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Talent Assessment | 10 min Read

A Guide to Psychometric Tests

Foreword

Equipment, data or technology do not shape a business. It is the people who are the primary drivers of a business. Their decisions and how they tackle work-related challenges when faced with various complex situations profoundly shape business outcomes. Their outlook toward their peers and superiors are equally critical. To sum up, their behavior defines the fate of a business.  

Psychometric tests can measure a candidate’s personality traits to help you predict behavioral tendencies to make better job-related decisions. In this comprehensive guide, we’ve extensively covered the science behind psychometric tests, the detailed description of each psychometric tool, and how it can be applied to businesses.

What Is Psychometrics?

Psychometrics is a branch of knowledge dealing with the theory and practical application of psychological measurement. Psychometrics has a typical implementation in psychology and education, encompassing assessment, measurement, analysis, testing and other similar activities. This subject area is extensively used to evaluate skills, knowledge, attitudes, competencies, personality traits and accomplishments. Various researchers emphasize developing and validating measuring instruments such as tests, questionnaires, psychological symptom scales, rater judgments and personality tests. Others focus on research about measurement theory (intraclass correlation, item response theory).

The Relationship Between Personality and Behavior

Personality traits are determined characteristics exhibited consistently, despite changing circumstances. Conversely, the behavior is the range of actions through which one conducts oneself based on the environment, person or stimulus.

For instance, extraversion is a trait, while a quiet extrovert in a meeting is a behavior type. Since characteristics reflect an individual’s patterns of thoughts, feelings and behavior, they become the basis for anticipating future-intended action.

Personality is what we are, while the behavior is all about our actions. Personality traits don’t change over time; however, we can adjust and alter the behavior to an extent. This equation can establish the psychometric theory or the science behind it.

Exhibited Behavior = f (Bright side, Dark side, Cognitive abilities, X-factors)

Exhibited Behavior

The Bright Side

The bright side of human personality comprises positive personality traits that are noticed quickly and capable of enhancing job performance. It is what we see when people are at their best. 

The bright side of human personality is based on the ‘Big Five Personality Traits’ of the Five-Factor Model, which specifies that people can be described based on their standing on the five broad personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Emotional Stability (OCEAN).

However, you can’t judge a person only on the bright side of human personality. If the human character could act as the drivers of success, some hidden traits can be derailers.

Let’s have a look at the traits and the determinants of personality:

Five Facets of People with Openness Trait

six facets of people with conscientiousness trait

five facets of people with extraversion trait

six facets of people with agreeable trait

three facets of people with emotionally stable trait

The Dark Side

Dark personality traits are stable characteristics of a person, which, when triggered, can lead to a display of undesirable, counterproductive and destructive behavior, negatively impacting people in proximity (friends, family, co-workers or customers).

Here’s a brief look at the traits and the related facets:

three facets of people with Opportunistic trait

three facets of people with self-obsessed trait

three facets of people with Insensitive Trait

three facets of people with Temperamental Trait

three facets of people with Thrill-Seeking Trait

 

Merely the presence of dark traits in a person does not ensure that they will act in an unwanted manner. Various factors can trigger the dark characteristics in a human, such as:

Level of Dark Traits

The higher the level of dark traits, the higher the chances they get triggered, even with the slightest of provocation.

Environment

There is a subtle tendency to misuse the power where people are superior, triggering dark traits.

Situation

Relaxed - where a person is at ease and not being observed. Stressed - where a person has to accomplish much work in a limited time.

Do read our data-backed and scientific report on ‘Uncovering the Dark Side of Human Personality’ to know everything about the dark side.

Cognitive Abilities

Cognitive abilities are brain-based skills one needs to process any complex or simple activity. It is more the ability to comprehend, understand and benefit. The way things are perceived, strategic thinking, decision-making abilities – all these also form the substratum of people’s behavior. It can be divided into two categories:

Fluid Intelligence

The ability to perceive things, absorb and retain new information to tackle issues in different circumstances. The core competencies used to measure this are: Abstract Reasoning, Spatial Reasoning, Visual Reasoning.

