This guide serves as a detailed handbook for understanding psychometric tests. Test-takers and recruiters can find rich insights into the benefits, types and applications of psychometric tests, irrespective of their specialty and functional industry.
A psychometric test or assessment evaluates an individual’s cognitive skills and personality traits. It assesses whether the individual can thrive in a specific professional role. Psychometric testing helps understand aspects of mental ability and behavioral style that organizations cannot gauge during conversations and interviews.
A psychometric test is a standard and scientific method that plays an equally significant role in educational or clinical settings. It offers an unbiased evaluation of various parameters, such as logical reasoning, industry-specific aptitude, role-specific qualities, personality type, and more.
Even though the origin of psychometric testing dates to ancient times, statistician and psychologist Francis Galton developed the modern-day psychometric test. Also known as the ‘Father of Psychometrics,’ Galton was the first to coin the term ‘psychometric.’ He designed a framework to assess people’s intelligence based on their motor and sensory skills—James McKeen Cattell, who named psychometric assessments as ‘mental tests,’ extended Galton’s work.
French psychologists Alfred Binet, Victor Henri and Theodore Simon devised a psychometric test to assess young children with mental deficiencies. Their 15-year-long development journey surfaced multiple aspects of human personality, such as cognitive and verbal skills. This test came to be known as the Binet-Simon test. In the latest edition of 2003 by Stanford researcher Lewis M. Terman, the test is now known as the Stanford-Binet test. The psychometric evaluation test that has evolved over the ages remains integral to modern-day recruitment and selection methods.
Organizations prefer using psychometric tests in recruitment because there is a strong correlation between psychometric test scores and job performance. High scores are an excellent indication of high performance on the job. Besides, the online psychometric test and scales to match the hiring requirements are easy to administer.
Psychometric tests are an objective way of assessing the potential ability of candidates for various job roles. With these tests comes the convenience of evaluating numerous skills, ranging from knowledge, aptitude, and cognitive skills to behavioral qualities and people skills.
The predictive qualities of a psychometric assessment serve as an essential foundation for streamlining the hiring process. Psychometric testing also has the following advantages:
The traditional approach to hiring is instinctive and heavily dependent on interviews and elaborate CV descriptions. Psychometric tests eliminate this element of subjectivity in the decision-making approach and provide a bias-free talent assessment.
Psychometric evaluation enables hiring managers to measure individuals' abilities to process information, solve problems, and make decisions while assessing their behavioral attributes. Such an evaluation reveals essential data recruiters use to make rational candidate decisions.
Humanly sifting through all job applications can be a time-consuming process. Psychometric assessment enables companies to focus on suitable candidates by narrowing the search.
Moreover, using psychometric tests in hiring ensures that you recruit professionals more likely to fit into your company’s environment and less likely to leave. The various aspects of psychometric tests help gauge individual culture fitment and consistency.
*The British Psychological Society, in its ‘Code of Practice for Psychological Testing,’ advises that psychometric testing should always be used alongside other assessment methods.
Psychometric tests depend on two main factors that make them effective in the recruitment process:
The validity of psychometric tests depends on the degree to which they measure what they claim to measure. Since these tests use valid methodologies to measure personality traits and aptitude, they promise a greater validity than conventional interviews.
A psychometric test can only be reliable if it produces similar results under invariable conditions. A reliable test score is precise and consistent during all the tests. It can also be recreated on multiple occasions. Therefore, choosing a psychometric test that follows a trait-based approach, e.g., The Big 5 Factor model, is essential. The next chapter delves deeper into this subject.
Psychometric assessments are usually of the following two types:
Personality tests are a form of psychometric assessment that identify specific personality traits required to perform in a job role or industry. These tests offer significant insights into a candidate’s essential qualities, motivations, behavioral styles, etc.
The science behind testing personality
Personality tests usually follow two significant schools of thought: trait-based and type approaches. While the type theory categorizes personalities into introverted and extroverted, the trait theory measures the degree to which key personality traits exist in an individual.
The type theory defines individuals as introverts or extroverts in varying intensities.
Personality tests based on the type theory often lack objectivity and comprehensive insight into an individual’s psyche. When used in a professional context, the type-based tests also lack reliability, as it is possible for an individual to get different results every time.
Trait-focused personality assessments are all based on the Big Five Factor or the OCEAN model. Developed in the 1970s, this model enlists five major personality traits among humans in varying degrees. An excellent psychometric assessment measures the level of these traits through a series of questions and problem-solving exercises.
Individuals possessing this trait have a natural penchant for adventure and art. They are curious, creative and open to change. Meanwhile, people opposed to openness stick to their old routines and habits and keep new experiences at bay.
People high on conscientiousness are organized and have a sense of responsibility. They have the drive to achieve their goals and are highly reliable. This trait has shown marked achievement on the job. People on the opposite side, however, are spontaneous and careless.
Individuals who possess extraversion indicate various characteristics, including sociability and talkativeness. They draw their energy from day-to-day social interactions or gatherings. Such individuals are primarily cheerful and assertive in their approach. Meanwhile, introverts are a professor of ‘me time.’ While the trait often conflicts with being shy, that’s not true. Individuals with a high introversion trait prefer more minor group activities when required and tend to enjoy their own company.
