Psychometric assessments – what are they and when are they useful?

March 18, 2020

What are psychometrics?

People often confuse the different types of psychometrics out there; psychometrics is a catch-all term that covers aptitude/ability tests and personality questionnaires. Reputable psychometrics meet the criteria of being standardised, valid, reliable and free from bias. The British Psychological Society Occupational Division publish their independent reviews on most of the psychometrics available in the market so employers can check the statistics for those criteria before deciding which ones to use. Psychonnaissance can help here as our team members are experienced and can be found on the BPS’s Register of qualifications in Test Use.

We try to avoid talking about personality ‘tests’ because this implies right and wrong. There is no perfect profile so it is not possible to pass or fail when sitting a personality questionnaire. Conversely, aptitude/ability tests do have right answers and measure a very specific aspect of an individual’s performance; their cognitive skills or even more simply put, their intellect. However, there is still (usually) no pass or fail element; the result provides a measure of an individual’s cognitive ability in comparison to a relevant peer group.

Why are psychometrics valuable?

We believe that psychometrics have unique advantages over other forms of assessment:

1) they expedite the process – when assessing an individual, we are constantly forming hypotheses and then seeking evidence to confirm or deny them. Psychometrics enable hypothesis formation before even meeting the individual, thereby making the time available with her/him more focused and productive

2) they provide rich information – the breadth of the insights that can be gleaned by using psychometrics versus the time invested in deploying them is huge. Carefully choosing a combination of two, three or more tools gives a well-rounded picture of an individual and insights into the underlying factors that make the person who they are

3) they are cost effective – Psychonnaissance is able to procure many psychometrics at preferential rates for our clients because we have ongoing relationships and buy in large numbers, often securing discounts.

We are not suggesting that psychometrics should be used in isolation for the above reasons though – absolutely not; the real value comes with using them in a complementary way with other forms of assessment.

When should I use psychometrics?

Psychometrics have fallen in and out of favour to varying degrees over the decades. Much of this stems from anxieties associated with how they are used and interpreted. Employers are concerned about litigation and candidates or employees fear that judgements will be made about them that are unfair. These are valid worries, hence it is very important to be clear about why psychometrics are being used in determining when to use them.

Psychometrics must be used judiciously, just as any element of an assessment process must be properly thought through before including it.

So, ask yourself this – What do I want to measure?

In a world that has been described as more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, there is a very strong argument for testing cognitive skills through aptitude/ability tests. Do I need someone with good numerical skills or verbal skills, or both? Equally, successful leaders need to be resilient and self-directed, amongst many other things, so would it be helpful to have a measure of these traits (values and behaviours) to support me make a robust decision in the assessment process?

Choosing psychometrics

Psychonnaissance assessors are trained in most of the reputable psychometric tools available and we are on hand to give advice. Our many years of experience means that we are confident in putting together a combination of psychometrics that will add value to your selection process, be it for recruitment or development, providing insights into many of those nuanced attributes that you want to measure but are perhaps hard to define formally in a person specification.

Here are some handy tips for choosing psychometrics once you’re clear about why and how you’re opting to use them:

  • Does the psychometric meet the ‘gold standard’ in design – check the BPS review or speak with a qualified practitioner
  • Psychometrics must be administered and interpreted by trained practitioners, however, many of the reputable test publishers now provide outputs suitable for the untrained user, thereby making them more accessible to managers and HR practitioners than they used to be in years gone by. Psychonnaissance can therefore work with you in a ‘light touch’ way to support you, or give you complete reassurance by fully interpreting the outcomes on your behalf. By using our specialist expertise, you are accessing insights that come with experience and that cannot be captured in a computer generated output.
  • If you are just embarking on using psychometrics, think about capturing the data for future use; building your own norm groups and conducting your own validation studies will enhance the value you will get from using psychometrics

If you would like to discuss any of the above or our clients’ experiences of the added value and reassurance psychometrics offer when incorporated into assessments, contact us.

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Psychonnaissance is based in the South-West, but with easy access to all the major cities via Bristol airport and the national rail network, we regularly work with clients up and down the UK.