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Talent Assessment | 10 min Read

Psychometric Test/Assessment

What Is Psychometrics?

Are you fat or thin? Are you good at sports or academics? Are you capable of coding (might be any other skill for that matter)? What was your childhood ambition and what currently is? These are some of the self-determining questions and could be answered easily by mentoring yourself based on personal interests. Now consider carefully the questions after this very sentence. Are you good at socializing with other people? Are you a good team player or a leader? Do you empathize with customer’s transforming needs? Are you good at multi-tasking? Whoa!! These are some of those interrogative sentences that you as well as the hiring authorities need to know about you.

Well, the pre-existing ways of recruitments include aptitude & technical tests, one-on-one interviews, presentations, or a well- a prepared combination of these. These define whether the person can do the job.

Attitude defines behavior. This includes your perception, your approach, your decision-making abilities, and your response to any sort of emotion. Here comes the technical part when we talk about the psychometric tests. These could be objective in nature or be evaluated on a scale of 10. These tests measure actual behavior and assure whether the candidate is the right fit. Also, they help the company to find out the leadership attributes, stress management traits, social behavior, motivation, and many other essential traits in the candidate.

Candidate’s behavior is way more preferred in the hiring process than the aptitude. Psychometric assessments are spaceships that go beyond just judging the abilities and knowledge to actually judging the real person.

“There’s an examination for young people to go to university. I failed it three times. I failed a lot. So I applied to 30 different jobs and got rejected. I went for a job with the police; they said, ‘You’re no good.’ I even went to KFC when it came to my city. Twenty-four people went for the job. Twenty-three were accepted.”

Had it not been his attitude, Jack Ma would have never ever reached the skyrocketed heights. Undoubtedly, people vary in their behaviors and personalities influenced by certain factors, be it genes, environmental, or other social factors. No one in this world can pick out a suitable fit for an organization by merely meeting the candidates or viewing the portfolio for the same. This needs an intense or a nerdy kind of observation of not only what the resume says but also a genuine introspection of the candidate’s behavior. The present scenario entails that a candidate’s behavior is way more preferred in the hiring process than the competency. There is an alarming need for a system that could satisfy the catchphrase “Hire for attitude, train for skills”. Let’s discuss the psychological measurement system aka Psychometric which could prove a blow to the existing hiring scenario.

What Is Psychometric Testing and How Did It Evolve?

Psychometrics, in short, means the measurement of the mind. Thus, psychometric testing broadly refers to the test to measure how our brain works and then provide a determinable measurement of our mental ability.

The Evolution

The use of psychometric as a science traces back to the late 19th century in Cambridge, between 1886 and 1889. The first laboratory dedicated to the science of psychometric test was set up in 1887 by James McKeen Cattell within the Cavendish Physics Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

However, the first personality testing only began in 1917 when Robert Woodworth developed the Personal Data Sheet, a  simple yes-no checklist of symptoms that were used to screen the World War I recruits for psychoneurosis. This sheet paved the way for other inventions like Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Many later inventories. Then in the 1950s and 60s, the “Big Five” personality test was devised after thorough analytical research to measure individual differences in personality which to this day remains a well-recognized personality traits model.

Now let’s visualize that it’s the second round of your interview. You are handed a pencil and a ten-page Q&A. The HR person tells you that after the completion of this ‘Psychometric Test’, you will proceed to the final interview. You sit there perplexed at the eternal questions that sound almost the same everywhere and wonder, ‘how exactly will this matter in my interview shortlisting?’.

Now, that’s a question millions of interviewees have been wondering. The answer is simple. Psychometric tests are used in job interviews to discover who you are and how good you will be at tasks required for the job. There is no right or wrong answer in a psychometric test.

Why Use a Psychometric Test and Its Types?

Psychometric testing is conducted to measure two primary criteria, i.e.

  • To assess personal qualities to understand your feelings, beliefs, and thought process. There are no right or wrong answers here.
  • To measure your performance, typically to test if you fit the profile the examiners are looking for. These questions have right and wrong answers.

From Personality to Recruitment

Since the time it was used for screening WWI recruits, the trail of Psychometric testing have made much progress as large organizations, and educational institutes are using it on a large scale. According to the research from Network HR and Personnel Today, 78% of HR personnel consider psychometric tests a powerful tool for hiring. And now, over 80% of the Fortune 500 companies in the USA, and over 75% of the Times’ Top 100 companies in the UK are using this test for their recruitments.

