tests Measure?

Psychometric tests can measure interests, personality, and aptitude.

  • Interest tests measure how people differ in their motivation, values, and opinions in relation to their interests.
  • Personality tests measure how people differ in their style or manner of doing things, and in the way they interact with their environment and other people.
  • Aptitude tests measure how people differ in their ability to perform or carry out different tasks.

Advantages of Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests can help to make personnel and career-related assessments more objective.

These tests also save a great deal of time. They're typically very easy to administer, and they can be given to a group of people easily. (Some other types of assessments must be given individually.) Psychometric tests are also easily scored, so results come back quickly and reliably.

Many of these tests are completed using software programs, and some can even be completed online. This, again, provides a time advantage, and it can reduce costs significantly compared to other methods. People can take the tests from anywhere, and the results are accurately scored each time.

Note:

There are costs involved in purchasing tests as well as in hiring or training someone to administer and evaluate them. It's important to consider these costs against the advantages that the tests may bring.

Using Psychometric Tests

Psychometric tests can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the most common uses are as follows:

  • Selection of personnel – Here, tests can help recruiters and hiring managers determine candidates who best fit a position. Personality, aptitude, and knowledge tests are all very common in this type of testing situation. For a detailed discussion of these types of tests and how to use them for hiring, see our article on Using Recruitment Tests  .
  • Individual development and training – Psychometric tests can help you determine how best to improve current skills and performance. For example, if your department is going to introduce a new type of technology, it might be helpful to assess people on their interests and motivations related to new technology. The Business Attitude Inventory and the California Measure of Mental Motivation are psychometric tests available for training and development purposes. You could also use aptitude and skills tests to determine a person's ability to perform certain tasks.
  • Team building and development – This area can provide many uses for psychometric tests. The better people understand themselves and others, the better they can build and maintain positive workplace relationships. Tests like the Hogan Development Survey   are designed specifically to uncover potential sources of relationship tension. General personality assessments, including the Myers-Briggs Typology Indicator®   (MBTI) and the California Psychological Inventory™   (CPI), are also very helpful for team building and strengthening. Values in Action can help you gain insights into group behaviors and dynamics that relate to people's values.
  • Career development and progression – Psychometric tests can help you uncover values and interests that are fundamental to overall career satisfaction. For those starting out in their careers and those who are looking for the right career path, interest surveys like Holland's Codes   and Schein's Career Anchors   are also useful psychometric tests to consider.

Note:

Remember to keep psychometric testing in perspective. These tests are only one of many different types of assessments that you can use in recruitment and career development.

Key Points

Assessing and appraising people is a highly complex and subjective process, and psychometric tests are a good way of objectively assessing people's "hidden" traits.

From recruitment to long-term career development, these tests provide a great deal of reliable information to make important personnel decisions. If you use the tests, ensure that they are appropriate for you needs, and that they've been rigorously evaluated.

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