Agreeableness is indicative of a person’s kindness. Such individuals are trusting and helpful. On the other hand, disagreeable people are cold, suspicious of others and less cooperative.
Individuals possessing this trait worry a lot and often find themselves feeling depressed and anxious. On the contrary, people low on neuroticism are emotionally stable and exhibit calmness and composure when facing problems.
Personality refers to a combination of traits that make a person unique. On the other hand, behavior is how the person generally acts and reacts in various situations. Thus, while personality defines how people are, behavior is about what they do.
In his book Performance: The Secrets of Successful Behavior, author Robin Stuart-Kotze identifies personality as a concept that solidifies at about five years of age. It is widely believed that changing one’s values, attitudes, aspirations, and beliefs – the core elements of personality – is difficult. On the other hand, much behavior results from an individual’s values or beliefs. Therefore, behaving in a way that meets professional expectations is more accessible.
Personality tests gather information about an individual to make inferences about personal characteristics. These include feelings, behaviors or thoughts. They help measure aspects of personality that determine – or are predictive of – successful performance at work, thinking style, workplace relationships, task management, feelings, and motivation.
Cognitive ability tests, also known as aptitude tests, evaluate the mental abilities of individuals. They measure an individual’s critical thinking, logical reasoning, verbal ability and problem-solving skills. They also assess how individuals use past experiences in novel situations.
At the turn of the 19th century, Charles Edward Spearman, an English psychologist and the pioneer of factor analysis, coined the term g-factor or general intelligence factor. It was the underlying commonality of all aptitudes. It was also a part of his two-factor theory of intelligence. Modern researchers continue to expand on the concept.
The science behind testing cognitive ability
Cognitive ability tests measure two essential components of human intelligence: fluid and crystallized. While fluid intelligence includes reasoning, crystallized intelligence revolves around facts and information acquired via experiences.
Considering these aspects of intelligence, recruiters may find it challenging to assess and select candidates objectively. That’s where cognitive ability tests come into the picture.
When to use cognitive ability tests?
Reaching a conclusion using an aptitude or cognitive test alone can be inadequate. However, the test is beneficial in the following situations:
Cognitive tests like verbal comprehension, numerical ability, critical thinking or problem-solving cater to more niche job roles, thus providing measurable and credible outcomes.
Aptitude tests are better performance indicators for high-complexity jobs like that of a data scientist. Cognitive tests play an essential role in such job profiles where candidates must undergo rigorous and multiple assessments.
The aptitude and cognitive ability spectrum is vast and evolving continually. Hence, it is possible to have a dedicated test to gauge almost every professional skill and competency across various levels. Organizations can customize an aptitude exam, create combinations relevant to a specific role, explore new evaluation criteria and more.
This chapter is a helpful resource for candidates. It also includes free psychometric test links that help gain familiarity with various question types and problem categories.
Quick tips and practice questions for candidates
Remember the following points when taking an online psychometric test:
Psychometric profiling assessments are psychological tools employers use to ascertain candidates’ suitability for various roles. These tests vary in subject matter and content to evaluate some of the most sought-after skill sets. Some prominent psychometric testing tools used nowadays in recruitment are numerical, verbal and logical reasoning tests.
In addition to the advantages enlisted in the earlier sections, there are two main reasons why employers use psychometric assessment tests:
Mercer | Mettl’s online platform enables recruiters and companies to make significant people decisions with a comprehensive suite of talent assessment and hiring tools. Evaluating the accuracy of talent assessment in various domains is a challenge. Similarly, ascertaining the efficacy of decisions concerning recruitment, training and development of candidates and employees is more challenging than it seems. Such critical decisions can’t be taken in the blink of an eye. A thorough, well-researched and analytics-led approach is pivotal, and that’s where the Mercer | Mettl approach comes in.
With its extensive library of tests and simulators comes a foolproof way to evaluate candidates’ knowledge, underlying abilities, behavioral attributes, and skills with utmost accuracy. A wide range of psychometric, cognitive, role-centric, and technical assessments are available for making well-informed recruiting decisions.
Mercer | Mettl’s psychometric assessments and tools that suit every client’s unique needs reduce the scope for human errors. Organizations can leverage these scientific and data-backed tools to address their key issues.
Psychometric assessments help shortlist relevant candidates from a large talent pool. This evaluation in the initial stages allows the hiring team to recruit suitable candidates for different job positions. Therefore, hiring managers need to identify business needs, match requirements with specific job positions, and pair different tests with psychometric assessments for optimum results.
Originally published December 3 2019, Updated February 26 2024
Vaishali has been working as a content creator at Mercer | Mettl since 2022. Her deep understanding and hands-on experience in curating content for education and B2B companies help her find innovative solutions for key business content requirements. She uses her expertise, creative writing style, and industry knowledge to improve brand communications.
Psychometric tests measure an individual’s personality traits and behavioral tendencies to predict job performance. Psychometric assessments gauge cultural fitment, trainability, motivations, preferences, dark characteristics, etc., to hire and develop the right people.