Crystallized Intelligence

The ability to recover and utilize data obtained over a lifetime or leveraging the acquired knowledge to perform tasks. The core competencies used to measure this are: Language and Comprehension, Logical and Critical Reasoning, Problem-Solving, Decision-Making.

Core Brain Function

Read our Guide to cognitive assessments to know more.

The X-Factors

The dark and bright sides form a significant part of human personality. However, several other factors, called The ‘X-factors,’ act as catalysts and affect the intended human behavior.

The Nature vs. Nurture debate centers on whether human behavior is influenced by a person’s genes or the environment.

NatureNurture
This is pre-wiring and is affected by biological factors, such as the genetic legacy or the inheritance.This is the impact of external factors. For example, a person’s experience acquired knowledge, learning or exposure.

The X-factors include certain factors discussed below:

1. Upbringing

Kids are like sponges and tend to learn and demonstrate behaviors that their parents portray. This can be seen in the positive and negative behaviors they display.

2. Motivation

The way soldiers behave is unique and outstanding. The joy of meeting their loved ones after winning a battle and the love for one’s country motivates them to act, even in the most challenging situations.

3. Values

If we view an organization as a decision-making body, values establish the relationship between decisions and consequent actions. They grow gradually over time, subject to a person’s social and psychological development.

What Is a Psychometric Test?

Psychometric tests are a standard, legitimate, logical and scientific method to measure individuals’ personality traits and mental abilities. Psychometric assessments gauge whether an individual is suitable for a specific job role because of the two core skills: personality and ability.

Psychometric assessments provide the best means to evaluate an individual’s personality, subject to several situations. The word ‘psychometric’ fundamentally refers to the measurement of the mind. It is a short version of “psychological measurement.”

Psychometric evaluations are used in recruitment and training to significantly improve selection and engagement experiences. One must understand these tests to make effective and quick decisions.

How Do Psychometric Tests Impact Business Outcomes?

These days, making predictions has become crucial. People tend to predict the climate, sports results, money-related information, stock markets, etc. It is relatively similar in the corporate world. In the business world, the two significant elements responsible for starting it are ‘Human’ and ‘Capital.’

Besides ‘capital,’ psychometric assessments solve the ‘human’ side of the equation. They can be leveraged to considerably impact every aspect of an employee’s life cycle. This starts with hiring the best fit, culturally and role-wise, to training them and, eventually, transforming them into better leaders.

Recruitment

Leveraging psychometric evaluations during the recruitment process provides a better understanding of a candidate, enabling securing the best fit for the role. 

Psychometric testing can contribute to two different areas of recruitment:

Role Fitment

Choosing the correct fit is the fundamental objective of the recruitment process. 

Nowadays, evaluating a candidate’s behavior, alongside aptitude, in the hiring process is preferred than evaluating merely the skill.

Its outcomes on an organization are:

  • Employees possess the crucial performance indicators
  • Reduced attrition rates
  • Achieving a competitive advantage
  • Overall growth in employees and business

Culture Fitment

The organization culture is a system of shared assumptions, values and beliefs that regulate people’s behavior in organizations. It presents a unique social and psychological environment of the company. An organization needs candidates whose qualities, judgments, outlook and behavior fit in with the organizational culture.

Its significant outcomes for business are:

  • A sense of well-being
  • Reduced attrition
  • Enhanced performance
  • Highly engaged employees

Training and Development

Businesses are under constant change and churn. Innovation is one of the critical factors influencing the altered aims and objectives of the organizations. Dynamic situations require a recalibration of the employees’ skills, concerning competencies aligned with the business objectives.

Psychometric evaluations are important in the employees’ continual skill development by identifying their training needs and attitudes and creating a development plan based on their preferences.