Recruitments & Education

The test is largely used during recruitment by large organizations in recruiting graduates and for better filtering of candidates in cases of large numbers of applicants. Apart from that, it is also used for existing employees during staff training or application for the internal performance appraisal process. Educational institutes also use psychometric tests in entrance exams to test their aptitude and ability.

Types of Psychometric Assessments

Psychometric tests are widely divided into two groups, i.e. aptitude and ability, personality, and questionnaires.

Aptitude and Ability Test

This test is administered to measure competence and intellectual ability. It also measures the logical and analytical skills of a candidate so as to determine his capacity and performance in job-specific skills. Under this test, there are various areas of assessment, the most common being:

  • Verbal reasoning
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Diagrammatic Reasoning
  • Strategic reasoning

Personality and Questionnaire Test

Here, the primary goal is to understand the candidate’s behavior in an individual situation, preference and attitude, and actions and reaction. Using this in a recruitment process, the recruiter will attempt to understand if the candidate fits into the work culture and the profile they are looking for. Here, behavior, attitudes, interests, opinions, values are all put into consideration. This will be mostly paper-based questionnaires.

Time Factor

Everyone is capable of performing extraordinary things but what distinguishes them will be the speed they achieve it. Likewise, time is also one of the important factors in psychometric testing.

Some tests will have a strict time limit so as to verify the speed of the candidate, usually in jobs that require speed. Otherwise, some tests have no time limit, normally with difficult questions so as to examine the number of questions a candidate can attempt and get right. That’s not all. Some tests are designed to determine speed and accuracy. Here, with a sufficient yet set time limit, the candidate will be judged on how accurately he answered in the given time slot.

In most cases, tests fall somewhere in between these two extremes. There will be a time limit, but this will be set to allow most people sufficient time to get to the end of the test. To be successful, you need to work through the test as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Different Modes

Computer-based and Paper-based psychometric testing are the two widely used modes although verbal modes were one of the first media for the test. In recruitment or exams, candidates are either asked to write on the paper or do it online. When it’s online, it will be under supervision so as to ensure that there was no cheating.

Are Psychometric Tests Really Beneficial?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the whole summary is that if the academic tests tell whether a person can do the job, psychometrics assure if the candidate actually fits the role in. Psychometric tests are like spaceships that go beyond testing an individual’s abilities and education. The major part is there are no right answers and no wrong answers. It totally depends on who you really are. The nature of these tests does add a scientific filter to gut-based decisions as well. The funny part is you need not be an expert or possess a so-called degree in psychology to evaluate the results. Moreover, these tests could be set up at any stage of the application process including the obvious hiring process, promotions, or be it even retentions. Psychometric tests on this end encourage consistency in recruitments, provide the true picture, save time and money, and thus provide a good fit.

Psychometrics in The Corporate World

Résumés: A Square Shooter?

Remember Mike Ross from American drama series- Suits, who ends up as a lawyer at Pearson Specter Litt. You need to be more than just lucky in order to sustain in the corporate world like that. Well, fiction is something which is totally derived from imagination, different from the real world scenario and so is Mike. With the rapid changes in the global recruitment scenario, there have been cases evolving around resume fraud. According to the annual reports by AuthBridge, the average discrepancy rate in the past three years is 20.11% i.e.; approximately 1 out of 6 job applicants give wrong information in their respective resumes. The shocking part is the figure is 50% higher than reported in 2016. The Indian daily newspaper, The Economic Times published that “India Inc., it seems, is sitting on a fake CV time bomb that is set to explode”.

Out of 2,18,000 checks done in India during 2014-15, almost three out of 10 screenings contained a lie as per HireRight, an employment-based screening company. Among them 52% were related to educational details while 11% contained discrepancies connected with employment inaccuracies. You might have read about Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo who was accused of embellishing his academic credentials after some investigations. Consequences being he was considered untenable and left the company. Many such cases have been occurring lately. This news compels the recruiters to use a systematic and versatile method of recruitment which can be fulfilled by psychometric assessments.

Consequences of Bad Hiring

A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.

Steve Jobs

The bad hiring comes into play when the person hired is not able to perform the way expected. According to research, nearly 43% of the companies got trapped in the situation of bad hearing because they preferred urgency to quality. The most important asset that a company pertains to is the people, irrespective of its size. It has been stated by Global HR Research that 39% of businesses report a decrease in productivity due to a bad hire. This, in turn, comes up with compensation which is fulfilled by the good employee. Moreover, if we talk about the literal cost of bad hiring, it includes the subtle hiring cost including maintenance, severance, and opportunity cost (which must have been invested in finding out the right candidate). This bad hiring thing totally disrupts the employee cycle. Thus, an objective form of soft skills evaluation could contribute a lot to the right hiring.

