Psychometrics is the science of measuring a subject’s abilities, knowledge, attitudes, personality traits, and level of education through testing. That is, Psychometric tests are standardised psychological measurements of knowledge, abilities, attitudes or personality traits. By measuring these traits the assessor is able to gain an “inside view” of not only what a person knows, but also what they are capable of learning and how they feel about certain situations. It is a fascinating field that one will come across frequently in schools and when searching for employment. They are used by employers and educational institutions. Psychometric testing allows one to get a detailed view of what a person can (or could) do in a working environment or academic setting. That is, Psychometric assessments are tools designed to measure whether or not you have the specific skills or the appropriate personal qualities required to do a particular job.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS?
The main test categories include
Personality profiles: These tests attempt to describe individuals by identifying personality traits or type. They are based around an underlying theory (model) of the characteristics that make up personality, for example see MBTI / Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Personality profiles do not have right or wrong answers, but provide useful insight often used to identify areas to improve with development and coaching.
Interests and values inventories: These tests assess an individual’s preferences, e.g. a career interest inventory would help identify which careers would suit them best. By revealing what’s important to an individual, they can be helpful in career counselling, training, coaching and succession planning as they can help to predict future job satisfaction.
Ability and aptitude tests: These are designed to measure an individual’s performance and can be used to assess current as well as potential performance levels. The two most commonly used are verbal and numerical reasoning tests, others include diagrammatic, clerical, spatial and mechanical.
WHO USES THIS TEST AND WHY?
Psychometric tests are commonly used as part of a recruitment process. Employers use them to gain insights into a candidate’s skills and personality which can be more objective, reliable and scientifically valid than an interview alone. That is, Employers make use of psychometric assessments in their selection processes to gather evidence that you have the right skills, abilities and personal qualities for the post in question. They are normally used alongside other methods including application forms/CVs, interviews and other exercises. Psychometric tests are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in large organizations, where senior management may be removed from the recruitment process but seeks to ensure certain benchmarks are met when recruiting new employees. They are most commonly used by companies looking for highly skilled workers in both the public and private sectors who see the value in screening their candidates to ensure suitability, or to help them develop. All employers aim to select someone who has the skills, abilities and personal qualities to do their job well. Some selection methods are better than others at gathering different types of evidence about your suitability. For example, application forms provide information about your qualifications, work experience and written communication skills; interviews allow you to show your oral communication skills; while psychometric tests offer insight into whether you have the specific abilities and personal qualities required.
HOW DO EMPLOYERS USE PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS IN RECRUITMENT?
If you apply for a graduate training scheme with a large, prestigious company you can almost certainly guarantee that you will be asked to complete a psychometric test. However, smaller organisations are also increasingly using psychometric tests; in fact it is estimated that around 40% of employers use psychometric tests as part of their selection process, so it is extremely likely that you will encounter these at some point in your career. This increase in popularity is linked to technological developments which mean that tests are much easier to administer than they used to be. Whereas in the old days, recruiters had to be specially trained to score test papers using a variety of templates and calculations, most tests are now conducted online, with instant assessment and feedback. Another reason for the popularity of psychometric testing is that it is believed to be an objective and reliable way of assessing candidates. Testing can occur at different points in the selection process. Sometimes it is used as an initial filter; for example, if you are applying for graduate posts in the Civil Service you will have to take online tests as the first stage; if you are not successful, you will not progress to the next stage. If you are successful and are invited to the next stage, you will be tested again to make sure your first results were genuine. Testing at this stage has obvious benefits to a popular employer as it quickly selects which candidates will go through to the next assessment stage with little cost and effort. PriceWaterhouseCooper, for example, reported that in their 2008 recruitment cycle, they eliminated 30% of applicants through using a psychometric test at the initial application stage. Alternatively, testing can occur later in the recruitment process as part of an assessment centre, alongside other selection activities such as group work, interviews and assessed presentations.