Organizational Planning

Organizational planning means pinpointing an organization’s short and long-term objectives and planning and organizing for what may occur in the distant future. Business-related decisions require justification and data-backed information.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is a strategy for identifying and developing pioneers who can substitute established leaders when they leave, retire or pass away. It builds accessibility to experienced and competent employees who are prepared to assume leadership roles. This needs skills assessment to fill in the gaps between what an organization requires next and the employees’ current skill set, aligned with the business objectives. This may also accompany training and development initiatives for better leadership development. Psychometric tests track and develop the right set of high-potential employees and prepare them for future roles through a structured and scientific process.

High-Potential Identification

High-potential (HiPo) identification determines the furthest reaches of an employee’s development range. It would be sufficient to say that the more potential they have, the less expensive and time-taking it is to develop them. High-potential employees are force multipliers, pushing the performance bar for their co-workers and reportees. They imitate and preach winning practices that shape high-performing cultures by their words and activities. Just adding a star performer to a team boosts up the effectiveness of other members by 5-15 percent.

Psychometric assessments can be used to identify the drive, agility, intellect and leadership qualities required by an employee to be termed as a high-potential.

Mercer | Mettl’s Suite of Psychometric Assessments

Mettl Personality Inventory (MPI)

Mettl Personality Inventory (MPI) is an innovative, data-backed personality assessment that evaluates critical work-relevant personality traits.

‘Know Thyself’ is the key to professional growth and personal development. Capturing this spirit, Mettl Personality Inventory (MPI) has been designed to measure a person’s strengths and growth opportunities, gauging how their behavior influences them and others. The tool offers a better understanding of personality traits and how to deal with them effectively. 

The Science Behind MPI

MPI measures the work-relevant bright side of the personality traits. Mercer | Mettl’s scientists went beyond the well-established model of the broad ‘Big Five’ personality factors and developed twenty-six ‘scales’ or narrower facet-like constructs that form our assessments’ building blocks. These scales span a vast domain of personality and are mapped to companies’ or job roles’ specific performance models or behavioral competencies to obtain the optimal prediction of job success.

Ideally, MPI should be administered to job applicants who have cleared a few minimum qualifications for the job. The assessment results can serve as an essential piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the hiring decision – but not the only determinant.

Factors of Mettl Personality Inventory (MPI)

Mettl Personality Profiler (MPP)

Mettl Personality Profiler (MPP) is an innovative, evidence-based assessment that measures relevant personality traits required for critical work. It helps predict behavioral competencies, leading to organizational outcomes of interest. It is designed to help employers gain access to otherwise hidden information about a job applicant or an employee, which is critical in influencing her/his behavior at work. Key highlights and functionality are like the MPI with adaptability outside the Mettl Competency Framework.

Science Behind MPP

MPP is based on the well-established ‘Big Five’ model of personality traits and the corresponding facets aligned to the bright side of human personality. MPP uses the semantic differential item format to reduce respondents’ ‘faking good,’ improving the assessment’s usefulness.

The FFM specifies that people can be described based on their standing on these five broad personality traits: extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved), openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious), emotional stability (secure/confident vs. sensitive/nervous), agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind), and conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless).

Factors of Mettl Personality Profiler (MPP)

The Difference between MPI and MPP

MPI and MPP are almost the same at the front-end, with more or less similar applications. The primary difference lies in the scaling technique used in their development – Likert in MPI and Semantic in MPP. The usage of the Semantic Scale, the bipolar item approach, accompanies enhanced thinking levels and a significant change in the response style. Therefore, MPP is suitable for white-collar workers, primarily because it is easier for smart people to fake items based on MPI.

Mettl Dark Personality Inventory (MDPI)

With increased work pressure and subsiding patience, workplaces provide the ideal environment, appealing and triggering dark traits, which tend to threaten the security of employees, clients and the broader work culture. Mercer | Mettl has created a dark personality inventory that contains six dark traits to measure negative personality constructs in potential hires and existing employees.