Therefore, we are going to discuss the usage of psychometric assessments

Employ Psychometrics to Hire Right

Jim Collins, an American business consultant once said Great vision without great people is irrelevant

Hiring the right people has always been a sensitive part of a company. Unlike facets such as skills, education, experience, and appearance, the behavioral traits can be harder to assess during interviews. Out of the companies that use psychometric tests, 81% said they made less risky and more reliable hiring decisions. These tests are used for both mass and elite recruitments. Accompanied by GDs, resume screenings, and structured interviews, it can extract the right fit for the job role.

Achim Preuss, managing director of cut-e, said about psychometric tests: “Shorter, more customized, brand-relevant tests are now being used earlier in the selection process to identify the right people”.

According to a survey,37% in Hungary, 70% Swedish, and 93% of respondents from the Czech Republic said that psychometrics helped them come to fairer decisions.

Here’s how psychometric tests could help in engaging employees.

Psychometric Assessments for Learning & Development

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin

In today’s world, one of the biggest challenges is how learning can be used to stimulate assimilations. Psychometrics based learning and development assessments help employees look into their shortcomings by self- awareness, thus enhancing the potential. Vodafone, in Romania, used this kind of feedback system to commence discussions about desirable culture and ultimately judging existing managers against these.

Psychometric tests can be used to determine up to what extent current skills and performance need to be improvised. For example, suppose a new technology/tool has been introduced in your department. Now, these assessments might provide a clear-cut picture of interests and motivations related to it and hence, develop them.

Psychometric Assessments for Retentions

Nearly one-third of the new hires quit their job after six months of joining. After losing an employee, employers have to bear the financial burden of recruitment, training, lost company knowledge, credibility, and customers. This stands up with the necessity of assessments, once in a while that could, in a way enlighten the reasons for dissatisfaction of the resigning employees. By just finding out these reasons, employers can do a lot more in this direction.

Psychometric assessments can reveal whether individuals feel under-appreciated or find a lack of communication, which are strong reasons for resignation. Scheduling these assessments at regular intervals may prove to be an effective way to transform the mindset of employees much before they decide to resign.

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Factors That Make Psychometric Tests Reliable

What is the value of a psychometric test if the data provided in it is not reliable. Psychometric assessments are created with the sole purpose of measuring an individual’s mental capabilities, behavioral style, and to measure whether they are suited to carry out a role according to the required personality characteristics and intellectual abilities.

Hence, reliability is critical to the success of psychometric tests. After all, what is the point of having the same test yield different results, for the same person each time? It is particularly the case if scores can affect employee selection, retention, and promotion. For instance, a particular test that measures intelligence should give the same results, every time an individual attempts it.

There are always minor conflicts in test reliability because different people taking the same psychometric test may have different thoughts, feelings, or ideas at various times, thus leading to a variance in scores. A lot of factors, like stable traits and momentary issues, can both lead to a difference in test scores.

Some factors influence test reliability. Some of these factors are the timing of two test sessions that affect the test-retest and alternate/parallel forms of assurance. Additionally, the similarity of content and expectations of subjects in context to different testing elements affects only the latter type of confidence along with split half and internal consistency.

Organizations need to consider changes that candidates go over time while assessing the reliability of psychometric tests, like their environment, physical state, emotional, and mental well-being.  Also, it needs to be considered. Test-based factors such as inadequate testing instructions, biased scoring lacking in objectivity, and guessing on the part of the test-taker also influence the reliability of tests.

So, do your psychometric tests measure what they are supposed to do? So, just how reliable is your test? Here is an infographic that illustrates it all.

Mettl Infographic - How reliable are your psychometric tests


As Personnel Today’s research suggests, as much as 80% of employees in an organization, have never actually been through a test themselves as part of their recruitment into their role. We can see a huge room for growth in the field of psychometric testing. HR personnel and large organizations should take heed of this and improve the quality of their recruits and ensure better organizational growth.

Sooner or later, people will realize that the skills, aptitude, and knowledge alone cannot do much in the path of building a world-class organization. It’s equally important to analyze an employee’s attitudes and personalities.

Organizations that are serious about attracting and retaining the best talent should take advantage of such methodologies rather than rely on subjective selection methods.

Understanding the framework that defines psychometric assessments

Originally published December 3 2019, Updated June 26 2020


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