Friday, January 19, 2007

Psychometrics uncovered

Received wisdom these days is that Psychometric Testing is something we should be doing. Yet it’s not always obvious exactly why we should be doing it. We’re bombarded by ability tests, personality questionnaires, motivational measures, emotional intelligence tests; the list goes on. Yet whether you’re reading this from a candidate’s point of view, as an employer or just as an interested bystander, I think chances are you’ll be quite confused about the whole topic and probably a little uncomfortable with asking any questions – it’s almost like it’s becoming so common everyone assumes that they should already know all they need to about it!

As a fully qualified Psychometrician (one of my favourite words!) I am definitely expected to know the benefits of Psychometric Testing and how and when tests should be used. So I would like to offer a helping hand to anyone who is not too sure what the Psychometric fuss is all about. Probably the best way I can help clear things up (and maybe debunk a few myths) is for everyone who wants to ask a question which they feel they should already know the answer to, to make a comment below. Soon we’ll have a whole list of FAQs about Psychometrics, questions that usually people are too afraid to ask! To start the ball rolling I’ve answered some of the most common questions below.

So what is Psychometric Testing in a nut shell?
Psychometric Testing is a way of gathering information about an individual’s personality and/or ability, using specially designed measuring tools and techniques. These tools and techniques are usually in the form of test-like questions taken either online or in traditional pen and paper fashion.

When should you expect to use them or sit one?
The most common use of Psychometric Tests at present is for selection and recruitment purposes. Since 70% of companies are now using Psychometric Tests of one form or another it’s safe to say, if you’re applying for a new job, chances are you can expect to take one. However more and more companies are realising the value of Psychometrically Testing internal staff, for example for promotions and appraisals or stress management purposes.

How long do they take?
The time can vary from anywhere between 8 minutes for an ability test to 3 hours (lots of tests in one). However most tests won’t last more than 30 minutes.

Are they expensive?
No, they used to be but really aren’t anymore. Test prices can range from £30 per candidate to £120 per candidate depending on which test you take/use.

Are all tests governed by a central body?
Simply put, no. The British Psychological Society is the body which governs all Psychometric Tests in this country however not all tests are certified by the BPS. There are hundreds upon hundreds of Psychometric tests available online but only a handful of these are recognised by the BPS. In my opinion, if a test is worth doing, it will be recognised by the BPS. Otherwise the results are not guaranteed valid and therefore essentially void. Test publishers such as ASE, PSL and SHL will only allow their tests to be carried out by BPS qualified testers like myself.

What are the benefits of taking a Psychometric Test?
When making decisions about people, the more information you can gather about that person first, the better; as they say, knowledge is power! Psychometric Tests are the only accurate way to gather specific information about an individual’s personality and I’m sure we all know how important personality is, especially in the work place. When I look around my office, I don’t know about everyone’s ability, past work history, career prospects etc but I do know about their personality thanks to my daily interactions with them. Their personality affects the way they work, how they think, how they interact with others and how they behave, so it’s a pretty important thing to get a feel for. The traditional measures used to predict how a person will perform in the future include interviews and reference gathering, both of which have a far lower accuracy percentage than Psychometric Testing.

Will the Test results reveal any unknown information about my personality?
Any certified practitioner should offer every test taker a feedback session before handing any information to the client since this is best practice. This feedback session is your chance to discuss your results and if you do have any concerns, this would be the time to raise them. It is unlikely that you would be completely surprised by the results but occasionally a test may highlight something you hadn’t considered before.

Hopefully the above information is useful to you whichever perspective you have on the issues of Psychometrics. Please feel free to comment and ask questions and should you need any detailed information about Testing or the service that I provide then feel free to email me or give me a call.


Anonymous said...

Hi Olivia,

Having completed a psychometric test I can certainly see the benefits of them as a part of the recruitment process, and your blog is a great explanation for the layman like myself! One other thing I am interested to know is how can their accuracy be guaranteed? If a candidate tries to answer the questions in a way that he or she believes will reflect the qualities the employer is looking for, rather than how they truly feel, surely this will throw off the test result?

Olivia said...

Great question!
The ‘effect’ caused by a candidate trying to answer a personality questionnaire as he or she thinks the employee desires, is known as distortion. There are two main types of distortion, one is caused by candidates who have very low self awareness and who are unable to answer the questions relating to their own behaviour, accurately. The second type is intentional distortion and this is caused by a candidate knowingly trying to answer the questions in a way they feel the employer would want.
However, most good tests i.e. those recognised by the BPS, usually have what’s called a desirability scale built into the test itself. Basically this specially designed tool flags up inconsistencies within areas of the test which are measuring the same personality trait. Candidates should be aware that most Psychometric tests are followed up with a feedback session when the results are discussed in more detail. If someone has deliberately tried to falsify the test in anyway, this will more than likely be exposed in the feedback session. I hope this helps but if you’ve got any follow ups please do post them or email me if you need any further clarification.

Anonymous said...

Hi Olivia,
I've been looking for someone like you who can give me views and comments regarding psychometric tests. Can you tell me how reliable and valid are the tests? What are the methods need to be used to guarantee the test's realibility and validity?

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