The Science Behind MDPI

With extensive research, we could divide the human personality into six traits, based on which MDPI has been built. We’ve already discussed those traits in the sections mentioned- above. We studied several factors responsible for triggering dark traits and segregated the industries and job roles into three categories in the decreasing order of risks:

  • Red Zone: These are the high-risk zones that could jeopardize a company’s reputation and customer safety. 
  • Yellow Zone: These are the medium risk zones as employees may exploit internal work culture, intellectual property and data stored by the company.
  • Green Zone: These are the low-risk zones for employees who can harm assets such as the company’s property, financial assets, machinery or other physical assets.

Factors of Mettl Dark Personality Inventory (MDPI)

Validity

Construct validity estimation with EFA and CFA

Mettl Motivation Inventory (MMI)

A motivated and finely-tuned workforce is imperative to operate the business smoothly. Mettl Motivation Inventory is a comprehensive test of motivation that clarifies a person’s drives and motivations to perform and excel at work.

Science Behind MMI

Higher motivation levels of the workforce directly correspond to greater chances of an organization’s success. Typically, it measures eight key motivators under three significant needs listed below:

Sustainability Needs: This refers to the elements that aim at meeting the needs of one’s current situation and the predicted future. The key motivators of these needs are:

  • Money
  • Security 

Relatedness Needs: This refers to a part of a person’s identity, which equates to the social and external esteem needs. These needs cover the following three motivators:

  • Recognition
  • Affiliation
  • Competition

Growth Needs: It is self-explanatory and alludes to an individual’s internal expectations and desires constituting what they will obtain from their work. The key motivators here are:

  • Power
  • Advancement
  • Achievement

Mettl Personality Map (MPM)

The Mettl Personality Map (MPM) is a contemporary, evidence-based personality assessment for an in-depth assessment of vital, work-relevant personality traits and behavioral tendencies. The assessment allows for a more comprehensive understanding of personality at work, notably more relevant at the mid and senior level.

The Science Behind Mettl Personality Map

MPM measures personality via a unique and innovative 28 facet and a four-factor structure of personality, beyond the well-established “Big Five” model of personality, which uses five factors or broad personality trait categories to describe people. While the five-factor model of personality still holds relevance in assessment, a more in-depth analysis was the need of the hour. MPM can prove to be an important tool in leadership development because of its ability to gauge an individual’s relative strengths or weaknesses within a job setting.

An Overview of Mettl Personality Map

Scaling Methodologies Used in Mercer | Mettl’s Tools 

Mercer | Mettl’s scaling methodologies contribute to our assessments’ genuineness and why they enable you to make better decisions. The two scales on which our tools reside are:

Likert Scale

It is a type of rating scale that is leveraged to evaluate the attitudes or opinions. The respondents are asked to rate items on a level of agreement with this scale. It utilizes a five-point scale, not limited to only “agree” or “disagree,” but varies from “often’ to “never,” “very good” to “very bad,” or “definitely” to “never.”

It is essential to understand that the Likert Scale is subject to distortion from several causes, such as the Central Tendency or Social Desirability Bias.

Likert Scale

Semantic Scale

It is a bipolar scaling method that measures the response concerning two different items, both having positive response options with a neutral option in between. For instance, if you have money and have been given two options – going out and having fun or purchasing books and reading. You could agree with either both or neutral.

It could be distorted from response styles such as extreme responding, careless responding and social desirability.

Semantic Scale

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychometric Tests

What Is the Purpose of a Psychometric Test?

In the workplace context, the purpose of a psychometric test is to holistically evaluate a person’s personality and ability, and determine their suitability for a particular role in an organization. Psychometric tests provide in-depth information about individuals that their resume or an interview may not be able to offer. The purpose of psychometric tests is to improve HR processes, from recruitment to development. Psychometric tests are known to improve the quality of hires, decrease time-to-hire, increase employee productivity and satisfaction, resulting in higher retention rates.

What Is a Psychometric Assessment?

