What is psychometric testing?

Have you ever taken a personality test, or completed a standardized test? Maybe you remember these from school, or you’ve taken a quiz to tell you which Simpson’s character you are. If you answered yes to these questions, then you’ve taken something like a psychometric test before!

Psychometric tests have been developed by industrial and organisational psychologists to assess aspects of human behaviour: think personality, abilities, and specific skills. These tests are commonly used in hiring and recruitment, and are a useful tool to help hiring managers figure out who might be best suited for a particular role. For example, a candidate who prefers to work alone probably won’t be happy in a role that requires frequent collaboration, and a personality test can indicate these sorts of preferences because they measure how strongly candidates prefer to behave in a particular way. Personality tests can also predict how candidates will perform under pressure. As we all know, being under stress changes our behaviour—that's just one of the reasons why candidates need to know how to prepare for psychometric testing. Whether you go from focussed to scatty, or indecisive to clear-headed, stress can bring out different aspects of our personalities, and suppress other aspects—for better or for worse.

What kind of tests are available?

Cognitive, or ability tests often cover things like verbal reasoning (how good candidates are at understanding information through language), numerical reasoning (how good candidates are at understanding number-based information and performing calculations), and abstract reasoning (how quickly candidates understand complex information, and make connections between pieces of information without prior experience).

Some psychometric tests can also measure specific skills, like aspects of leadership, sales ability, and even hard skills like proficiency with software.  

Basically, a psychometric test is designed to capture a snapshot of a candidate—their skills, their attitudes and motivations, and the way they tend to conduct themselves in the workplace. It can also help individuals figure out what their real desires and goals are.

This is why candidates don’t need to worry too much about preparing for, or “passing” or “failing” the tests; the whole function of psychometric testing is to create an accurate depiction of the candidate and their abilities at this moment in time.

We recommend that personality and leadership tests are considered relevant for twelve to eighteen months, as candidates’ skill levels and experience may change during this time and affect later testing results.

Cognitive results, such as those from ability tests, tend to be relevant for longer, as these measurements are less likely to change.  

How are the results measured?

The tests are set up so that all candidates take them under the same or very similar conditions: the test are timed, and all the questions are the same. This way, each person’s performance can be accurately measured. But measured against what? All psychometric test results are measured against a representative sample of thousands of people who have completed the test. The sample group option can be selected for relevancy; for example, if you’re conducting testing for a high-level role, the sample group will be other people in high-level roles.

Other tests might be measured against huge, international samples. Usually, candidates’ results will fall into one of three categories: below average, average, and above average. TalentEdge Consulting takes data privacy very seriously—read more about our data protection plan.  

Can candidates pass or fail a psychometric test?

It’s important to remember that candidates’ results are only relevant with regard to the requirements of the job you are hiring for. For example, a below-average numerical score will not matter as much in a role where calculations are rarely required.

However, that same role might have a need for a high level of abstract reasoning, where the successful candidate will often be required to solve complex problems or incorporate new and unfamiliar information into their thinking and problem-solving processes. Sometimes, employers may be looking for a baseline of aptitude or skill for certain roles that require hard skills, like mechanical or spatial aptitude, but these are always considered alongside other indicators, such as academic achievement.  

What about personality tests?

When it comes to personality tests, there are no metrics by which a candidate can “pass” or “fail”. Personality tests work by asking candidates to think about their behavioural preferences in various situations: for example, at parties, are you usually the one in the centre of the crowd telling a story, having a conversation one on one, or a lingering wallflower? Although many people may have moments where they find themselves in all three of these situations, the preference for each option is what indicates the strength of different personality traits.

Although a candidate’s personality cannot be “wrong” or “right”, certain roles may suit certain personality types better than others. If a candidate’s results indicate that they thrive on human interaction and conversation, but you’re hiring for a role that requires spending long periods working alone, they probably won’t be very happy or fulfilled at work. This can effect performance, so it’s in your best interests as a hiring manager to identify these aspects of a candidate’s personality ahead of time.  

However, it is important to remember that testing results are not the only thing to consider when making recruitment decisions. Candidate’s work experience, references, answers to interview questions and the way they come across in their interviews will also contribute in large part to the final decision a hiring manager makes.

How can psychometric testing help find the right person for a role?

Alongside a CV, the interview process has long been considered the gold standard for assessing whether or not a prospective employee is the right “fit” for a role.

But interviews only tell some of the story. An interviewee may appear polished and savvy, or they may appear nervous and scattered; either way, this only tells you how good someone is at being interviewed, a skill which is often difficult to practice and may not accurately reflect the personality or abilities of a candidate. It is almost impossible to prepare for psychometric testing, except for becoming familiar with the format of the tests.

Therefore, these tests can give a much more accurate depiction of a candidate’s skills profile, as well as some insight into how their personality will fit into your company culture and the requirements of the role. Simply put, more information in the decision-making process is never a bad thing, especially when it comes to something as important as hiring the right person for a role.

To learn more about psychometric testing and how the right test can help you find the right candidate, contact TalentEdge Consulting at info@talentedge.co.nz

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