A psychometric assessment is a scientific and objective way to measure four key aspects of an individual’s personality – positive personality traits, dark personality traits, motivation and values, preferences and cognitive abilities. Psychometric assessments help build successful teams by enabling organizations to hire the right people, develop the right employees and identify employees for future roles for better business outcomes. Psychometric assessments study personality traits and behavioral tendencies to predict the role and organizational fitment. 

What Is Included in a Psychometric Test?

A comprehensive psychometric test includes questions that help assess four key aspects of human personality – positive traits, dark traits, motivation and values and cognitive abilities. Positive personality traits help measure fitment, trainability and job performance; dark personality traits impact team dynamics and work culture; cognitive abilities measure logical and analytical ability; motivation, value and preferences impact a person’s drive. Together, they help make better talent decisions.

Why Do Employers Do Psychometric Tests?

Employers do psychometric tests to make better talent decisions. Psychometric tests are used by employers in the hiring process to determine fitment, in learning and development to gauge trainability, and in organizational planning to assess drive and attitude. Psychometric testing empowers employees to hire better quality candidates, reduce the time-to-hire and ensure employee satisfaction and retention. Psychometric evaluations help employers look beyond resumes and core skills and assess broader cultural fitment and value alignment for a prolonged association. 

What Is in a Psychometric Test?

A psychometric test consists of questions to measure four key aspects of human personality – positive traits, dark traits, motivation and values and cognitive abilities. Positive personality traits help measure fitment, trainability, and job performance; dark personality traits impact team dynamics and work culture; cognitive abilities measure logical and analytical ability; motivation, value, and preferences impact a person’s drive. Psychometric testing includes a cumulative and multifaceted evaluation of personality traits, mental abilities and attitudes.

What Are Psychometric Properties?

From a psychometric standpoint, two critical properties of an assessment are its reliability and validity. 

  • Validity: Does the psychometric assessment measure what it is supposed to measure. 
  • Reliability: Does it assess the same aspect each time, with a similar set of results.

In addition to the validity and reliability of tests, the standardization of the tests, normed with respect to several aspects such as age, gender, occupation, employability and education, etc., also determines the psychometric properties.

Read more about Reliability, Validity and Norming.

Can Psychometric Tests be Faked?

Yes, theoretically, psychometric tests can be faked. As per job description, candidates can ascertain the standard set of characteristics sought by an employer. For instance, conscientiousness, integrity, teamwork and persistence are some competencies sought by every organization. This leads them to adjust their test responses to match the desired answers. However, with the right expertise and knowledge, one can flag these response biases to derive accurate outcomes. 

Understanding Response Bias

Response style is a person’s tendency to respond to the tests in a biased manner, consciously or unconsciously. On the other hand, response bias is a systematic tendency to respond to a set of items on some other basis than the specified content.

To identify which candidates’ responses were likely to be genuine or less likely to be distorted because of faking or careless responding, specific pointers devised for the hiring managers to prioritize candidates for further consideration.

Let’s us understand some of the biases followed by people while responding:

  • Socially Desirability 

It is the tendency to portray oneself in an unrealistically positive or socially relatable manner. For instance, when a candidate selects a response of ‘most like me’ out of other replies more than the expected number of times, it depicts something is not right. 

  • Extreme Responding

Respondents tend to endorse extreme response categories on a rating scale, even if they do not have that view. For instance, some people aim to choose the least or the highest response, irrespective of their real stance. They target either to ‘love’ or ‘hate’ everything.

  • Central Tendency

Unlike extreme responding, it is a tendency to always select a neutral stance. This means that the candidate is unsure about the response to the items or has chosen a safe mode. 

  • Careless Responding

It is a respondent’s tendency to pay insufficient attention to the items before responding, leading to a biased estimation of relationships. A person intends to select only one response every time deliberately and, therefore, is not recommended.

Originally published December 3 2019, Updated November 18 2020

Ankur Tandon

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Helping businesses beat content mediocrity by generate engaging content, both short and long form including blogs, social media, case studies, newsletters and more.

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